World-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck has been studying people’s mindsets since the 1960s. With decades of research on achievement and success, she found most people fall into two categories:
People with a “fixed” mindset believe they are stuck with the intelligence or ability they are born with. They spend time worrying about the adequacy of their talents instead of developing them, or avoid challenges for fear of looking and feeling dumb. They think talent alone creates success—without effort.
People with a “growth” mindset believe intelligence can be developed. The more they learn, the smarter they become. They work hard and welcome challenges. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.
Teaching a growth mindset creates motivation and productivity in business, education, sports, and personal relationships. Growth Mindset involves reframing failure as a state of mind rather than a state of being. Words like “smart” and “gifted” are replaced with “focus,” “determination,” and “hard work.” And, it can be taught early.
In one study, Dweck and other Stanford and University of Chicago researchers visited 54 families over two years to assess how they praised their toddler-aged children. Five years later, the children were surveyed on their attitudes toward challenges and learning. As expected, those who had heard more praise as toddlers for their efforts (rather than their intelligence), tended to be more interested in challenges. These now-school-aged children had developed a growth mindset.
Can a fixed mindset become unfixed? Dweck had the same question. She studied middle-schoolers and college students with fixed mindsets and found students were able to improve their grades when they were taught that the brain is like a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it gets. The brain is exercised by embracing challenges, practicing skills, and learning new things.
At the Lenox Academy for Gifted Middle School Students in Brooklyn, N.Y., kids no longer hear the words “smart” or “gifted”. Instead, teachers praise students for their focus and determination. “You must have worked really hard!” This way, kids grow less afraid of making mistakes, and more willing to ask for help. In the three years since employing a growth mindset framework, test scores at Lenox have jumped 10 to 15 points.
“Around here,” says a former Lenox Academy student, “the secret to success is failure.”
Transform Consulting Group applauds the Lennox Academy and other organizations that have implemented a growth mindset framework into their programs to increase student achievement and success. Transform Consulting Group can help develop or revitalize programs at your organization utilizing latest industry trends and best practices. Contact us today to learn more!