Teaching our kids the Growth Mindset approach

Recently, our Head of Junior School, Monique Miotto wrote about Dr Carol Dweck’s studies into the learning behaviours of primary-aged children in her recent article in ‘In The Know’.

Dr Dweck (A Stanford University Professor) discovered that children who believed that their intelligence, skill or talent could be developed were far more motivated to learn.

Confident children embrace challenges, persist when facing difficulties and learn from feedback. These are all hallmarks of the ‘growth mindset’ identified by Dr Dweck, which she found led to higher levels of achievement and personal empowerment.

Dr Dweck also identifies the increase of the ‘fixed mindset’ as children progress past Year 3 of their schooling. This is a mindset generated by the belief that intelligence and talents are fixed, resulting in a tendency to want to look intelligent, avoid challenges (and making mistakes) and ignore negative feedback.

Dweck and her fellow researchers found that messages children heard about themselves in the speech of significant adults directly affected their growth mindset. If parents and teachers spoke to children in a way that suggested that their intelligence was fixed, children began to believe that too and developed ‘fixed mindset’ traits.

So how do we as adults overcome this?

5 ways to teach children the growth mindset

  • Reward effort, not attainment.
  • Encourage them to take risks with their learning.
  • It’s ok to make mistakes. Use it as an opportunity to learn what could improve the outcome next time.
  • When praising your child,  focus on the strategies and skills they employed to learn about a specific subject, rather than their innate talent or skills.
  • Be mindful of the messages conveyed at home. For example, referring to yourself as ‘bad at maths’ or ‘no good at spelling’ can reinforce the idea that intelligence is fixed.

I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures…I divide the world into the learners and nonlearners.’ Benjamin Barber