Carol Dweck’s book Mindset is receiving great attention in the areas of adult literacy and student motivation. In her TED Talk, The Power of Believing That You Can Improve, she discusses “the power of yet and tyranny of now.” The difference between these mindsets lead to different student behaviors and outcomes and the gap between achievement widens.
Dr. Dweck’s research identifies the impact on the learning process when students have either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Students with a fixed mindset focus on the end result, a test score, a poor job evaluation, or a perceived failure. Conversely, a person with a growth mindset focuses on the process which leads to goal achievement.
Josh Waitzkin identifies the psychological traps of a fixed mindset. “The moment we believe that success is determined by ingrained level of ability, we will be brittle in the face of adversity. “
As educators, our goal is to help students develop a growth mindset where they learn that abilities can be developed. The power of yet is really a pathway to a future of goal attainment. But we have to be careful. When we directly attempt to build grit, we must be sure to address the mindset. The key is not effort, focus, resilience but the mindset that builds them.
As teachers, what do we need to do? Building a growth mindset is a deliberate practice. We need to emphasize learning strategies and help show improvement. Instructional feedback should be focused on the process of learning in order to empower students to understand they are not chained to current abilities.