A pupil with a fixed mindset is likely to see intelligence as something that is predetermined and unchangeable. You might hear such pupils saying ‘I’m rubbish at art’ or ‘Maths is so hard, I just can’t do it’.
Contrastingly, a pupil with a growth mindset will believe their intelligence is changeable, and with effort and practice it can grow and be improved upon. They understand that ability stems from how hard they work rather than a predetermined level of intelligence.
The idea of growth mindsets was developed by psychology professor Dr. Carol Dweck, who proposed that the view you adopt at a young age can have a huge effect on your behaviour and how you view success and failure. Her studies found that pupils’ perception of their own abilities, and whether they could be changed, had a huge effect on their motivation and achievement.
Children with growth mindsets will be more willing to try new tasks and ultimately learn more. They view failure as a sign that they need to work harder, not that they are less intelligent. Contrastingly, children with a fixed mindset have a more fragile idea of intelligence and are less likely to try challenging things that may disprove their apparent intellect.
With the inevitable need for examinations and tests, it can be easy for pupils to fall into a fixed mindset. Teachers and parents therefore play an important role in helping pupils develop growth mindsets through the way they teach and engage with them.
There are a number of ways to do this:
- Praise effort not ability – this is the first step to ensuring pupils understand the importance of the learning process in leading to success
- Reward actions not traits – avoid telling pupils they are gifted or talented, as it doesn’t encourage growth and effort
- Encourage children to change the way they use language – rather than saying ‘I failed’, they should say ‘I learned’. Rather than saying ‘I don’t understand it’ they should say ‘I don’t understand it yet’
- Discuss the learning process with pupils – help them understand that without trying new and challenging things they cannot learn, and that failure is simply an sign that you can improve
- Make your criticism positive – if your criticism is constructive and you always provide feedback that includes areas to improve upon, you can help children develop the understanding that criticism is a good thing rather than a bad thing, as it contributes to an ongoing learning process.
For an in-depth look at growth mindsets and the practical strategies teachers can employ to help pupils become more resilient learners, have a look at our CPD course Building Growth Mindsets.
Building Growth Mindsets is available as part of the CPD Library. For more information you can email firstname.lastname@example.org, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @PearsonPublish!