What is Growth Mindset?

The concept of a growth mindset was developed by psychologist Professor Carol Dweck.

mindset is a “self-theory” or a view that people hold about themselves. Believing that you are either “intelligent” or “unintelligent” is a simple example of a mindset. People may also have a mindset related their ability in certain subjects – “I’m good at Maths” or “I’m bad at Art”, for example. You might be aware or unaware of your own mindsets but they can have a significant effect on learning achievement, the way you learn new skills, personal relationships, professional success, and many other dimensions of life. IT’s not always helpful or accurate to label yourself either a ‘fixed’ or ‘growth mindset’ person, though. We all have times when we might exercise fixed or growth mindset thinking.

Professor Dweck’s work looks at those behaviours that may show “fixed” and “growth” mindsets.

People with fixed mindset behaviour:

  • believe qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are fixed
  • believe that talent alone creates success—without effort
  • believe that there is no way to change how they are and how they learn and achieve
  • shy away from challenges in case they fail
  • tell themselves they simply “can’t” do things they find too hard (“I just can’t learn Algebra”), or they make excuses about why they failed (“I would have passed the test if I had had more time to study”).

People with growth mindset behaviour:

  • believe that basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work
  • believe that brains and talent are just the starting point
  • have a resilience that is essential for achieving great things.
  • believe that they can learn more or become smarter if they work hard and persevere
  • regard challenges and failures as opportunities to improve their learning and skills.

However, growth mindsets can be learned!

Professor Dweck’s studies have shown that if you believe you can get better with practice; if you believe that failure is helpful, you are much more likely to learn more, and learn it faster and more thoroughly.

Learn to value praise for effort rather than only for what you achieve. If you try your hardest and put effort into practicing how to do things better, you are much more likely to succeed.

Watch this video about the use of praise with children and young people:

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Listen to this podcast from BBC Radio 4 from the series ‘Mindchangers’, with an interview with Carol Dweck.

Here is an interesting case study about how using a growth mindset approach helped narrow the attainment gap between Pupil Premium students and their peers.

Maths Mindsets: an interesting and practical blogpot by Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher) about his Y10 maths group and their mindsets (not dissimilar to what Simon B has discovered in his research at CWLC below!)

A key feature of growth mindset thinking is the concept of metacognition: teaching students how their brains work in helping them understand how they learn.

Great article here by teacher David Fawcett about how metacognition and modelling can be used to help students unpick exam methodology.

Here is our introduction to metacognition, Understanding how your brain works, that appears in our student planners in helping to explain its concept to students. This short video clip by Professor Robert Winston is very useful and clear too.

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Our year of Growth Mindset Research

Read our staff blogs here about how we have been researching the impact of growth mindset strategies at CWLC:

Background blog by Rachael Stevens

Research findings by Simon Beasley