Carol Dweck writes in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success that people generally adopt one of two ways of approaching the world: a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. If you have a fixed mindset you believe “that your qualities are carved in stone”. If you have a growth mindset you believe that “your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.”
Dweck’s ideas echo those of Martin Seligman in his classic book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. “Habits of thinking,” Seligman writes, “need not be forever. One of the most significant findings in psychology in the last twenty years is that individuals can choose the way they think.” Like Seligman, Dweck has found that we can change our mindsets.
I believe the mindset teachers bring to school makes an enormous difference for both teachers and students. A teacher with a fixed mindset sees her abilities as pretty much what they are. Therefore, there’s really no point in professional learning since either we are born teachers or we are not. On the other hand, a teacher with a growth mindset views teaching as an opportunity for continual professional growth. This teacher can always get better, always improve, always reach more children. For a teacher with a growth mindset, much of the joy of teaching is her own experience of growth and personal development.
The implications for students of the kind of mindset teachers bring to class are even more significant. A teacher with a fixed mindset sees his students as pretty much already where they will be. If every child’s qualities are carved in stone, then every child’s potential is limited or fixed. However, a teacher with a growth mindset sees his students as coming to class with enormous potential. Every student holds within him or her an amazing potential waiting to be unlocked. And to this kind of teacher, one of the great joys of teaching is to find the key to unlock that potential.
Radical learners have a growth mindset. They are inspired by the joy of learning, and their joy rubs off on their students. Who would you want to teach your children, a teacher with a fixed or a teacher with a growth mindset? What is your mindset?
Are you a radical learner?