This one is a teacher favourite – where we get to talk about growth mindset! Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford University believes that people can be categorised in two ways: having Fixed or Growth Mindset.
Fixed mindset people are those who believe that talents and abilities are set in stone. They believe that you are either intelligent, or not, and it will never change. They feel that they need to prove themselves over and over and will often take the easier route if it guarantees success, even if it isn’t challenging or engaging. I used to be that person. I can easily identify that when I was at school, that’s how I felt. Right or wrong- that was how it was and I don’t think my school or anyone else encouraged anything different. We just didn’t know any better.
However with time and more life experience, I learned that I could get better at things. Learning became more important than ‘knowing things’. I changed from a fixed mindset – at least in some areas.
The key word that Dweck emphasises, when people fall into a fixed mindset- particularly when something is hard … is ‘yet’. The acknowledgement that I can’t do something at the moment- but that doesn’t mean that I won’t be good at it at all. It is a small difference in language, but a huge difference in mindset.Dr Norman Doidge uses a helpful analogy- the brain as a muscle. The more you use it- the stronger it becomes.
The course then went on to focus on character strengths and to see the accomplishments we have made through our key strengths. As a teacher I see plenty of students who have fixed mindset and those with low self esteem. They see themselves as their failures. Using something like the VIA Character strengths quiz forces students to see themselves in a positive light with a lot of strengths: love, zest, kindness, leadership, honesty, perspective, hope, and so on, that can be a real shift in how students see themselves, and the contribution that they make to the world around them. Of all the strengths that we studied, this one could well be the most powerful, especially in helping people recognise their own worth.