Fixed Vs. Growth: the Two Basic Mindsets that Shape our Lives

The key insight driving this investigation was based on ‘Mindset.’ Mindset is characterized by a person’s attitude and beliefs that can therefore influence and structure one’s behaviour. Building on Davis, Sumara and Luce-Kapler’s theories, Carol Dweck has identified two types of mindsets; growth and fixed mindset. A growth mindset is where a person’s self-belief is centered around the notion that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work (Dweck, 2006). Those with growth mindsets have a greater receptiveness to challenging situations that provide opportunities for learning and thus are more willing to engage in experiences that extend their learning (Vandewalle D). A fixed mindset is where people believe traits such as intelligence or talent are fixed and set at birth (Dweck, 2006). A person with a fixed mindset will often let failure or success define them, often exerting less effort to succeed. Davis, Sumara and Luce-Kapler believe that growth-mindset learners are more likely to continue to improve whereas fixed-mindset learners stall in their development.

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Dweck (2006) suggests that a person’s beliefs can lead to more rigid judgements that therefore limit the paths we choose to take. The view we adopt for ourselves profoundly affects the way we lead our lives. It can determine whether we become the person we want to be and whether we accomplish the things we value. By teaching young students how the brain is capable of change when faced with challenges, ultimately will help them to persevere and develop a growth mindset to therefore engage in deeper learning rather than surface learning that is associated with a fixed mindset. Mindset is a topic that I think is relevant to not only the learner but to all human race. It is a topic that I would like to understand further to not only enhance my way of thinking but to ultimately empower and enhance my future students learning and way of thinking.

Background

I completed my secondary education and VCE studies at Loyola College in Watsonia. During my schooling I found a real passion for health and physical education and also a love for hospitality. In my final year at Loyola I was selected as the year 12 College Sports Captain which was one of my most proud moments. After completing my VCE in 2014 I decided to study a three-year bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science at La Trobe University. In my final year of studying Exercise Science I was lucky enough to be one of the small number of students selected for an internship position within Exercise Research Australia where I completed my certificate to become an Allied Health Assistant. Some of my most memorable, enjoyable and educative life experiences include living out of home on my own for two years after secondary school and travelling extensively around Europe for two and a half months in 2018. I am now studying full time in my first year of a Masters of Secondary Teaching Practice at RMIT University.

Methodology

The methodology used to collate the data was by means of a self-interview. Prior to the interview, I created a variety of questions focusing on mindset, more specifically, the influence my own mindset has on my learning and life experiences. Furthermore, I sought to understand what specifically influences my mindset and how these influences can shape the way I learn and live my life. The interview was documented using an audio recording device on my mobile phone. The time allocated for the interview was five minutes. After completing the interview, the answers were then recorded on a Microsoft Word document to reflect back on and annotate.

Method of Analysis

The method chosen to analyse the data was through the use of a thematic analysis. A thematic analysis can be defined as a method for identifying, analyzing, organizing, describing, and reporting themes found within a data set (Braun & Clarke, 2006). It aims to highlight the most relevant and important themes that are presented in the data. Thematic analysis can look at manifest themes as a means of understanding hidden or unspoken content (Joffe, H, 2012).

Data and Analysis

In examining my data, the overall key theme driving my investigation was mindset. It was evident in my responses that although I understand a growth mindset, I find it challenging to implement and practice frequently in my own life. For example, in my response to question two, “I am constantly trying to think more positively and with a growth mindset”, raises the question, how hard should one with a growth mindset have to consciously try and think with a growth mindset? As humans, I think we are forever learning and processing new information however we fall into patterns that we recognize and become easy for us to follow, therefore we become stuck in particular ways of thinking that ultimately affect our learning experiences and learning opportunities.

In response to question three I express the feeling of disengagement due to my lack of confidence and feeling of incompetency in math’s. I used words such as “I suck”, “felt embarrassed”, “never bothered”, “waste of time” that are characteristics of a fixed mindset. These attitudes and behaviors have been learned, most likely from other peers, teachers and potentially my parents. As educators, it is highly important that we are conscious of our own attitudes and behaviors, that we support and give guidance to our students, to help them develop a growth mindset so that they can engage in deep learning.

