valuing dedication, application, challenge and growth
Extensive scientific investigation suggests that an overemphasis on intelligence or talent leaves students vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings. Talents are not innate gifts, but the result of a slow, invisible accretion of skills. Everyone is born with differences and some with unique advantages for certain tasks, but no one is genetically designed into success. ‘Ordinary’ people have a remarkable potential for change with practice.
For practice to bring about growth, it needs to be purposeful and sustained. It is only by working at what we can’t do that we can grow our expertise in any field. Feedback needs to be embedded in practice if improvements are to be generated. Teachers need to give specific, purposeful feedback to students, showing them areas of weakness and supporting them with strategies to address these areas, and it is essential that students heed this feedback in their ongoing practice.
People with a growth mindset believe that intelligence is malleable and can be developed through education and hard work. They want to learn because they believe this will expand their intellectual skills. They believe that strategic effort leads to improvement, and they find challenges energising rather than intimidating because they offer opportunities to learn.
Teachers can transmit a growth mindset to students by:
- telling stories about achievements that result from hard work
- emphasising challenge, not success; portraying challenge as exciting
- giving meaningful learning tasks that give students a clear sense of progress toward mastery
- praising students for the specific process that has been used to accomplish something – their effort, strategies, focus, etc
- giving explicit instruction regarding the mind as a learning machine
- viewing mistakes as an opportunity for learning.
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