Developing a Growth Mindset
Perhaps you’ve heard the term growth mindset before. It sounds pretty straightforward. If you have a growth mindset, you’re constantly looking for ways to improve and become more knowledgeable and well-rounded as a person. That’s all well and good, but it’s much harder than it sounds.
Ontario eSecondary School is frequently looking for ways to help our students develop as they pursue their high school diploma online. Whether you’re earning credits online or through a physical school, it’s important to us that we continue giving our students tips on how to develop after high school and throughout their lives.
What does a growth mindset mean for you, not just as a student, but as a life-long learner? Let’s start by taking a look at the theory behind the growth mindset.
What Is a Growth Mindset?
In theory it is a simple concept, but what is a growth mindset and why does it matter? A growth mindset is when students understand that their abilities can be developed with hard work and a positive attitude toward developing those skills. Every human is born with different and unique genetic structures, so some people are inherently better at things or seem genetically talented, however that does not mean that someone who is not “born with it” can’t develop skills or knowledge.
Fixed Mindset Vs. Growth Mindset
To fully understand what it means to have a growth mindset, one has to understand that as humans, we operate between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
A fixed mindset assumes that intelligence is static, meaning that you assume that you are born or inherit character, intelligence, or creative ability. These are given abilities that we are unable to change in a meaningful way. A fixed mindset uses success as a measurement or affirmation of your inherent intelligence. Failure in any way is seen as an inadequacy, so someone who focuses on a fixed mindset measures their self-worth fully on their successes. This can lead to a fear of taking chances or trying new things out of fear of failure.
A growth mindset looks for challenges and thrives on that challenge. Failure is not considered a measurement of unintelligence, but instead an opportunity for growth or improvement on existing experiences. A growth mindset encourages you to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.
Having a growth mindset does not necessarily mean that if you work hard, you will be successful in everything you endeavor. Not everyone is cut out to be an Olympic athlete or an astronaut, however those who have a growth mindset “believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.”(1). When people believe they can become smarter, they realize their effort can impact the level of success they experience.
What Does a Growth Mindset Actually Mean?
The idea of the growth mindset has become a bit of a buzzword in the education world, but even more particularly the business world. In this article by the Harvard Business Review, they highlight several important points of what some people believe a growth mindset to be, in comparison to what it actually means. Some common misconceptions include:
- I already have a growth mindset. I always have. According to the article, people confuse being flexible or open-minded with having a growth mindset. In reality, people are a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets.
- Growth mindset is just about praising and rewarding effort. This is not necessarily true as the outcomes of your hard work still matters. It’s important in school that teachers reward learning and the process in getting and not just the results. In some ways, that’s why in Ontario, the ministry of education requires us to have rubrics and various notices of assessment.
It’s important to understand that we all hold a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets. There are things that we are all naturally a good at and things that we need to work harder at. By understanding this and knowing the misconceptions. As the Harvard Business Review highlights;
“When we face challenges, receive criticism, or fare poorly compared with others, we can easily fall into insecurity or defensiveness, a response that inhibits growth. Our work environments, too, can be full of fixed-mindset triggers. A company that plays the talent game makes it harder for people to practice growth-mindset thinking and behavior, such as sharing information, collaborating, innovating, seeking feedback, or admitting errors.” (2)
Benefits of a Growth Mindset
By now, you’re probably wondering, how does this apply to your own learning? What are the benefits of a growth mindset?
On some level, having a growth mindset actually means something simple: believe in yourself. In this Ted Talk with Catherine Reitman, the creator of the tv comedy Workin’ Moms, Reithman highlights how she pushed herself to try writing and creating her own show and how she just said “yes” to doing it. There is a lot of power in saying yes. People with a growth mindset aren’t afraid to say yes and do something they’ve never done before. Reitman was scared that she may fail, but if she didn’t take the chance, she wouldn’t have had the opportunity.
Having a growth mindset can have many benefits to advance your learning, but also help you in life. In this article on 15 Benefits of a Growth Mindset, the author highlights many ways in which the growth mindset can benefit you in life. Some of these, we feel are very pertinent to benefiting how you learn.
