What is growth mindset and how do we encourage it in children?

November 15, 2017

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A growth mindset is the belief that skills, talents, and intellect can change and improve over time. There are varying degrees between these two types of mindsets. But the more one moves to the growth mindset side, the apter the person is to believe that hard work, perseverance, dedication, effort, and time dedicated to a craft or subject will produce more proficiency.
Kids with a fixed mindset believe they’re ‘smart’ or ‘dumb,’ talented at something: painting, music or football, or not. They may believe the world is made of some gifted people, whom the rest admire from the sidelines. Conversely, kids with a growth mindset appreciate anyone can build themselves into anything they want to be. They recognize that people aren’t ‘smart’ or ‘dumb,’ that there are no talented geniuses; only hard-working people who have chosen to take their abilities to the next level.
Children with a growth mindset believe that intelligence can be developed. These students see school as a place to develop their abilities and think of challenges as opportunities to grow. Children with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence is fixed at birth and doesn’t change or changes very little with practice. These students see school as a place where their abilities are evaluated, they focus on looking smart over learning, and they interpret mistakes are a sign that they lack talent.
The first thing our kids need to know is that our intelligence isn’t fixed – that it can change. It can get stronger or weaker depending on how much effort we are willing to apply. Just as a baby isn’t born talking but learns over time, they don’t know everything but can learn over time with work.
Teach them that people with a growth mindset believe that they can learn, change, and develop needed skills. They are better equipped to handle inevitable setbacks and know that hard work can help them accomplish their goals.

Another way to teach about the growth mindset is by telling stories about achievements that resulted from hard work. For instance, talking about mathematical geniuses who were more or less born that way puts students in a fixed mind-set, but descriptions of great mathematicians who fell in love with math and developed amazing skills engenders a growth mind-set.

 

Eight tips for promoting a growth mindset in kids:
• Help children understand that the brain works like a muscle that can only grow through hard work, determination, and lots and lots of practice.
• Don’t tell students they are smart, gifted, or talented, since this implies that they were born with the knowledge, and does not encourage effort and growth.
• Let children know when they demonstrate a growth mindset.
• Praise the process. It’s effort, hard work, and practice that allow children to achieve their true potential.
• Don’t praise the results. Test scores and rigid ways of measuring learning and knowledge limit the growth that would otherwise be tapped.
• Embrace failures and missteps. Children sometimes learn the most when they fail. Let them know that mistakes are a big part of the learning process. There is nothing like the feeling of struggling through a very difficult problem, only to finally break through and solve it! The harder the problem, the more satisfying it is to find the solution.
• Encourage participation and collaborative group learning. Children learn best when they are immersed in a topic and allowed to discuss and advance with their peers.
• Encourage competency-based learning. Get kids excited about subject matter by explaining why it is important and how it will help them in the future. The goal should never be to get the ‘correct’ answer but to understand the topic at a fundamental, deep level, and want to learn more.