Mindset and Its Influence on The Learner
Carol S. Dweck is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. She is a leading researcher in learner motivation, receiving numerous grants and awards for her work, with it being featured in famous magazines, including “The New York Times.” Two such articles regarding mindset and its influences on the learner will be the main focus of this essay, “Even Geniuses Work Hard” and “Boosting Achievement With Messages That Motivate.” In both, Dweck considers the mindset mainly concerning intelligence and asserts that the “mindset” is what learners believe regarding their intelligence; from this, he derives two types of mindsets: fixed mindset and growth mindset. Dweck proposes that learners’ mindset is a crucial factor in their performance. Having the correct mindset can significantly influence your performance and learning. It is, therefore, essential for one to know the types of mindsets and identify which employ to ensure they succeed.
In “Boosting,” Dweck presents us with two kinds of mindsets. We shall begin by discussing the first, the fixed mindset. Learners with this believe in fixed intelligence. Dweck asserts that this mindset is governed by a certain code, with the guiding rule being always to appear smart no matter what. (Dweck 7). The first rule for this group is that learners are not allowed to make any mistakes. Fixed mindset learners perceive mistakes to equal a lack of ability. Students in a fixed mindset believe their intelligence is enough to achieve a perfect performance, and their inability to do this significantly reduces their confidence in themselves. The following rule he describes in “Boosting” is “Don’t work hard.”( Dweck 7). Fixed mindset learners perceive hard work as representative of low intelligence or inability. Putting effort into a task regardless of difficulty to them is a sign of limited ability. According to Dweck, a final belief held by this group is that when they make mistakes, they believe they should not try and fix them.
Dweck observed certain behaviour in this group of learners which include; when presented with an opportunity to learn rather than take it, learners with fixed mindsets learners opted to appear intelligent rather than learn, even if this meant placing their prospects at risk. When presented with a choice of tasks fixed mindset learners “didn’t want to be in a situation where they would not look smart. Better to put their college
career in jeopardy!” (Dweck 7). Dweck noted that when students in a fixed mindset obtain an unsatisfactory grade or achievement in a particular accept this as a measure of their capability and are thus unable to improve. Dweck also mentions in “Even” that fixed mindset learners do not like to put in the effort and expect things to be naturally easy due to their intelligence; hence they do not handle setbacks well, and when they encounter them, they cease trying and instead blame others for their failures. Rather than face their inadequacy, they ignore their problem and put all their trust into their intelligence, even if it might be faulty (Dweck 17).
In “Even,” Dweck affirms that these learners can ignore opportunities for growth if it means they do not appear incapable, even if this ignorance could be detrimental to their academic future (Dweck 17). Based on her study, when these learners fail a task, for instance, a test, they would put less effort into preparing for it, and some even contemplate cheating after a single obstacle. Furthermore, examining learners’ brainwaves when solving complex tasks indicated that fixed mindset students focused more on whether they were right or wrong. In instances where they were wrong, they did not seek out correct answers failing when they were retested on the same task.
Another mindset identified by Dweck is the growth mindset (Dweck 8) Learners possessing this mindset regard their abilities as improvable, and similar to fixed mindset learners, they also have a code governing their behaviour. The critical consideration for these learners’ rules is learning. Like the fixed mindset, the growth mindset has three more rules to help students reach their goals. Firstly, they believe in taking on challenges. (Dweck 8) .They consider learning more important than scoring better. In “Even,” Dweck says, “Students with a growth mindset, on the other hand, view challenging work as an opportunity to learn and grow” (Dweck 18). Secondly, they believe in working hard and putting in effort (Dweck 8). Growth mindset learners view challenging work as an enhancement of ability rather than a sign of weakness. Finally, they believe in facing their inadequacies and solving them.
Dweck observes that in most studies, growth mindset learners are eager to fix their mistakes. While they may initially be unsatisfied with their result, they do not let these obstacles get them to do and instead pursue different strategies to solve their inadequacies. In the brainwave experiment study, growth mindset learners “sought new knowledge to rectify” (Dweck 8). In “Even,” she says that Students with a growth mindset value effort and acknowledge that even the most intelligent need to work hard to better themselves.
As we have already seen from Dweck’s studies, a fixed mindset can lead to adverse outcomes; hence in her studies, Dweck provides some strategies to help remedy this issue. These strategies include praising learners for their efforts and their strategies to arrive at the solution instead of just for their intelligence. Praise for intelligence promotes a fixed mindset to the extent that learners lie when they fail a given task (Dweck 9). Teachers are also encouraged to adopt a growth mindset environment where they praise learners’ choices, strategies, and efforts expended to solve a given problem. (Dweck 18) Also, giving learners tasks that provide learners with a task that provide a sense of progress,Dweck states “Work that gives students a sense of
improvement as a result of effort gives teachers an opportunity to praise students for their process” This crucial to the creation of growth type mindset. (Dweck 19). The teacher should also grade learners for knowledge of the content presented rather than for their intelligence.
From Dweck’s studies and observations, we can conclude that mindset plays a crucial role in learners’ performance, particularly their motivation. It is thus important to employ strategies that ensure that the mindset present is one of growth. The next we encounter a learner, we should consider what aspect of them we praise their intelligence or effort. This will be the first step in establishing a generation of properly motivated learners who know their priorities.