According to Carol Dweck (2006), "a growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things that you can cultivate through your efforts" (p. 7). On the opposite side of the spectrum, a person with a fixed mindset believes intelligence, talent, and skill are traits people are born with (Dweck, 2006, p.6). You either have it or you don't. As you could guess, the mindset a person has can help them excel in life or remain stagnant.
I want to dive into the world of someone with a fixed mindset, as well as someone with a growth mindset. In our class, we have an imaginary classmate named Cecil. We often refer to the many different situations Cecil finds himself in and how he handles them. I will apply each mindset to Cecil. This will show you how Cecil reacts to learning in school depending on his mindset. These examples are based on active research studies conducted by Carol Dweck.
Cecil does well in school. He is now in sixth grade and has gotten an A on every assignment since first grade. Cecil's parents say he is naturally gifted. Everything in school comes easily to him; he has never had to study. Cecil is, for the first time, struggling in math class. He is getting C's and D's on tests and not completing his daily homework. The assignments are too difficult. Because of his low grades on his tests and how difficult the assignments are, Cecil continues not to study. He has never had to. Why should he start now? Cecil sometimes thinks about studying, but because of his fixed mindset, he believes that he won't be able to get better at math. His mindset is that a person is born intelligent. What could the result of this be? Cecil could blame the teacher, chalk it up to a bad year and he will do better next year, or he could believe he is intelligent, but math isn't something he is naturally good at. He could turn away from something he enjoys or a future career because his mindset prevents him from believing in hard work.
In this situation, all of the initial information about Cecil is the same, however he now has a growth mindset. His bad grades in math are motivating him. He sees that math is more difficult this year and, despite his grades, he enjoys the challenge. Because of his test scores, Cecil knows he needs to study more and work harder. He stops and evaluates his work. By evaluating, he is able to tell if he is working to his full potential. Since everything has always been easy for him and now he is not doing so well, Cecil decides he is going to study. He wants to learn and grow.
This was an introduction to the two mindsets a person can have. The examples show you how a person with each mindset reacts to the same situation. A fixed mindset can have devastating effects. People with fixed mindset often feel superior due to their belief in natural ability. They are also afraid to work harder to improve because they fear failure. In the next post, I will address the effects of mindsets and bullying in schools.
Dweck, Carol S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Ballantine Books.