Cultivating a Growth Mindset

Throughout all of these articles written so far this year, I have continued to express the need for “new thought’ and innovation within the world of education. The truth of the matter is something that every person can agree on; we need to be developing learners to thrive in a future that is unpredictable. For the most part, educational specialists will agree on the solution for this, which is the need to develop learners with a skill set that allows them to thrive, rather than with content knowledge in subjects that may or may not benefit them. What has become the biggest point of disagreement, however, is the application of that solution. With innovation in any area comes the need for us as individuals to develop and adapt, learning new skills ourselves as we seek to innovate. This speaks to, what has become popularly known as, growth mindset.

There are two common ways of thinking when it comes to mindset, specifically when it comes to problem-solving. There is the mindset that sees problems as opportunities to learn and the mindset which avoids problems often out of fear of failure. The first would be a “growth mindset” with the latter known as a “fixed mindset”. Those with a fixed mindset believe that one is born with certain abilities and talents, which change very little. With this mindset, the belief is that we achieve when we “play to our strengths”, which in itself is not a bad thing. Where this mindset becomes problematic is when faced with “problems” that cannot be solved by our current strength set. A fixed mindset avoids attempting to solve these problems out of fear that they will fail, rather than seeing the problem as an opportunity to learn a new skill.

A growth mindset is a belief that people can learn new skills and abilities through practice, which embraces failed attempts. This view develops a strong love for learning, seeing life as an exciting journey with endless opportunities to develop. When “problems” occur, someone with a growth mindset is excited for the opportunity to learn and develop. In a world that is unpredictable, we can see immediately how learners, and leaders, with a growth mindset, will thrive. It is easy to look to leaders in industry and identify a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset.

Dr. Carol Dweck, the professor who coined the term “growth mindset”, states that to develop a growth mindset, teachers and parents must celebrate trying. What is more important than grades and performance, especially in school-aged learners, is developing the skill of learning how to learn; to impart and develop a growth mindset in our learners. My next article will address how one would go about this.

by Gareth Stark


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