Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Growth mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

Education is one of those professions that love buzz words. Every year you have to attend at least 3 PD sessions to make sure that you know what it is and how to use it in your class. Things like: differentiation, and 'data driven', personalized learning, research based, formative/summative assessment, stimulus/context based learning, rigor, and now recently, we have Growth vs. Fixed Mindset.

I have engaged in several discussions with colleagues about the term 'Growth Mindset'. Sounds interesting and, at the same time, sounds like the kind of term that people outside the classroom like to create so they can write a book about it with lots of research and studies done on how it impacts student success and achievement. Please believe me that I have complete and total respect for this work, but as I thought about it, what are we in this business for- student success and achievement. How are these possible without the 'Growth Mindset' that most administrators are now touting as a key component to pedagogy. Show me a student that has been successful (and I mean successful as in they are actually internalizing and not just memorizing) that has had a 'Fixed Mindset'? I can not think of one, and I estimate that I have taught over 3,000 kids in 13 years.

Here is what I have been able to find out about it. What is growth. These are informative articles about defining Growth Mindset from David Hochheiser, and another from Keith Heggart in the online journal Edutopia. Both reference Carol Dweck's research on the topic. So, I think I will study her work further to get a more deep understanding.

As I was researching, I arrived at an article written by Carol Dweck, "Growth Mindset". There is some great information and she helps to clearly define what this process entails.

There was a great twitter chat focusing on this topic. Here is the hashtag if you are interested in viewing some of the comments: #EDthink. This awesome chat was hosted by @AaronJPena, and @MandyVasek (sorry if I left someone out). Here is what I could gather from other professionals based on three of the questions that were posed.

1) "What role does effort play in developing your growth mindset?" Without it there can be little to no growth. However, effort for the sake of effort does not necessarily equate to growth. For example, if you can expend effort and regress as well. Your effort has to be directed carefully and mindfully in an informed plan of action.

2) "What role does failure play in developing your growth mindset?" One of the best quotes from the chat was from Jenna Carlson, "Failure hasn't taught me I can't do it, it has taught me I have to do it differently." In my opinion, I believe that our culture has taught us that failure is a bad thing, where as the most successful people in the world see failure as an opportunity to do something better! If a teacher or student has a fixed mindset then failure is acceptable and a stopping point. In a growth mindset, a teacher or student would view failure as a chance to explore other options to overcome the hurdle in front of them.

3) "What are some experiences that can lead to a fixed mindset?" This was an interesting question, and I enjoyed reading some of the responses. Things that lead to a fixed mindset are: comfort, stability, routine, and fear, broken relationships, an emphasis on outcomes and not process, negativity. Here was one of the breakthroughs I found in this question. Success can lead to a fixed mindset if you view it as a destination and not a journey! That was awesome!

I look forward to further exploration on "Growth Mindset". I hope you have enjoyed reading what I have gathered, and hopefully like me, it will begin you on a fruitful trip down education lane.


  1. Teaching kids to set goal, planning, and reflection on their actions and results is crucial. Teacher can help make this tangible by providing student a way to record their efforts. Digital portfolios can be utilized to do just this. the long term effect to this the development of growth mind set but it still has to be explicitly named so that students understand growth is a process that takes time... and effort. Struggling learners have the worst time conceptualizing this because their growth happen at a much slower pace.