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Have you ever heard of the Growth Mindset? It is basically a way of thinking about learning and talents. When a person has a growth mindset, they believe with practice, hard work, good strategies, and input from others they can become smarter or get better at a specific talent.
Carol Dweck, the founder of the growth mindset, figured out that there are two types of people… People with a fixed mindset and people with a growth mindset.
Fixed Mindset:Is a person who tends to believe intelligence is static, which leads to a desire to always “look smart”. To achieve the look of being smart people will actually avoid challenges, give up easily, see working hard or putting in an effort as a waste of time, ignore useful negative feedback, and feel threatened by other people’s success. This causes people to peak early and not work to achieve more, for fear of not looking smart.
Growth Mindset: Is a person who tends to believe intelligence can be developed. This leads to a desire to learn and embrace challenges. The growth mindset also causes people to persist when challenged, see the effort as a stepping stone to mastery, learn from criticism, and find lessons and inspiration in other people’s successes. The growth mindset helps people reach their full potential because they believe the brain is always getting bigger, stronger, and smarter.
So why is this important for children?
When children learn that intelligence/talents can be developed they tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset. When a child is worried less about looking smart then they put more energy into the actual learning. Carol Dweck and others have done tons of research on how the growth mindset works and how it can change the way many children view their education. There was a study done with 7th graders in an inner-city school in New York. At the start of the study, most of the kids had a fixed mindset 67% of the class. After the students received training on the growth mindset 59% of the low achieving students had improved their GPA and 70% of the students improved their standardized test scores.
A Real-World Example:
Let me tell you a story of a kid in one of my Head Start Classes. This little boy J was a typical little boy, he had a loving mom who stayed at home with him and a loving dad who worked every day. J loved his dad and would always do things to show his dad that he was “smart”. He and his dad loved to do puzzles together. Since the family didn’t have much money they only had a few puzzles. J had done these puzzles so many times that he could probably do them blindfolded. But when J finished a puzzle he would say, “look dad I finished the puzzle!” His dad, wanting to praise his son, would say, “yeah you did, you’re so smart.” At a parent-teacher conference, I told the parents all the things that J enjoyed doing in the classroom, we went over his achievements, but his dad said, “what about puzzles, J loves doing puzzles with me at home.” But I’d never seen J do puzzles in the classroom.
After the conference, I encouraged J to work on some of the puzzles in the class. He would start with the really easy puzzles. But when we would move on to a more challenging puzzle J would get a few pieces correct then get frustrated the second he made a mistake. After a few weeks of this, I talked to the parents again and we came up with a plan. The parents would now praise J’s efforts. For example, “I can tell you worked really hard on that puzzle” instead of “you’re so smart.” They would also borrow more challenging puzzles from the classroom so J could practice with more challenging puzzles. The parents told me a week later, “J gets so upset when he makes the tiniest mistake.” We discussed the issue and stuck to our original plan. After about a month J was taking more risks and if he didn’t get the puzzle 100% correct, he still got a little upset but he would also take a deep breath and remind himself that he was still learning, or that he was working hard to do the puzzle.
The moral of this story is sometimes kids don’t know that it’s ok to make mistakes. Kids don’t always know that mistakes are an opportunity to learn. I’ve had many children in my class who get so frustrated when they make a mistake, shoot my husband even gets really upset when he makes a mistake. One thing I want M to learn is that mistakes happen and we can use them as a learning experience. Not everything has to be perfect the first time. That is part of the reason why we’ve filled M’s personal library with these five books.
It’s Okay to Make Mistakes by Todd Parr I love this book because the illustrations are so bright, but just like the title says…It’s ok to make mistakes. It’s a short book making it a good one for a read aloud or for kids to read on their own.
Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg This is a fun book that shows mistakes can become a beautiful creative adventure. I like this book and A Little Bit of Oomph! by Barney Saltzberg because they are pop up books, but they both teach great lessons about it being ok to make mistakes and working extra hard to get better at something.
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty This one is my absolute favorite. One because it is a rhyming book, and you know we love a good rhyming book. And two because it’s about a little girl who gives up on her dream of becoming an inventor because one of her uncles laughs at her invention. But her Great Aunt Rosie comes to visit and mentions her last dream. To which Rosie Revere wants to make come true.
The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Gary Rubinstein and Mark Pett This book is about a girl who has never made a mistake, ever. She always remembers her homework, never wears mismatched socks, and always wins the talent show. She is completely perfect. Until she makes her first mistake…in public. This is such a good book to read, especially for me as an adult who is a recovering perfectionist.
Mistakes That Worked by Charlotte Foltz Jones This book is probably for a slightly older audience, but I love it anyway. This book is so good because it shows real world mistakes and how they weren’t actually mistakes. For example, the post it, silly putty, and even potato chips.
The growth mindset is becoming a more mainstream idea. Companies are using it as a buzz word to recruit new employees. It’s being taught in more and more schools and programs. But what do you think about the growth mindset? Is learning static or can it be developed? I’d love to hear your thoughts.