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6 tips on how to foster a growth mindset in the classroom and why it makes all the difference

Let’s face it, it wasn’t that easy to engage you in learning even when you were a kid, but being a college student takes the task of developing a growth mindset to a whole new level. Just think about this: learning is something kids’ brains are wired for, yet even at the age as young as for some of us seem to not get scared at the thought of overcoming difficulties and dive in head first while others shun any task they know they might not succeed in. How come we evaluate the same task in such different ways?

Fixed mindset vs growth mindset

In the view of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck it all goes down to the mindset. A “fixed mindset”, as she describes it in her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”, implies that a person believes one can’t change what’s been given to him regarding personal traits and intelligence capacity. It’s all about those times you heard people say “It’s too hard for me”, “I’m just not the right kind of person for this task” and “Why even try if I know I won’t succeed”. The “growth mindset” definition, on the contrary, assumes that the way you have always seen yourself is just a starting point for growth and development. Traits, interests and “talents” can be cultivated over time through persistence, application and effort, and, most importantly, it’s never too late to begin the journey.

How can fixed mindset be ruining your life

How exactly does this fixed mindset vs growth mindset confrontation impact work both inside and outside the classroom? Is it even that crucial to try and instill the right attitude? Apparently, it is, as the finds of Dweck’s research are unsettling if not alarming.

Missing out on opportunities

A fixed mindset makes it incredibly hard to face challenges as such people get easily discouraged knowing they’re not likely to succeed. How do they know that? The thing is that they attribute their success to everything but their effort. They don’t believe they’re able to cope without a certain talent, luck or other people’s help and at the same time, they don’t think the effort will make any difference. Students holding this mindset will choose to stay in their comfort zone and being on the safe side, as you know, is what prevents one from developing.

Giving up too soon

But you have to deal with difficult tasks from time to time anyway, don’t you? When people with a fixed mindset face one failure after another, they lose faith in themselves surprisingly easily, and the quit ratio within them is extremely high. Even if they’ve found it in them to start learning something new, they keep trying to make sure the nut isn’t too hard for them to crack. If at some point they see that it actually is, they will immediately give it up, and that doesn’t make for acquiring any skills.

Becoming a hostage to the way people see you

What happens if such people succeed? Intelligence, in this case, tends to be regarded as a constant trait so they will be striving to prove their ability making validation from other people their number one priority. Kazakoff & Mitchell stated in their study that fixed mindset students, if given a choice, only take up the tasks they know they will cope with and don’t risk trying themselves at harder tasks due to the fear of showing their weaknesses. They can’t handle criticism because if they’re smart they have to be smart in any circumstances and any imperfection revealed will become a painful experience.

What people with a growth mindset can that others can’t

It seems you have no choice of making any profound discoveries with a fixed mindset for your mode of operation. However, what is growth mindset cultivation promising that scientists believe it has to be integrated into both studying and parenting?

  • Students with a growth mindset do not get discouraged if they don’t succeed because they don’t even see it as a failure. When they don’t get something right it means they haven’t gotten the hang of it yet and more effort is required. Acquiring a skill for them is just the matter of time and persistence.
  • If there are no such concepts as success or failure and the only thing that matters is permanent development, it’s easier to enjoy the studying by shifting the focus from the result to the process.
  • Developing growth mindset for students also means enabling yourself to accomplish pretty much anything in life. There’ll be way more opportunities you won’t blow because of being too hesitant and way less daunting tasks as you will know everything is possible.
  • You will show better performance as you won’t get turned off by challenging tasks and will be ready to work harder than other students.
  • When listening to feedback growth mindset helps find ways to improve as it’s the advice such people listen to most attentively, not the evaluation. They also see no point in getting defensive when criticized. Not only does it help stay positive if you fail, but it also provides plenty of useful information development wise.
  • Mistakes can’t bring these people down as they view them as an excellent source of experience. For such people it’s important to be smart, not to seem smart and how can one truly learn something without making lots of errors after all.

6 ways you can cultivate growth mindset as a college student

Bad news for those who’re looking for some simple growth mindset activities – chanting growth mindset phrases could be fun in 3rd grade, but it’s the smallest part of what you’re to do.

Change the notion of making a mistake

Most people think making a mistake is a bad thing. It means they’re not smart enough and after being told off they will get so embarrassed that they will think twice before taking up another challenging task like this. Can you see the fixed mindset patterns we were talking about? Sure, you’ll be assessed at college and you will get grades, both good and not, but even despite the fear of getting low grades mistakes can and should be viewed as something natural. There’s always room for improvement, so getting something wrong is totally fine.

Make the most of your mistakes

Take time to reflect on your work after it has already been done if you agree there’s more to the task than getting scores. If you don’t analyze your mistakes, fixed mindset will get its share of reinforcement as studying will go down to avoiding bad grades. Try figuring out ways to fix mistakes and make the work better along with seeking out some help from your teachers.

Embrace the importance of effort

Looking for more tips on how to develop a growth mindset? According to Dweck, it’s a bad idea to praise your students for being smart, as this way you reinforce a fixed mindset by attributing their success to a static trait. A case study conducted in Fiske elementary school has also proved performance-based praise inefficient. Not all of the teachers might know that, though. So don’t let the wrong kind of praise make you a prisoner of desire to live up to other people’s opinion about you. What’s more, whenever you praise yourself do put the emphasis on the effort you have put into the work or the time you have spent trying to figure out the solution instead of thinking about how smart or lucky you are.

Learn to deal with criticism

Growth mindset implies being generally supportive and positive, however, it becomes hard to stick to these strategies when you get criticized.  Yet, in college people will criticize your work and it’s perfectly OK. The key word here is “work”, though. If you get reprimanded for your static traits such as being lazy, not smart enough or irresponsible you shouldn’t even bother to get defensive. But if your teacher tells you that you haven’t put enough effort or done enough research you’d better think their words over and listen to whatever advice they’ve got for you to share.

Persist

For most students at college it’s tempting to give up at first sight of hardship, so your mission here is to try and realize how satisfying the sense of accomplishment can be. Especially when you don’t have to give credit to other people and you know it wasn’t just a fluke. It’s not about breaking before you bend, though. Dweck says it’s empowering to say to yourself that “You just haven’t mastered it yet” and need to put more effort when you’re having a hard time with a task, but you also want to make sure you don’t forget about flexibility.

Surround yourself with inspiring people

Choosing a mentor look for someone who can admit they don’t know the answer to a question, but will encourage you to figure it out together. Also, best classes are those where teachers are not afraid of trying new strategies and activities in class even if not all of them turn out to be successful. Don’t hesitate to make friends with people that inspire you and if you admire any of your mates or professors, you can always ask for advice. People with a growth mindset are not likely to reject the request.

Keep in mind that any change begins with your attitude, so the only real way to have a growth mindset cultivated is to try and change the way you perceive things rather than wait for someone to help develop it.

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