Children learn how to walk in phases. First they discover their toes, gripping and pointing and kicking. Then come a few unsuccessful crawls as they test out the strength of each foot, realizing that a knee is better suited for the task. Finally they stand a few times, gaining confidence that earns some video-worthy spills.
Dozens of falls later, and they're still at it, figuring out the best way to start and how to stop themselves when the head's momentum outpaces the legs' ability. Eventually they succeed, surrounded by smiling and cheering adults. Now it's time to run.
We are born with an innate desire to learn new concepts, not just the ones expected of human development, but those that bring us happiness, satiate our curiosity and even those which have no measurable benefit at all. But somewhere along the way, we stop learning more than is required of us. Maybe friends said it wasn't cool to study; or a counselor saw some test scores and said that math isn't really our thing; or a fancy promotion keeps us busy enough to forget the simple joys of learning. We begin to ignore those challenges that don't fit our current skill sets. Instead, we look for ones that show off our strengths and hide our weaknesses. We become fixed in our ways. That fixed mindset allows us a free pass to give up at the first sign of struggle.
Knowing that our best growth happens in times of struggle is the basis of having a student or growth mindset.
A growth mindset is the idea that when meeting a challenge, we respond not with "I can't do this," but rather, "How can I learn to do this?" Carol Dweck, Ph.D., one of the pioneers of fixed-versus-growth mindset research, says that unwarranted praise can promote a fixed mindset in children. The same is true of ourselves. While we should respond with self-encouragement after failing, we should also hold ourselves accountable--don't let ourselves off the hook too easily. At its core, a growth mindset isn't blind positivity, but rather the understanding that knowledge and achievement comes from the accumulation of hard work and practice.
A growing body of research shows that neurologically, growth mindsets stabilize existing neural pathways and even construct new ones, allowing connections between information and response to happen faster and more reliably. The applications of a growth mindset have shown promise at nearly every stage of life. A seventh-grade teacher in Minnesota introduced the concept of brain...