Understanding the Meaning of Growth Mindset
How it works
The definition of a growth mindset is the belief that anyone can be good at anything because their abilities derive entirely from their actions. In other words, people who uphold or practice a growth mindset aren’t solely working to prove their intelligence or smartness; they pour their effort into their craft. This perspective distinguishes the growth mindset from the fixed mindset, which assumes people possess inherent qualities, such as talent or natural intellect, and can achieve success without exerting significant effort.
A growth mindset goes hand in hand with honed skills, but these abilities must be born from a person’s committed practice. Proponents of a growth mindset embrace the truth that to improve and evolve through daily learning processes, they must accept their mistakes: learning from failure is crucial to success. Consequently, a growth mindset holds substantial sway over students’ educational experiences and explorations in college. This mindset encourages students to stay motivated, alert, and ready to learn effectively; it equips them to cope with challenges set by their teachers or academic institutions. Essentially, a growth mindset serves as a strategic tool for students to seize opportunities that foster their success, amplify their skills, and enhance their knowledge.
Researcher, Carol Dweck, echoes this perspective, claiming that a mindset is one’s self-perception. She points out that fixed mindset students often expend time trying to document whether they’re intelligent or unintelligent. However, students favoring a growth mindset tend to outperform their counterparts by striving to apply maximal effort to their studies. Similarly, they acknowledge that talent or intelligence is merely a starting point, and hard work invariably alters outcomes. Carol Dweck corroborates her claims with concrete examples illustrating how a growth mindset fosters a “love of learning” and enables students to lead less stressful, more successful lives. One such example is the tendency for students with a growth mindset to perceive challenges and failures as opportunities to hone their skills and accelerate their learning. Ultimately, Dweck advocates for students to adopt a growth mindset over a fixed mindset, as hard work trumps merely proving one’s intellect.
Furthermore, a growth mindset enables individuals to develop grit, the conviction that long-term goals can be achieved through enduring motivation. College students should recognize the value of grit as it provides insight into their personality, and consequently, their specific objectives. In the real world, aligning short-term goals with long-term aspirations requires hard work, practice, and comprehension, which may at times seem conflicting. However, grit equips students with the resilience to overcome challenging circumstances and cultivate the skills required to contend with adversity. It encourages flexible thinking patterns, opening their eyes to opportunities for growth and learning when faced with challenges. In essence, this is a form of experiential learning or learning based on pre-existing knowledge. For instance, gritty students are more inclined to take risks, trusting that learning is intertwined with ambition, which propels them towards individual goals and greater accomplishments. Therefore, while IQ can indicate an individual’s intelligence to some degree, grit is paramount in learning since it highlights the rewards of motivation.
To delve deeper into the concept of grit, one must comprehend the work of Angela Duckworth. As a leading researcher, Duckworth emphasizes the significance of grit in learning and its association with growth mindset. According to her, “grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals, and it sticks with students’ futures.” This means grit inspires students to work excessively hard to transform their future into reality, indicative of the relationship with growth mindset. The effort put forth by students in a growth mindset can shift their learning outcomes. Similarly, Duckworth agrees that “the ability to learn is not fixed, but it can change with the student’s effort.” Students can address their challenges with an open mind, embracing failure, admitting mistakes, and restarting with lessons learned. Through her extensive experience in teaching and research, Duckworth concluded that intelligence quotient (IQ) does not dictate success, but rather, students’ understanding and learning from a motivational perspective do. In essence, she encourages teachers to foster a sense of grit within their students.
Further on, dendrites play a crucial role in learning and development, as part of the brain function that processes experiences. This function essentially makes connections between existing knowledge and new information. While Carol Dweck argues that growth mindset significantly impacts students by enabling them to learn more from information already present in their brain, Rita Smilkstein voices a similar belief but from a different angle—the study of dendrites. Smilkstein affirms that a dendrite can only grow from an existing dendrite, in the branches where chemical-electrical messages have been received from other neurons’ axons across the synapses—the tiny neurons in our brain. This suggests that students learn based on information they already possess. However, they can enrich this knowledge base through skill progression and understanding enhancement. As Smilkstein astutely puts it, “The more we grow, the more we know.” Smilkstein also postulates that emotions impact learning, and since dendrites are emotional neurons of learning, growth mindset is fundamentally rooted in student emotions. For example, if students lack confidence in a particular lesson, they may believe they cannot memorize it. Conversely, if they are confident in their understanding, they will likely perform well. Dendrites equip students with the ability to understand class content and provide them with insight that they are in control of their learning. To summarize, Smilkstein uses ‘dendrite’ term to describe her idea about brain-based natural learning, emphasizing the inquisitiveness of individuals to improve daily. She concludes by asserting that emotions are a significant part of student learning, affecting their growth mindset and understanding of grit.
In conclusion, a growth mindset is beneficial for students’ learning as it inspires them to strive for success through practice and hard work. Adopting a growth mindset in college propels students to learn and explore more, which ultimately leads to successful outcomes. All students aspire to positive results, which are consequent upon the practice of a growth mindset. Therefore, developing a growth mindset is not just about proving intelligence or lack thereof; it’s about hard work to achieve genuine results. Sometimes, learning may be influenced by our emotions, but a growth mindset consistently supports our studies and boosts our confidence in our learning. This has been affirmed by the research of Angela Duckworth, Carol Dweck, and Rita Smilkstein.