Instilling a ‘Growth Mindset’

Coeducation is education for life. Naturally

Can/t Growth Mindset

“Exams”: a word that can strike fear and traumatic flashbacks into the heart of even the most confident of us! We all remember them, and the doubts, the fears, the hopes and the nervous anticipation that went along with them. All Saints’ College is pleased to present a five-part series that focuses on exams, with some tips for parents and students on how best to manage what can be a challenging time.

When it comes to exams and life, in general, mindset has a huge part to play. Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University, is a world-renowned researcher in the area of ‘fixed’ versus ‘growth’ mindset. She states that:

“In a fixed mindset, students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset, students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe anyone can get smarter if they work at it.”

When we nurture our children, one of the greatest gifts we can bestow upon them is a growth mindset.

A growth-mindset considers:

  1. Encouraging them to have a go and continue, even when things get tough;
  2. Congratulating them for achieving something because they worked hard and didn’t give up;
  3. When discussing their answer to a problem, ask them to expand on it and apply it to a real-world scenario;
  4. Add the word ‘yet’ to the end of a negative statement: eg I don’t know how to answer this question, yet.

We need to remember to congratulate our teen for achieving something because they worked hard and didn’t give up, rather than because they are simply ‘smart’.

The former gives them a sense of control over their circumstances; the latter suggests more of a fixed concept and thus one they have less control over.

It is also important to help our teens consider different tactics or approaches to a problem if they hit a road block. Can a problem be better understood instead perhaps by turning it into a game or viewing learning material in video instead of in text, for example?

Helping teens understand that there are many different ways to solve a problem and that there is a process behind it, rather than just being ‘smart’, helps instil a growth mindset which is beneficial during the exam period.