“I’m not a math person.” “I can’t dance.” “I’m dumb and she’s smart.” “I’m just naturally an artist.”
All of the above are statements you might have heard from your students, your children or your peers. You might even have said one of them about yourself. They’re also all statements that are symptomatic of a “fixed mindset.” Say what??
In the education context, think about “mindset” as your belief in your ability to learn and increase your intelligence on any given topic. Cognitive research has shown that our brains are quite malleable and our intelligence is not fixed. Meaning: If you’re not good at something now, that doesn’t mean you can’t work hard and get better at it. To believe and understand this is to have a “growth mindset.” Yet so many students (and so many adults) have a “fixed mindset” about certain skills, believing that they’re simply “not a math person” or “a dance person.”
Dr. Carol Dweck, a researcher who for years has studied the effect this can have on students, would argue: “You’re not a math person… YET.”
More and more educators are thinking about how to incorporate this research into classroom practice – helping students learn about their brains, re-thinking how they praise students (praise effort, not results), and working to build school cultures around the growth mindset ideal.
Almost none of us are completely immune to “fixed” thinking. For me, it’s dancing. I took a few classes before I got married to avoid embarrassing myself on the big day, and pretty quickly just gave up.
So I ask YOU: What do you have fixed mindset about?