A few years ago in 2016, my younger daughter came home after school to show me an article her teacher had discussed with them at school. The article was about growth versus fixed mindset and their implication in education. The comparison between these two different concepts showed her how someone can change the mind patterns towards one that is capable of anything without limitations! It was such an inspiring and refreshing experience to see a teacher sharing such inavouable and important information with students. The article taught my daughter to remember this concept what to do the next time she would think she wasn’t good at doing something!
Carole Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University and one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation describes it in simple words:
“In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”
This means our innate abilities or talents are viewed just as a foundation for development and they don’t define our capability to become successful in anything. Most experts in the field of human intelligence such as Gilbert Gottlieb and Robert Sternberg , believe it is neither nature or nurture, genes or environment for that matter. In fact, it is the combination of two.
The founder of IQ concept, Alfred Binet stressed that “intellectual development progressed at variable rates, could be impacted by the environment and was therefore not based solely on genetics, was malleable rather than fixed, and could only be used on children with comparable backgrounds (Siegler, 1992). In fact, he didn’t deny the intellectual differences in children but explained how much education and practice can help increase intellectual abilities.
Teaching this concept to our children from the very young age can and will create a belief in their subconscious mind that has the potency to change their lives and psychology forever.
Let’s examine what could be the implications of this switch in the mind of a student?
1- They start to believe in themselves and their capabilities.
2- They will not view hard work futile and useless.
3- They will envision their end product more clearly.
4- They learn that stress is manageable.
5- Not achieving their goals only means they have to work harder.
6- They learn intelligence is a learned attitude and not innate.
7- It equips them with a tool to grow and learn in challenging times.
So now that I’ve got your attention with the facts, what can we do to teach our children to think from a state of growth mindset and not fixed? Dweck reminds us “If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenge, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort and keep on learning.”
We need to remember that this is a process and will not happen overnight. So, we need to be patient and let them to practice it daily until it becomes a learned behavior:
1- Remind them that their intelligence can grow.
2- Teach them that mistakes are the best teachers and failures means opportunities to growth.
3- Praise you children based on their effort not intelligence.
4- Teach them positive self talk.
5- Talk to them daily about learning and improvement.
Carole Dweck in the video below showed the results of her study in a series of experiments to over 400 kids, praised based on their effort and based on their intelligence separately and encouraged them to develop a growth mindset. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWv1VdDeoRY
As you can see, this concept can be broadly applied in other fields and not only education. It can also be applied to anyone and not only children. Believing in brains or talent as something fixed and all-powerful not only doesn’t help long-term success in school, careers, and life but it will discourage effort, creates stress, false image and lack of confidence among others.
Let’s plan on helping ourselves and our kids to unlearn this wrong mindset and believe we can grow our brain and improve our intelligence.