Was so happy to come across a recent blog post by another educator about this TED video by Carol Dweck explaining her research on what she calls the “Growth Mindset.” My 20 second summary is essentially summed up in 2 points:

  1. Our brains can grow smarter, and do so primarily by engaging in challenging material.
  2. If we change our perception and expectations about challenging situations to understand that we are getting smarter by engaging in them, we win.

Of course, this makes complete sense, and I’ve been kicking myself for not having thought about these ideas in this way before.

In short, the Growth Mindset is an attitude – a collection of thoughts, beliefs, and feelings about something that influences the way we interact with it. The great thing about this attitude is that a slight shift in preconception about learning & challenge can really have a huge impact. In the education world, we often get frustrated that, well, some kids get frustrated. They have a hard time accepting feedback, and shut down at the slightest challenge. The reasons are various, from learned helplessness to conditioned aversion to failure because it happens too much. The solution, fortunately, may be a bit easier:

Dweck encourages a first step of just re-educating kids on how the brain works. Prove to them that brains grow, and that challenge is a signal that it’s doing just that. Then, encourage them to reconsider their perception of challenge – that challenges are fun & interesting, not threatening.

Of course, there are other things that need to happen as well in the classroom if a child’s Growth Mindset is going to really sink it. For example, praise needs to revolve around effort and overcoming challenges, not innate ability or even correctness.

Check out the TED video, and other available online resources, for more information. If you’re in education, it’s worth your time.