What is Growth Mindset?


Seven years ago, I came across the research of Professor Carol Dweck about how our Mindsets have a massive impact on motivation and, in particular, our motivation to learn new things. Recent neuroscience has revealed some astonishing revelations about how our brains can be altered to shape intelligence. The beliefs we hold about our intelligence can greatly impact on the language and behaviour we exhibit on a day-to-day basis. If these beliefs are rooted in out-dated notions that the brain is static and does not change (what we are born with is our lot), this can greatly impinge on what we are able to achieve in life and how we think about ourselves.

From Dweck’s findings, she coined the terms Fixed and Growth Mindset. We are all a mixture of both. As the names suggest, a Fixed Mindset stems from the belief that the intelligence you are born with is fixed and cannot change, what you are born with is what you have. A Growth Mindset stems from the idea that intelligence can be grown as a result of specific, targeted actions of which we are in control. This is where the Mindset training becomes a tool of self-regulation and can help children to see the reasons behind taking particular actions for their learning.

Having a Growth Mindset is about progress and change. It focuses on the reasons why this action may not occur and what we can do to change that. The theory itself is a product of change in that how we once viewed the brain (as a static entity) was incorrect. Additionally, the theory has revealed how the ways we have viewed certain behaviours in the past have not been as supportive to our growth and progress as we once thought. In fact, they have been anything  but progressive and damaging in their execution. Unless we understand these subtle behaviours and why they are as damaging as they are, we will continue to display them – for example, use of the term ‘Clever girl/boy’ to praise a child when they have exhibited a skill.