Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

Mind-set diagram:

This image provides a helpful comparison to fixed vs. growth mindsets. I never knew, until I took an online quiz, that I am considered to be a learner with a growth mindset. And thankfully, this is a good thing! It seems as though all adult learners should be in the growth mindset, as it corresponds with some of the characteristics of adult learners (self-directed, life-long learners, intrinsic motivations, etc.). However, I know from my little bit of teaching experience that this is not always so. I remember one student was very upset that the course she was taking was simply marked as satisfactory/unsatisfactory. Throughout the theory portion of the class, there were exams, which were scored as a percentage. But after the clinical practicum, students were simply given an S or U. She was angry that she had studied so hard to always get 100%, and “why should I be given the same mark as someone who only got 70%?” I understood her logic, but she was definitely in a fixed growth mindset.

And although I was wholly scored as a growth learner, I recognized that on occasion, I have had fixed mindset moments in my education as well as extracurricular activities (advanced piano technique anyone?).

As educators we need to help learners recognize the benefits of being in a growth mindset, whether it be in a formal or informal learning environment. Knowing the benefits of having an open mind and the desire to learn should motivate the students to try to stay in a frame of mind that promotes growth. Some interesting information from Eduardo Briceno, on his TED Talks session on the power of the mind:
Students who have a fixed mindset show increased brain activity when they receive judgment, and those with a growth mindset show increased brain activity when they were learning. This exemplifies the desire to learn in those with a growth mindset. It should be no surprise then, to learn that those with a growth mindset show continued improvement in course grades, GPAs, and overall satisfaction with their learning experience.
For instructors wishing to help develop the students growth mindset, Briceno suggests praising the learner’s process, rather than success. With formal evaluations done on projects, assignments, and exams, how can we do this? Instructors should include the students in the evaluation process, perhaps by asking them to complete mid-way and final self-assessments on their learning experiences in the course. As well, when giving feedback, the instructor should always be sure to include comments and award points that acknowledge the learners process and efforts, and not just the final product.


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