Education

Student mindsets: fixed vs growth

27.11.2018 • 3 minutes

Student mindsets: fixed vs growth

A student’s mindset tells you how they deal with failure and success in a learning environment, and reflects the image they have of their own learning potential. As such, it greatly influences their motivation and the learning habits they will develop in the future.

Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck discerns two main types of student mindset: growth and fixed. Students with a fixed mindset believe that people’s intelligence and abilities are constant, while those with a growth mindset know that these can be changed and improved. When facing a challenge, one will take the struggle as a sign of their limited capabilities, the other as a learning opportunity.

How to help students develop a growth mindset

  • Set high standards and expectations: Most students rely on their teachers to set certain standards, so it is important to set high enough expectations for them to learn and grow. However, these must also be realistic to prevent students giving up and developing a fixed mindset. To find that delicate balance, teachers must know their students’ abilities. In turn, students need to know that durable learning requires some degree of struggle.
  • Establish short-term, achievable goals: Not all students react positively to high standards. Students with a fixed mindset should learn to break down tasks into smaller, more achievable objectives, because regularly completing these tasks will gradually reinforce their confidence.
  • Provide meaningful feedback: To help students develop a growth mindset,  it is important that their teachers provide constructive feedback, not only to spot mistakes, but to provide guidance so that they can fix them on their own. That is why feedback must contain information that can fuel further improvement, not simply an indication that an error was made. Unfortunately, students often receive no more than a grade, which is feedback of a sort, but certainly not constructive. Constructive feedback includes comments for students to know what needs to be done, which they can implement themselves.
  • Praise carefully: There are three main rules teachers should follow when praising students. First, only praise students for effective effort. Effort that does not lead to improvement should not be encouraged. Second, praise must be sincere and therefore only be given when it is deserved. Meaningless praise can be counterproductive. Third, it is vital not to praise students for personal traits. Instead, praise should focus on the process of learning itself, pointing out what students did correctly, and recognising their improvements.
  • Use “the power of yet”: During a TED Talk, Carol Dweck explained that use of the words “yet” and “not yet” (as opposed to “yes” or “pass” and “no” or “fail”) gives students greater confidence, because it implies that through effort, they can acquire the required skill or knowledge. Not yet encourages greater persistence.

Content drawn from “_The Science of Learning — What Every Teacher Should Know_”, EdX: https://www.edx.org

Writer
Gauthier Lebbe, Content Editor @Wooclap
Gauthier Lebbe

Content Editor @Wooclap. I love to write, learn, write about learning, and learn about writing. And hit readers with puns they don't see coming. You know, sucker puns.

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