~ Expert Talk ~

Growth Mindset ~ Key to success for Students


Published on July 1, 2019
Author:Sreelata Menon

Ways to help build GROWTH MINDSET:
Use the process of ‘discuss, debate, and dissent’ as stepping stones.
Teach them not to fear setbacks or problems but how to overcome them.
Use the right kind of praise. Praise the effort and not the result.
Tell them that it is alright to fail and encourage them to learn from their failure.
During the 6th century, in a period of relative calm and peace known as the Golden age of the Guptas, arts, science and literature flourished and thrived vastly in India. On the banks of the river Ganges in Kusumapura, in present day Bihar, there lived a young man whose scientific reasoning and learning outstripped most of his gurus.

So when this young man insisted that the Earth was a sphere rotating on an axis around the Sun, like the Moon and the nine planets, all the learned men of the time praised him for his efforts but scoffed at him. Applauded by everyone as bright and brilliant, these great men believed they ‘knew’ better. So resting on their laurels they were hesitant to not only not experiment and figure out anything new, they were also not ready to take the risk of being found out to be wrong. They were worried that their so far impeccable reputation would be tarnished.

on the other hand, that young man had no such inhibitions. When they ridiculed him he took it not as a failure but as a challenge and worked even harder to prove his theory till he succeeded. According to Dr. Carol Dweck, eminent Professor of Psychology at Stanford and Child Expert, there are two kinds of mindsets that we are blessed with:

Fixed mindset and Growth Mindset
Someone who strives for success and avoids failure at all costs to maintain the sense of being smart or skilled depicts a fixed mindset, which could easily be seen in the learned men.

Whereas the one who takes on challenges and learns from them, therefore increasing her/his abilities and achievement depicts a growth mindset, which we see in the young man. Dr. Dweck tells us that if we praise children for their inherent abilities like character, intelligence and creativity for achieving whatever, we encourage ‘Fixed mindsets’ but when we praise children for their effort and hard work, despite a negative result, we encourage ‘Growth mindsets’.
In other words, we promote fixed mindsets when we encourage kids only for their inborn talent and brilliance. They tend not to work any harder or stretch themselves to their full potential for the fear of failure and are easily disheartened if things don’t go their way. So they prefer to play safe and not take risks with their already established reputations of being born smart and skilled. Due to this their achievements could be limited.
On the other hand, as the brain, say experts, is malleable, qualities like intelligence, smartness, creativity and ability need not necessarily be static and can also be cultivated and improved over time. So those kids who may not be born brilliant or infallible but are willing to work hard, learn from their mistakes and take them as challenges to overcome, can not only improve their capabilities and acquire more smartness but also achieve more.
They tend to believe that talent or intelligence isn’t God given and that hard work can achieve anything. Such children are said to have ‘Growth mindsets’. Thus if that young man had not strived harder and taken it up as a challenge to prove his point, we would still perhaps be wondering about the position of the Earth and the Sun. And who was that youth? He was Aryabhata, the ancient mathematician-astronomer and the author of ‘Aryabhatiya’, the Sanskrit tome that tells us about algebra, arithmetic, and plane trigonometry including various aspects of astrology and astronomy that we study today. So, we need to create more ‘Growth mindsets’ if our young ones are to grow up confident and unafraid of failures.
If we encourage and motivate our already smart and talented ‘Fixed mindsets’ to believe they can become even smarter by putting in a little more effort and hard work and not to rest on their laurels or to be discouraged by failure, we help them to change mindsets and acquire ‘Growth mindsets’ too.

How we see ourselves is what dictates most mindsets. So help increase their self-esteem and self-confidence. For example, by insisting that grades are not everything but hard work and the process of learning is, you can motivate and encourage them to become smarter. So who knows, by praising effort and not just God given talent and motivating them to learn from setbacks and changing strategies, we could be encouraging a few more Aryabhatas to bloom anew.

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