What Does a Growth Mindset Have to Do with Learning?

mindset.001We can learn to be smart is the premise of Mindset The New Psychology of Success: How we Can Learn to Fulfill our Potential by Carol Dweck (2006). Dweck debunks the idea that intelligence is fixed, is predetermined by our gene pool. Instead, Dweck suggests individuals with a ‘growth mindset’ develop intelligence and abilities over time. In her book Dweck defines growth mindset as a state when individuals view personal qualities such as intelligence, abilities and talents as malleable. This contrasts those with a ‘fixed mindset’ who see  qualities like intelligence as innate or inherited. People with a growth mindset according to Dweck, challenge themselves; they aren’t afraid of making mistakes, are known to go-for-it. People with fixed mindsets on the other hand are afraid of making mistakes, afraid of moving out of their comfort zones. Fixed mindset people Dweck describes as preoccupied with outcomes, the final grade or successful work project for instance, over the process and experience.

To support her philosophy Dweck quotes Robert Sternberg, psychologist and professor of human development at Cornell University who states that a key factor in whether people achieve expertise “is not some fixed prior ability, but purposeful engagement” (pg. 5).

How Growth Mindset Applies to Learning
Dweck outlines several applications of the growth mindset to education. One she emphasizes is that educators need to act as role models. This contrasts with typical roles where people who are put in an expert role, educators for example, often feel they need to have all of the answers. This can limit their growth and student learning. Instructors need to model behaviours that include showing students you don’t have all of the answers, and that pursuit of knowledge, failure and even confusion, is part of the learning process.

Screen-Shot-2015-11-27-at-11.37.21Applications for Learning:

  • Learners can be taught a growth mindset. Dweck developed a program that teaches students growth mindset principles—intelligence is not fixed, students are in charge of their learning, need to stretch in order to get smarter. Students taught a growth mindset performed better academically.
  • Telling students they are smart, intelligent and giving constant praise can lead to a fear making mistakes, fear of failure and a fixed mindset.
  • Learning experiences need to be challenging—difficult. The concept that learning needs to be difficult is reinforced in Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. The premise of chapter 4 in Make it Stick, “Embrace Difficulties” suggests learning is deeper and more durable when it requires considerable effort (Brown, Roediger & McDaniel, 2014, p. 73). See video featuring Carol Dweck on Struggle where she discusses the importance of challenge in learning.

Tips for Educators to Support a Growth Mindset

  • Encourage students to be comfortable with setbacks and confusion.
  • Don’t praise talent, praise process. Dweck’s research revealed that praising talent leads to fixed mindsets. Praising process includes acknowledging, resilience, effort, collaboration, and the experience.
  • Be comfortable with confusion, for your students and yourself, and not finding the answer right away.

Closing Thoughts
Approaching learning with a growth mindset frees learners to expand, grow and engage fully in the process without the constraints of IQ or SAT scores.  Following a growth mindset as Dweck describes, requires a conscious effort, a mindset, a skill set. Yet  it’s a perspective that educators can model and foster by their own actions, by making learning difficult, acknowledging and allowing for failure, and emphasizing the process of learning, not the outcome. Which mindset do you have?

Further Reading


  • Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House, 2006. Print.
  • Roediger, Henry L., Mark A. McDaniel, and Peter C. Brown. Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. N.p.: Harvard UP, 2014. Print.

Image credit: Growth Mindset, bigchange.org

Webinars for Online Educators: Professional Development on the Web

The concept of a webinar is brilliant; being able to learn from an expert in his or her field of expertise with only an Internet connection and a laptop -regardless of where you are.

Webinars are seminars on the web given by one or more individuals in an area of their specialty, are ‘live’ (in real-time) typically one hour in duration, and are usually open to anyone who is interested. The benefit of the live webinar is the interactivity; participants can ask questions (through a chat feature) and converse with other participants through chat and/or with interactive white boards.

In this post I’ve compiled a list of upcoming [live] webinars geared to educators. I’ve also included for readers that might be new to this format a list of webinar basics in ‘Webinars 101’ below.

Webinars 101

  • Pre-registration is required for most webinars. You’ll need to provide basic information, [name, area of work/interest, etc.] including an email address.
  • Costs vary; many are free to all, though some are fee based.
  • Upon registration you will receive a confirmation email with a link [and sometimes a password] which will give you access to the webinar on the given date and time.
  • Check the time zone.
  • On the day of the webinar, it’s a good idea to log on 10 minutes before the start time. Usually no special software or plug-ins are required, but if you do, at this time you’ll receive a prompt notifying you of the necessary files or links required for downloading.
  • You’ll need audio to hear the session. The presentation usually consists of slides accompanied by the voice of the  facilitator.
  • Participants can ask questions by typing into the chat box, which usually appears in the lower portion of the screen. Frequently, the last 10 minutes of the webinar are devoted to Q & A.
  • Take notes or not. Listen. Learn. Enjoy.


Upcoming Webinars

Title: The Virtual and the Reality of Avatar-Based Learning
Led by one of the principal leaders in 3D learning, Ran Hinrichs, CEO of 2b3D, an award-winning virtual education company and University of Washington Virtual World faculty.  Offered through ISTE, International Society for Technology in Education.
Date: August 1, 2012 – 2:00pm – 3:00pm
Cost: Non-member Price: $99.00 / Member Price: $39.00.  For further details click here.

Title: Changing Mindsets, Motivating Students. Education Week PD Webinars
Renowned psychologist Carol Dweck discusses how teachers can use new discoveries in cognitive development to improve student motivation and engagement. Hear about the most common mistakes teachers make in trying to motivate students and discover detailed strategies for promoting a “growth mindset” rather than “fixed mindset” in the classroom.
Date: Tuesday, August 14, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET
Cost: $49. For further details click here.

Title: The Pervasive Wireless Campus: Creating Life-Long Learners
Sponsored by Campus Technology
Join this session to hear what digital learning means to college students. Travis Allen, a college junior and president and CEO of the iSchool Initiative, will discuss how bringing technology into the classroom opens up the world of learning for students raised in the Information Age. We’ll also talk about how institutions can take advantage of virtualization to achieve this new wireless, learn-on-the-go pedagogy.
Date: August 2, 2012, 11:00 AM PT
Cost: Free. For further details  click here.

Title: Universal Access to All Knowledge
This talk will give an overview of the collections and challenges now facing those building digital libraries and end with a list of projects that might now be possible because of these collections.  Sponsored by: American Library Association
Date: Wednesday, September 5, 2012, 11am Pacific | 12 Mountain | 1pm Central
Cost: Member $39, Non-member: $49. For further details click here.