Carol Dweck, psychology professor at Stanford University, experienced a classroom situation as a child that was so profound, it influenced the direction of her career.
Dweck’s teacher routinely seated children in her class according to IQ scores. Those with the lowest IQs were not trusted to carry the flag in assembly or even wash the blackboard. Dweck remembers,
“She let it be known that IQ for her was the ultimate measure of your intelligence and your character…”
This experience sparked Dweck’s life time fascination with intelligence. Dweck’s fascinating and practical book, ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success’, examines the theory that we all possess either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Which mindset you possess can have a profound affect on motivation to learn.
What is growth mindset?
Whereas a fixed mindset is a belief that our abilities and talents are fixed at a set point and cannot be changed, a growth mindset is the belief that abilities can be developed and that we are capable of improving all areas of our lives by developing our strengths.
Neurologist, Dr. Harry Chugani, uses the following analogy about learning and synaptic connections in the brain,
“Roads with the most traffic get widened. The ones that are rarely used fall into disrepair.”
Dweck conducted research over two years with New York City junior high school maths students. Dweck noticed a downward trend for students with a fixed mindset and an increase in results for those with a growth mindset.
An eight week intervention was then implemented for some students who were taught how they could learn to improve results by understanding that the more they used their brain the greater it’s capacity to learn would be. A control group was taught study skills but not Dweck’s theory about strengthening the brain. The students who learned about Dweck’s theory showed a significant inprovement in grades & study habits after only two months.
The power of belief
Dweck attributed the improvement to a difference in motivation and the power of belief, the children who had learned growth mindset theory understood that they could have an impact on their mind. The students were energised by the thought that their efforts could make a difference to their abilities.
Researchers later asked teachers to pick students who had shown positive change. Although the teachers were unaware that there had been two groups, all the children they picked were from the growth mindset group.
4 steps to grow your mindset
The belief we hold about our own abilities and how this affects motivation is key to understanding how we can change. Dweck recommends 4 steps to increase self-belief and motivation and develop a growth mindset:
Step 1: Learn to hear your fixed mindset inner dialogue voice. “Maybe you don’t have the talent?”, “You’ll fail.”
Step 2: Recognise that you have a choice. Your response to challenges, setbacks & criticism is your choice.
Step 3: Talk back to it with a growth mindset voice. ”Most successful people had failures on their way,” “if I don’t try I automatically fail.”
Step 4: Choose to act with a growth mindset approach:
1) take on the challenge wholeheartedly
2) learn from your setbacks and try again
3) hear the criticism and choose a growth mindset response, your mindset is up to you.
Do you have a fixed or growth mindset? Take the test!
Want to know if your mindset is holding you back? Get started by testing your mindset on Carol Dweck’s Mindset page here!
Watch Carol Dweck speaking about mindsets in Melbourne,2013.