Although not new to the scene, a very important concept in the educational world is the idea of a “Growth Mindset” and how it impacts on a child’s well-being.
What is a growth mindset?
The concept was developed by professor Carol Dweck form the Stanford University. Professor Dweck and her colleagues completed a series of studies that indicated that children who persisted through challenges believed that they could improve their abilities. However, children who tried to avoid challenges, believed their abilities were fixed and could not be changed. A short definition of a growth mindset would be: “Growth mindset is a concept that refers to how we face challenges and setbacks”.
If a child struggles with Math and receive low grades, they might hold the belief that they are just “bad at Math” and that no matter what they do or how hard they try, nothing will change and improve their grades. This is an example of a child who is projecting a fixed mindset and they will most likely stop trying to improve.
However, if the child’s attitude is that they will keep trying different approaches and keep learning from their mistakes to improve their grades, they are showing a growth mindset. This implies that the child is able to learn from experience and that they are able to use and create strategies for improvement. They hold the belief that they can still succeed at something, even if they fail periodically on their way to mastery. A growth mindset is more than just receiving feedback and being open-minded.
According to professor Dweck, one of the misconceptions about growth mindset and how a child approaches challenges is that it is set in stone – Either you have it or you don’t. The truth of the matter is that we all have a mix of fixed and growth mindsets that change based on two very important aspects: One’s experiences and the feedback received from others.
How can parents help their child to develop a growth mindset?
✖: Parents can sometimes unintentionally and unknowingly promote a fixed mindset in a child by praising the child’s abilities or talents or things that they are good at. By doing this, parents are sending the message that these talents are just something the child “has”. For example, if an parent was to say “You are really good at Math”.
✖: Also, parents may address a child’s efforts (instead of their abilities) with words such as, “You have worked really hard”, and therefore positively contribute to the child’s self-esteem. However, these types of phrases do not focus on strategies for improvement.
✔: The most important approach is to praise the process - the way that the child has approached a challenge and the steps they took to get the end result and the strategies that they have used. For example, one might praise a child for the way they solved a math problem, rather than focusing on how well they did.
Professor Dweck refers to this approach as “process praise”. It is considered as the most helpful kind of praise for promoting a growth mindset in a child. By focusing on the process, it can highlight strategies such as asking for help and trying out a different approach to the problem.
For, example, one might say to a child:
“I am really impressed at how hard you worked to complete this history project. I know it was challenging at the start, but it was definitely helpful to ask the teacher for help in working out how to break down the task. It seems like working in a team helped to hold you accountable for getting your work done. Your grade reflects the effort you have put in”.
Developing a growth mindset is not a stagnant process, but it is ongoing. Although it takes a change in thinking and attitude towards feedback, learning from mistakes and finding innovative ways to approach tasks, it is a valuable way to help a child to grow and develop their skills.
Morin, A. (n.d.). Growth Mindset: What you need to know. Understood. Retrieved September 2019 from: https://www.understood.org/en/friends-feelings/empowering-your-child/building-on-strengths/growth-mindset