All I can say is, “Thankfully we are developing a deeper understanding of how we learn.”
Once upon a time I lived in a world of the fixed mindset¹ and likely you did too. Some students were smart and others were not. Intelligence was viewed as fixed at birth and one of the roles of education was to sort students and direct each one to the correct vocation. And, if you think about it, too often we still organize learning in this way.
Let’s identify the qualities this fixed mindset promotes and you will recognize it right away.
Students working under a fixed mindset:
- Are afraid to make mistakes
- Avoid challenges
- Give up more easily
- Fear of constructive criticism
- Feel threatened by the success of others
Think what this does to learning. Consider what happens when students see themselves in this way.
Contrast this with a growth mindset¹, a term which on its own sounds encouraging. A growth mindset states that intelligence can be developed and our true potential is unknown.
Students with a growth mindset are:
- Not afraid of mistakes
- Willing to take on a challenge
- Inspired by the success of others
How can these ideas change instruction?
It is not the student who ‘knows’, that we should recognize rather the student who says, ‘hmmm I am trying to figure this out and I have not got it yet.‘ It is this student who demonstrates a growth mindset. As educators we need to communicate that everyone can get better if they work on it, which means that persistence becomes a key quality to encourage.
And for this reason our view of mistakes plays a critical role in our mindset. How do mistakes impact learning? The student who makes a mistake has multiple opportunities to learn. First from recognizing the mistake, and then from working through the process to correct it. All this creates more opportunities for brain synapses to fire and grow. Working through mistakes causes our brains change and develop.
What message shall we give to students?
Mistakes are fertile ground for learning.
As an educator with a growth mindset, I am motivated to create an environment where risk taking is safe and encouraged, and where learners at all levels are recognized for their effort.
¹Carol Dweck – Mindset: The New Psychology of Success Random House Publishing Group | December 26, 2007