By Adele Paynter, Head of Lower School, Charlotte Country Day
In recent years, I’ve been really interested in reading the work of Carol Dweck, a researcher at Stanford University, who has extensively studied how our worldviews about people and their identities impact our own learning and growth. In her research, she discovered two kinds of people:
1. Growth Mindset: Individuals who view capacities and skills as “works in progress,” and believe that with effort and learning, everyone has the capacity to learn, grow, and change.
2. Fixed Mindset: Individuals who believe that people’s capacities and skills (be those social-emotional or academic) are fixed. They either are good at something or they are not–math, writing, relationships, leadership, creativity, etc.
Dweck’s research found that these two worldviews fundamentally impact the ways in which individuals move through the world and respond to challenges. In particular, she discovered that people who hold a growth mindset are significantly more likely to achieve at high levels (and be happier in the process), whereas those who hold a fixed mindset are more anxious, less confident, and less able to persevere in the face of challenge.
The reasons behind this are complex, but it boils down to a simple idea: when you view abilities as “fixed,” effort and failure look like signs of “inability,” and so you avoid things that feel difficult or hard in order to protect your sense of competence. On the flip side, when you view effort as what will ultimately make you smart and capable, you tend to seek out challenge and discomfort, and you view failure and effort as simply part of the learning process.
So how do we nurture a growth mindset in our children? It starts with what we model for them on an everyday basis:
1. Watch Your Praise: Rather than praising your child for being “smart” (which tends to promote the idea that you are either smart or not), praise them for their effort and for the behaviors that led them to their success.
2. Monitor Your Self-Talk: When your child is struggling with something, be careful how you respond. Our tendency is often to say things like, “Oh, I wasn’t good at math in school either” (especially to girls) or, “I could never draw either. It’s okay!” Instead, redirect that talk to be more focused on the process: “When I first started learning multiplication, it was challenging for me too. Here are some strategies that helped.”
3. Become a role model learner: If we want our children to be interested in learning and honing their abilities, we need to do the same. Talk to your kids about new challenges you are taking on, the mistakes you make, the lessons you learn, etc. Let them see learning is a process–one that we all go through on a daily basis.
Junior Kindergarten through 4th
Tuesday, October 27, 2015, 7:00pm, for grades
Grades 9 – 12
Thursday, November 5, 2015, 1:30pm