Fixed versus growth mindset are terms coined by Carol Dweck to describe beliefs regarding personal qualities such as ability and talent. According to this research, those with a fixed mindset tend to believe that attributes such as ability and talent are fixed. In comparison, those with a growth mindset perceive ability and talent as starting points which can be further developed with effort and dedication.
A fixed mindset affords little emphasis on effort – if you have talent you should succeed without additional effort and if you don’t have talent in an area (such as playing a musical instrument) it is very hard to change despite efforts made. Mistakes are viewed as a sign of failure.
Individuals guided by a fixed mindset tend to:
- Stay within their comfort zone and chose to attempt tasks that they know they can achieve so as not to fail in front of others
- Avoid new opportunities or tasks if they believe they may not do well
- Need to prove their intelligence or talent
- Respond to mistakes as failure
A growth mindset drives a desire to learn as it believes that ability and talent can be developed with dedicated effort despite how high or low ability or talent is measured to be initially. Mistakes are seen as necessary to learn.
Individuals guided by a growth mindset tend to:
- View new tasks as opportunities to learn
- Pick tasks that may challenge them rather than staying in their comfort zone
- Accept that mistakes might happen when they are trying new tasks
The following Ted Talk features Carol Dweck discussing her research and case studies academic improvements made by struggling students following learning environments fostering a growth mindset.
It is possible to develop a growth mindset even if we tend towards a fixed mindset now. Complete a Mindset Quiz to see which mindset tends to predominantly guide you in everyday life.
Stay tuned for future posts in this series further exploring implications for schools, teachers, parents and our own personal development.