Progress Over Perfection

Dr. Carol Dweck is a leading researcher in student motivation and achievement. Over 30 years ago, she and her team began studying thousands of children, noting their general attitude towards failure—whether they would rebound and keep trying in the face of failure, or become devastated by these setbacks. This is when she first coined the terms Fixed and Growth Mindsets According to Dr. Dweck, a student with a fixed mindset believes that their abilities (both academic and functional) are naturally occurring and unchanging. These students are typically more performance oriented, and ultimately crumble when faced with failure.  The growth mindset is achievement oriented, resulting in true mastery over a topic rather than the short-term understanding that results from striving only to get an “A” in a class. This mindset is focused primarily on the power of “yet”. Instead of feeling like they don’t understand something (and thus never will) students begin to believe that they simply do not understand something yet and thereby just need to try a different approach. The growth mindset embraces failure, as it does wonders at strengthening to brain and ultimately results in better learning.

How teachers and parents interact with students can be greatly influential on which mindset a child will gravitate towards. For instance, complimenting a student by saying “Wow, you’re so smart!” results in students equating their achievement to some innate ability. It is then difficult for them to rationalize any future failures they encounter. When a teacher praises hard work, effort, and improvement however (i.e. offering the student effective feedback) the growth mindset will begin to flourish.

While the typical person will have character traits from both mindsets, thus possessing a mixed mindset, an ideal classroom will always be working towards progress over perfection.