How do we transmit a growth mindset to our students?

| October 29, 2010

Lately, I have been reviewing Carol Dweck’s work on one’s belief about intelligence and its consequent effects on learning. Dweck is a professor at Stanford University, a social psychologist, and the author of  Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. In this recent book, based on her past 20 years research on belief, motivation, and achievement, Dweck discusses two mindsets that people generally have: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

People with fixed mindsets believe that intelligence is fixed and finite. They are afraid of challenges and mistakes. They tend to avoid challenges and refuse opportunities to learn due to the possibility of failure.

People with growth mindsets, on the other hand, believe that intelligence can be developed and improved through hard working over time. They like challenges and welcome mistakes for those give them chances to learn things they are not yet good at.

If one of our goal as educators is to create independent learners who love learning, possess resilience, and not be afraid of mistakes, we need to learn how to help our students develop a growth mindset. In addition to strategic feedback and explicit instruction which Dweck suggests in her book,  storytelling, modeling, carefully designed questions (Peter Johnston), and reflections (Peter Heslin) are proposed by other researchers in the field.

I am especially interested in storytelling as an approach to teach value and belief. I always find myself motivated after reading or listening to others’ encouraging stories. Though I can find many examples showing that people are influenced by others’ stories (the most recognized one might be Bible), I can’t find relevant theories to explain it yet. Need to do more work…