Perfection is an illusion, something for students to strive towards, which ultimately means that falling short is inevitable. But don’t worry, that’s actually a good thing. Let us tell you why.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could easily achieve perfect scores in all of your exams, essays and class projects? Well, in the short term, maybe it would. But long term? Definitely not. In fact your overall development as a student would probably suffer if everything was really easy all the time. That might sound strange, but it’s true. That’s because tackling difficult problems is an essential part of exploring what you are truly capable of.
This is how you view things when you have a growth mindset.
What is a growth mindset?
Simply put, students with a growth mindset believe that intelligence is something that can be developed through hard work. They understand that challenges shouldn’t be avoided – they should be embraced as opportunities that can make you a better learner.
Because of this, people with a growth mindset focus their energy on improvement instead of worrying about failure. This allows them take charge of their own development.
Fixed mindset vs growth mindset
There are many differences between a fixed mindset and growth mindset. Someone with a fixed mindset believes that you are either smart or you are not, and there’s not a lot that you can do about it. People with a fixed mindset also tend to avoid challenges and give up easily when they encounter obstacles or criticism. Someone with a growth mindset, on the other hand, believes that effort is the path to mastery and that criticism and challenges are valuable tools for improvement.
Placed side by side, this is how the two mindsets compare:
Learning from mistakes
We all make mistakes, but when it comes to learning, if you’re not making mistakes, then you’re probably doing something wrong.
Mistakes can make you a better learner because they force you to re-examine where you went wrong so that you can find a solution to a problem. The effort that you put in at these times are what help you develop.
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
– Samuel Beckett
For example, say you don’t understand a particularly tricky lesson in class. If you respond by switching off because you don’t believe you can figure it out, what will you gain? Most likely nothing, because switching off is like putting your brain into hibernate mode.
But if you try to work out what’s going on by asking questions, attempting to provide an answer (even if it’s incorrect) and staying otherwise engaged in the lesson, then the effort you make will force you brain to make new neural connections. In other words, the more you study, tackle difficult problems and deal with mistakes, the stronger your brain will become – it’s like giving your brain an upgrade!
How to develop a growth mindset in 5 steps
1. Challenge your brain
In order to keep your brain flexible, it needs to be challenged. One of the best ways of doing this is to vary the ways you receive and absorb information. Different study tactics can stimulate your brain in different ways. For instance, plotting what you’ve learned in a Mind Map can help you create connections between seemingly unrelated concepts, while research has shown that studying with quizzes is a great way of remembering and recalling information.
2. Always think critically
Learning lessons by heart might earn you the occasional A-level test score, but ultimately you’ll need to develop the ability to critically assess the information you pick up if you’re to really understand what you learn. Keep a record of your thoughts on specific topics using Study Notes, and always try to justify your thinking using reasoning and evidence. These will be key skills for later life.
3. Work with others
Students who critique one another’s thinking will learn more by having their thoughts and opinions challenged. Hearing other points of view on the same subject can round out and deepen your own understanding and help you to overcome difficulties you may be having. After all, getting stuck on something is part of learning, but working collaboratively on projects or in Study Groups with others is a great way of sharing thoughts and developing strategies to tackle any problems you meet.
4. Learn how to learn
As mentioned above, mistakes are part of learning and life, so learn to recognize them as an opportunity to develop and improve. True learning happens through trial and error. Few scientists, inventors or artists ever make their breakthrough without getting things wrong first, so be persistent, patient and your rewards will come.
5. Be positive
Students who believe that they will be successful in a particular task are more likely to actually be successful on that task. Why? Because anticipating success has been linked with perseverance, and perseverance is what brings about positive learning outcomes. So whenever you feel you might be slipping back into a fixed mindset, stay positive and make the decision to break free of it.
Got more tips on developing a growth mindset? Share them in the comments box below!