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What’s wrong with a fixed mindset?

‘Growth mindset’ is the new buzz word in education. Nearly every classroom you see has the ubiquitous display on how you can ‘change your words… change your mindset’. So what is a fixed and growth mindset, and why is it so important?

Mindset is a simple idea discovered by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck. She explained how people of a fixed mindset believe that intelligence and talent cannot be learned, and that you are born with a specific level of intellect. Growth mindset refers to people who believe that they can influence their own intelligence and talent through hard work and determination- not a natural ability. In schools you see children ‘I can’t do this, it’s too hard,’ and this is often echoed by parents during parent’s evenings with comments like ‘I was always rubbish at maths too… they’ve not got a maths brain.’

Promoting a growth mindset in children gives them the encouragement to persevere, even when the going gets tough. It teaches them that mistakes are okay, and that you need to find things difficult in order to ‘grow your brain’ and succeed.

The simplest way to do this with young children is to encourage them to change the words that they say. Instead of saying ‘I can’t do it,’ have them say ‘I can’t do it…Yet.’ It is also true that a fixed mindset can also refer to the children who think of themselves as being ‘good’ at something. These children often find it upsetting when faced with something difficult in that area, as they feel that they should be able to do it. Changing what you say from ‘I’m fantastic at this,’ to ‘I’m on the right track,’ can promote the attitude that everybody has the ability to succeed- it just depends on how hard you are willing to work for it.