Growth mindset is Dweck’s idea that people are better able to learn and adapt to learning environments when they believe they can learn as opposed to a fixed mindset, where people believe they have a limit to their intelligence and ability to succeed . There are several ways I can help to encourage growth mindset in myself, my department, and my college and community.
I often find myself in an inner dialog, where part of me is still stuck in a fixed mindset or slips back into it, even momentarily. “You aren’t a ____.” “____ is just something you’ll never be good at.” “That person won’t ever change.” In those cases, applying Dweck’s four steps essentially amounts to countering those thoughts with positive statements that affirm a growth mindset. The most important thing I can do for myself is to be alert and watching for those fixed mindset attributes so I can address and counteract them with growth mindset alternatives.
In My Department
In my department, I can help my team work together by fostering a growth mindset. I have noticed on a number of occasions some signs of fixed mindset, for example:
- “I’m just not not good at that,” or “I can’t do that,”
- Struggling with changing because they just don’t think they can, or
- Always focusing on someone else’s faults and refusing to accept their progress
In these cases, again, I will directly counter these kinds of statements immediately with growth mindset rejoinders, perhaps just by adding the word “yet,” to reinforce that change is possible.
I can also be proactive about promoting growth mindset by taking time to promote and even watch and discuss resources that promote or are in keeping with growth mindset. For example, we could have a monthly TED Talk, and I could email an article of the month to keep growth mindset and ideas compatible with growth mindset.
Perhaps the greatest contribution I can make for my team, however, is to create a failure-tolerant environment . I will do this in the following ways.
- Praising employees for well-planned risks, even if they aren’t successful.
- Redeeming failures by analyzing them to find what went wrong and learn from them.
- “Taking the heat” myself for failures while praising team members individually to my superiors.
- Being transparent about my own failures to set the example.
In My College/Community
In my current position, the most direct connection to students at my college is in my ability to advocate for and help provide positive learning environments. I will help to encourage growth mindset in my college and my community in the following ways.
- I will coordinate with our instructional technologists and learning commons areas to create computer labs and collaborative areas that remove barriers to learning or force students into an inauthentic approach. For example, our computer labs tend to be rows of computers lined up, factory-style , which can subtly reinforce fixed mindset ideas in students by intimidating and alienating students. Even something as simple as exploring other ways to arrange furniture to make spaces more inviting and comfortable can help create an environment where growth mindset won’t be stifled.
- I will pursue creating a maker space at the college and/or in the community. The maker movement is closely tied with growth mindset , allowing students—and non-students—access to a community that encourages “can-do” thinking.
- Related to the maker space, I will work on starting some robotics/maker youth clubs. This is a way I can help foster growth mindset in area children and help to counteract the many forces reinforcing a fixed mindset.