How to Practice Growth Mindset With Student Success in Mind
How to Practice Growth Mindset With Student Success in Mind
PUBLISHED: Wednesday, May 29, 2019 by Andilynn Feddeler

Carol Dweck’s growth mindset concept and the movement toward praising effort and developing intelligence, rather than accepting that some people are simply born with certain talents and others aren’t, has been revolutionary in the spheres of education and child development. But Dweck herself has asserted time and again that there is a time and place for both growth and fixed mindsets, and that emphasizing effort over ability is not appropriate in every situation. How can educators ensure that they’re practicing growth mindset positively?

When the ideas behind growth mindset thinking are misrepresented, students are often harmed more than they are helped. According to some researchers, kids who are told that they can achieve anything if they just put in extra effort and work as hard as they can are being led astray and given unrealistic expectations about how the world is structured. And setting young learners up for disappointment and false invincibility is not at all what Dweck intended. Allowing kids to take on full responsibility for things they can’t control can lead to unhealthy perfectionism and self-doubt, which often manifest into poor coping habits. When confidence is contingent primarily on success, students begin to think that they aren’t good enough—it’s incredibly important to recognize that it’s okay to walk away from something that is unattainable.

For many people, extra effort doesn’t lead to a “better” life—and working hard doesn’t always pay off, according to this TIME article. A major critique of Dweck’s philosophy is that it ignores the socioeconomic realities of class differences and the shortcomings of the school system in particular demographics. Dweck, notably, takes these critiques in stride and is constantly adjusting her framework to be more inclusive and concise. She notes that growth mindset is not intended to improve students’ self-esteem; it is meant to be a “tool for learning and improvement.” As summer rolls around and educators begin to shift their lesson plans, it may be helpful to revisit the literature and consider what truly helps students prosper.

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