Learning and motivation to learn was also a theme that presented in the data. It is evident that I value learning that is applicable to my interests, that is hands-on, self-directed and social. This would be the subjects I described “I loved” such as health, physical education (PE) and hospitality. Could it be that my mindset alters depending on the topic or subject of interest? Davis, Sumara and Luce-Kapler established that personal connection to content and view of content where two qualities that heavily influenced engagement in surface or deep learning. Deep learners consciously relate material to past experiences and seek to integrate knowledge, looking for connections and patterns within and across disciplines (Davis, Sumara & Kapler, 2015). Surface learners are inattentive to the importance of content and see material as disconnected knowledge. This suggests that learners who engage in deep learning are more likely to have a growth mindset whereas surface learners are more inclined to having a fixed mindset. Seeing the learner as a whole rather than within discipline’s may help the way we think as teachers and influence our approach to teaching to increase student engagement and performance across curriculum not just within students’ favorite subjects.

Interestingly, I commonly used language such as ‘believe’ and ‘beliefs’ throughout the interview suggesting self-belief and self-efficacy were also common themes. Ones self-efficacy can play a major role in how one approaches goals, tasks and challenges. Students face a wealth of challenges in school, for example a lack of support, sometimes making it difficult to persevere (Hochanadel & Finamore, 2015). Students with a low socioeconomic status and poor upbringing are more likely to have low self-efficacy and self-belief due to this lack of support. As mentioned earlier mindset can be learned behaviors, particularly from parents or guardians. If students have low self-efficacy and are lacking support from their parents and/or teachers, it can negatively influence their self-efficacy thus contributing to a fixed mindset. This suggests that my low self-efficacy in math’s contributed to my fixed mindset. Growth mindsets see ability as variable and experience dependent where as fixed see ability as gifted or pregiven. Ensuring students have high self-efficacy will increase the likelihood of developing a growth mindset. Social media is scarily influential on young people’s self-belief and mindset. In my response to question four, I express the feeling of frustration, particularly with Instagram and the power it holds over young girls/women like myself. I mention being “constantly connected” and “constantly comparing” suggesting that this constant connection to social media and comparisons to people online may be contributing to fixed mindsets. For example, young girls not liking math’s because it’s not seen to be socially acceptable or cool as it’s not seen often online. This constant connection to the internet and social media also raises the question how much sleep are students regularly getting? I mentioned my own energy levels being affected and how I’m more inclined to think negatively when I’m tired. Based on these observations I wonder how significantly it will not only affect my teaching but the learning and mindsets of my students.

Implications for Teaching Practice

Dewey (1986) describes teachers as the agents through which knowledge and skills are communicated. For me as a teacher, it is important that as we evolve from traditional education methods to a more progressive and new style of education, that I am thinking about the 21st century skills students need to learn so they can then be transferred across curriculum. To do this both the teachers and students must adopt a growth mindset. Sumara and Kapler raise the issue of how teachers can be contributors to learner’ mindsets. Ensuring teachers are aware of their mindset and understanding its power, particularly of a growth mindset, is the first step to creating learning spaces that are opportunistic for the whole learner.

Dweck and many others have demonstrated that specific practices in teaching can significantly affect student’s attitude. Attitude can shape a person’s beliefs which can in turn shape mindset. Teacher mindset is extremely influential as it will manifest itself in to teaching either consciously or subconsciously. It is the school’s responsibility also to create an environment where growth mindset is fostered. Focusing on how to challenge students through creative processes and problem solving rather than results focused has been a strategy implemented in some schools to help develop growth mindsets. By choosing to focus on and assess the process rather than the end product or result, enables students to become better thinkers and deeper learners not only in relation to their schooling but about themselves.

It is important for me as a teacher to be mindful of the way I deliver feedback to my students. Studies have shown that the way teachers provide and deliver feedback to their students can influence mindset. People with a growth mindset are more inclined to have a positive relationship with receiving negative feedback, seeing it as useful diagnostic information. Whereas those with a fixed mindset see negative feedback as a judgment about their talent or ability (Vandewalle, 2012). Therefore, I must consider different methods of feedback to ensure students take feedback constructively to further educate and better themselves as learners.

Conclusion

In conclusion, mindset impacts the way people respond to challenges and obstacles. It can either trigger resignation and withdrawal or trigger persistence and increased effort to succeed and do well. Growth mindset can be achieved through changing a student’s thinking that intelligence is not a fixed number (Hochanadel & Finamore, 2015). Teaching students that they are capable of greatness when faced with challenges can help develop a growth mindset and ultimately increase learning experiences. As teachers it is extremely important to be actively aware of our own mindset and how it can manifest into our teaching and the implications of that. Dewey urges that all teachers looking for a new movement in education focus on the deeper and larger issues of education. I believe mindset to be one of these deeper issues. 

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Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives. (2021, Dec 30). Retrieved May 26, 2022 , from
https://studydriver.com/fixed-vs-growth-the-two-basic-mindsets-that-shape-our-lives/

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