Developing a Growth Mindset

10 02 2010

 Developing a Growth Mindset

As I walk into the office of one of the schools I teach I view these words, “What children learn and what they become depend largely upon how they feel about themselves”.   After years of reading those words I realized that this “feeling” is far more than emotion.  I realized that a child’s perception of themselves is very important to their success in school.  This questions the concept that teachers are just dispensers of knowledge.    Self-perception leads to self-confidence and that leads to.…self-efficacy.

 To quote Del Siegle,

Self-efficacy is a person’s judgment about being able to perform a particular activity.  It is a student’s “I can” or “I cannot” belief.  Unlike self-esteem, which reflects how students feel about their worth or value, self-efficacy reflects how confident students are about performing specific tasks.  High self-efficacy in one area may not coincide with high self-efficacy in another area.  Just as high confidence in snow skiing may not be matched with high confidence in baseball, high self-efficacy in mathematics does not necessarily accompany high self efficacy in spelling.  Self-efficacy is specific to the task being attempted. However, having high self-efficacy does not necessary mean that students believe they will be successful. While self-efficacy indicates how strongly students believe they have the skills to do well, they may believe other factors will keep them from succeeding.

A growing body of research reveals that there is a positive, significant relationship between students’ self-efficacy beliefs and their academic performance. ….People with low self-efficacy toward a task are more likely to avoid it, while those with high self-efficacy are not only more likely to attempt the task, but they also will work harder and persist longer in the face of difficulties. Self-efficacy influences:  (1) what activities students select, (2) how much effort they put forth, (3) how persistent they are in the face of difficulties, and (4) the difficulty of the goals they set. Students with low self-efficacy do not expect to do well, and they often do not achieve at a level that is commensurate with their abilities. They do not believe they have the skills to do well so they don’t try.

The connection between self-efficacy and achievement gets stronger as students advance through school.  By the time students are in college, their self-efficacy beliefs are more strongly related to their achievement than any measure of their ability.  If we wish to develop high educational achievement among our students, it is essential that we begin building stronger self-efficacy as early as possible.

Carol Dweck shares her thoughts on self-efficacy when she speaks of Mind Sets.

Students with a fixed Mind Set say that intelligence is static

Leads to a desire to look smart and therefore a tendency to

Avoid challenges

Give up easily

Sees effort as fruitless or worse

Ignores useful feedback

Feels threatened by the success of others

 They may plateau early and achieve less than their full potential

Students with a Growth Mind Set say intelligence can be developed

Leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to

Embrace challenge

Persist in the in the face of setbacks

Sees effort as a path of mastery

Learns for criticism

Finds lessons and inspiration in the success of others

As a result they reach ever higher levels of achievement

Here are Dweck’s tips from Mindset:

-Listen to what you say to your kids, with an ear toward the messages you’re sending about mind-set.

– Instead of praising children’s intelligence or talent, focus on the processes they used.

Example: “That homework was so long and involved. I really admire the way you concentrated and finished it.”

Example: “That picture has so many beautiful colors. Tell me about them.”

Example: “You put so much thought into that essay. It really makes me think about Shakespeare in a new way.”

-When your child messes up, give constructive criticism—feedback that helps the child understand how to fix the problem, rather than labeling or excusing the child.

-Pay attention to the goals you set for your children; having innate talent is not a goal, but expanding skills and knowledge is.

-When they teach study skills, convey to students that using these methods will help their brains learn better.

 -Discourage use of labels (“smart”, “dumb” and so on) that convey intelligence as a fixed entity.

-Teach students to think of their brain as a muscle that strengthens with use, and have them visualize the brain forming new connections every time they learn.

-Praise students’ effort, strategies, and progress, not their intelligence. Praising intelligence leads to students to fear challenges and makes them feel stupid and discouraged when they have difficulty.

-Give students challenging work. Teach them that challenging activities are fun and that mistakes help them learn.



3 responses

8 03 2010
Mary K

Very true! Low self efficiancy is definitely the reason why many people/students fail to achieve the highest level of success. Whilst those with a good high level of self-efficiany will be able to achieve success in any area of life.

Self esteem is vital to achieving all goals in life. What we learn from our peers, teachers, mentors and parents as a child, is what we will carry through into adulthood. Therefore it is vital that young children are always guided by positive people, who will engender a feeling of high self efficiancy/esteem in them.

18 10 2011
Robin Clarkson

Great article. I find the same in sport.

With all the years of political correctness it has created a generation of people with a fixed mindset and we are sitting round wondering why people are dropping out of sports. The challange of improvement is to hard for those of a fixed mindset and it is easy for them to be subtley disruptive than to attempt to change themselves.

My next challange as a coach is understanding how to influence people with a fixed mindset into a growth mindset so I can get the best out of them and thus get everyone in the squad that I work with to be all moving in the same direction.

4 03 2012
Yusuke Morotomi

Hello Robin. I am a resident of Japan reading your comment on a quiet evening while my boy is away on a school field trip.

I totally concur with your views shared in the first chunk and also share the challenge you convey in your second.

I have been involved in talking to masses in the field of marketing and advertising for some 2 decades. Now that I have come down to earth, I face the uphill task of how to a) change the mindset of individuals, in particular the ageing/aged (starting with my own mother) and b) to help train a new team of youngsters for a brighter tomorrow (beginning with my own kid).

Perhaps you have a well of a wisdom in this aspect through team sport and would be delighted to learn more should your time permit.

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