I was involved with an professional development workshop for Northern Minnesota educators this week. The topic of Fixed/Growth Mindset was introduced. As I listened I found my brain wandering off to how fixed mindset and growth mindset impact my work in the studio. As I dug into this topic even more this week I realized a key point is if I want to expand a growth mindset within myself focus needs to be on two things: what I value as a learner and beliefs I have towards learning.
I have read a lot about growth mindset. I thought I would spend time in today’s blog to synthesize what I have had read around the characteristics of fixed and growth mindset. It all leads to some reflective questions for self-awareness.
Characteristic #1: Skills and Intelligence
People with a fixed mindset believe that their skills and intelligence are set and you either have them, or you don’t. It is the Popeye statement, “I yam what I yam!” They don’t really believe in their ability to learn and improve at things. People with a growth mindset do. They believe that skills and intelligence are grown and developed.
When someone with a fixed mindset sees a talented performer, they think: “wow that person is really great – she is so lucky to be so talented!”
When someone with a growth mindset sees a talented performer, they think: “wow that person is really great – she must have worked really hard to get that good!
Characteristic #2: Main Concern/Main Focus
The research is pretty clear here. In most any situation people with a fixed mindset focus their attention on how they look. Whether they’re singing in the choir, taking a test, or playing volleyball they are worried about what others think. And they are focused on showing everyone how smart and talented they are. “I am what I accomplish.”
People with a growth mindset are different. While they may want to win and want to look good – they’re main focus and main concern (in any situation) is the process of learning, growing, and getting better. “How I perform is mostly a reflection of my process. I can always change and improve my process”
They frame a performance as a way to test and experiment with their process. So a failure is an opportunity to learn and will help them improve process for next time.
Characteristic #3: Effort
People with a fixed mindset see effort as a negative thing, as something that people do when they’re not good enough. They believe that skills and abilities are set and are NOT grown and developed. Therefore, working hard and putting in effort is something that the less intelligent and less talented have to do.
People with a growth mindset believe that skills and intelligence are grown and developed and that effort is one of the key ingredients.
Characteristic #4: Challenges
When they’re met with a challenge, when stuff gets hard, and the wheels start to fall off – people with a fixed mindset tend to give up and check out…
They don’t believe in their ability to learn and grow and if they can’t figure something out right away they really don’t see the point of working through it – so they quit.They don’t want to look bad and are worried about what others will think – so they quit. They don’t want to put in the effort/don’t see the point of putting in effort – so they quit. Does this describe any students you have?
As we all know, challenges usually involve some stumbles, some effort, and some perseverance – all of which someone with a fixed mindset resists. Of course they’re going to quit when they’re met with one.
People with a growth mindset have been shown to be more likely to persevere and display grit when they’re met with a challenge. They believe in their ability to learn, grow, and develop. AND that is what they value. This mindset gives a purpose to the challenge and fuels them to work through it.
Characteristic #5: Feedback
People with a fixed mindset get defensive and take feedback very personally.
In the eyes of someone with a fixed mindset feedback equals someone discovered their shortcomings and someone is attacking them personally. The fixed mindset student will get heated, deflect it, come up with a hundred reasons why it wasn’t their fault, and then go tell his friends how stupid the teacher is.
People with a growth mindset love feedback because they see it as a useful tool to help improve their process. Dylan Wilim has some interesting thoughts on giving feedback for learning
Characteristic #6: Mistakes
By now this should be pretty obvious but I’ll say it anyway…
People with a fixed mindset HATE mistakes, they DREAD mistakes, and avoid any situation where they might make mistakes.
People with a growth mindset understand that mistakes are necessary and they treat them as learning opportunities.
To wrap it up today I found that I had some ideas for questions for my own self awareness and reflection:
- How do I respond when I’m challenged, both inwardly and outwardly?
- Which resources and strategies do I tend to favor, and which do I tend to ignore?
- What can I do to make myself more aware of my own thinking and emotions?
- What happens if I don’t change anything at all?