High Progress Literacy

Changing Learning. Changing Outcomes. Changing Lives.

Learning, Living, and Teaching a Growth Mindset

What is Mindset?

Mindset is the deep, underlying belief in our own capacities to learn and to handle challenges and problems in all contexts in our lives.

Mindset underlies what we see as motivation or lack of it. It lies beneath what we observe as tenacity and grit in the face of challenges rather than a tendency to give up. It is that part of us that says, “I can’t do this…yet. But I think I can figure it out,” rather than, “I’m no good at this.”

Researcher Carol Dweck and her colleagues at Stanford University discovered this concept when they were studying children’s reactions to failure. They were surprised to find that many children who were unable to solve the problems they encountered didn’t view these experiences as failures at all: rather, they viewed them as opportunities to embrace challenge and figure things out. Their research led them to posit that there are two basic mindsets: a growth mindset, and a fixed mindset.

What is a Growth Mindset?

People with a growth mindset embrace problems and challenges as opportunities to learn and grow. They understand that our brains and our abilities are constantly changing as we think, learn, and grow our ways toward better understandings and increased competency. Every challenge represents an opportunity to expand our present world. Brains and talent don’t determine our accomplishments; they are just a starting point. It takes dedication, effort, and practice to develop our gifts.

What is a Fixed Mindset?

People with a fixed mindset view talent and intelligence as fixed traits. You are either smart or not. You’re athletic or not. You’re good at math, or you’re not. Gifted at writing, or art, or mathematics, or music…or not. “I am smart. I am witty. I am dumb,” are all fixed mindset statements. People with a fixed mindset are often most interested in displaying their smartness and ability, while avoiding situations that reveal what they don’t already know or know how to do.

Can we Change our Mindsets?

Yes. Peter Johnston’s books, Choice Words and Opening Minds are wonderful resources to adults trying to learn how to foster a growth mindset—in ourselves and our children. These books help us understand that what we say has the power to cultivate (or squelch!) children’s sense of agency and identity as the kinds of people who can figure things out and grow and change as a result of every experience, every success, every mistake. Changing the way we talk to our children and talk about ourselves is difficult, but it can be done!

Some of our Favorite Videos about Mindsets

The Power of Belief: Mindset and Success. Eduardo Briceno

Published on YouTube Nov 18, 2012

The way we understand our intelligence and abilities deeply impacts our success. Based on social science research and real life examples, Eduardo Briceño articulates how mindset, or the understanding of intelligence and abilities, is key. When students or adults see their abilities as fixed, whether they think they’re naturals or just not built for a certain domain, they avoid challenge and lose interest when things get hard.

You Can Learn Anything  | Khan Academy

Published on YouTube Aug. 19, 2014
Khan Academy is on a mission to unlock the world’s potential. Most people think their intelligence is fixed. The science says it’s not.

Girls First Ski Jump | Jukin Media

Published on YouTube March 12, 2012

A fourth-grade girl overcomes her fears to make her first ski jump

The Woman Who Changed her Brain | Barbara Arrowsmith-Young at TedX Toronto

Published on YouTube April 27, 2013

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young is the Creator and Director of Arrowsmith School and Arrowsmith Program, and the author of the international best-selling book The Woman Who Changed Her Brain. She is recognized as the creator of one of the first practical applications of the principles of neuroplasticity to the treatment of learning disorders.

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