Psychologist Carol Dweck made famous the term ‘Growth Mindset’, after studying why some students persevered through tasks and others gave up. In essence, she describes growth mindset as “the belief that a person’s capacities and talents can be improved over time”. For decades, educational researchers and scientists have debated over ‘nature vs nurture’, and whether a child’s abilities and talents are something they are born with, or something that can be cultivated over time. As with most concepts, there is no clear dichotomy here; while a child may be born with more innate abilities, Dweck argues that talents and abilities are not out of reach for those that work hard and strive to achieve in a given area.
The opposite of a growth mindset, Dweck explains, is a fixed mindset. Students with a fixed mindset often won’t try new things out of fear of failure, a belief that it is “too late” for them to try something new, or because they feel inferior. They may say things like: ‘What if I’m no good?’, ‘I don’t have the skills’, ‘I don’t have a Maths brain / I’m not artistic/ We don’t read much in our family’, ‘I might make mistakes’ or ‘Others can do it better’. Conversely, a growth mindset helps people view situations as a challenge: ‘There’s always room for improvement’, ‘This is a great chance to improve my skills’ or ‘A year ago, I wouldn’t have done this well.’
Growth mindset doesn’t mean that we won’t face challenges – of course, we will. However, it allows us to face these situations with the mindset that our brains grow when we persist through things we don’t know how to do, in order to improve our skills. See if you can change the narrative in your household this week from “I can’t…” to “I can’t, YET.”
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Author: Danni Foster-Brown
Head of Virtual Learning Community
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