- Improve your self-insight and self-esteem. Just trying something can have a positive impact on your self-esteem. Once you’ve tried something once, you’re more likely to do it again as you know the result. Those with a growth mindset have shown to have a better self-insight and self-reflection.
- Never feel stupid when learning. People with growth mindsets said they felt smarter once when they would work on something for a long time and start to figure it out. Much like when you take a challenging course like MCV4U (Calculus and Vectors) and finally start to grasp the concepts!
- Never stress about being perfect. Believing that any test, at any time, will measure you for your whole life, you will feel the need to be perfect, all the time.
- Strengthen your confidence. Having a fixed mindset doesn’t necessarily mean having lower confidence than someone with a growth mindset, but it may mean that your confidence is more fragile and could be impacted by setbacks or effort.
- See setbacks as useful. Setbacks can be useful because they provide feedback. A setback indicates that something went wrong, and gives you the opportunity to figure out why and learn from it.
- Enjoy putting in time and effort. People with a growth mindset may be interested in learning more and improving. This means that time and effort spent on something seems enjoyable. In a fixed mindset, effort may look like a task is not important or futile.
Developing a Growth Mindset
The Power of Yet
Power of yet? What do you mean by that? Take it from this song on Sesame Street, there is something about learning from mistakes. The power of yet is something that every person who is developing a growth mindset should put into practice. This is the idea that you may not understand something… yet. If you put in hard work and effort to learn something, you will eventually get it.
This comes from a concept developed by Carol Dweck, a foremost researcher in the field of motivation and why people succeed or don’t succeed. Dweck’s concept of the power of yet comes from the idea that we are all on a learning journey, and that just because you haven’t accomplished a task yet, does not mean that you cannot or should not try. She highlights this concept in a Ted Talk called, The power of believing you can improve. In this video, Dweck highlights that the growth mindset idea can grow our brain’s capacity to learn and solve problems. She describes two ways to think about a problem that is slightly too hard for you to solve. Are you not smart enough to solve it or have you just not solved it yet?
The power of yet is a great technique to put into your mind as you try to shift from a fixed mindset and continue to build and grow as a person, but also as you work through OES courses and look to gain some online high school credits.
Activities To Put Growth Mindset Into Practice
We’ve spent a lot of this blog discussing the theory behind the growth mindset, the idea of saying yes, and the power of yet, but how does one put it into practice? There are some fun activities on self reflection from this article on Medium. Here’s a few we’ve adapted that you can easily do on your own at home.
Activity 1: Everyday mindset examples
Purpose – To name and share everyday examples of how each mindset shows up in your daily life.
Time – 30 mins
Materials – Sheets of paper and an assortment of coloured pens
Process – Watch this video: Fixed, Growth and Benefit Mindsets. Then, write down as many examples as possible of a Fixed Mindset in 3 mins. Once complete, review your examples and try to explain why you think it’s a good example of that mindset. Repeat this activity for the Growth Mindset, and once again for the Benefit Mindset.
Activity 2: The 21 day benefit mindset challenge
Purpose – Can you step-up your Kindness, Gratitude, Mindfulness & more for 21-days straight?
Time – 21 days
Materials – Keep a journal.
Process – This activity challenges you to do a small act of leadership, everyday, for 21-days straight. This could be an act of kindness, expressing gratitude or listening to others with our full attention. As part of this challenge, try to do something new every day.
In the first week you may find that you act in familiar ways that aren’t outside your comfort zone. In the second week, this challenge will get harder as you will likely need to start trying new things. In the third week, you’ll likely need to get really creative with how you do your interactions. By the end of the 21 days, you’ll discover new capacities and potential you didn’t know you had! The cumulative effect of doing small actions every day creates an upward spiral. You feel good, others feel good, and everyone becomes more courageous and creative.
This simple activity can lead to surprising and even transformative outcomes. By regularly disrupting your routines in life affirming ways, you’ll subtly shift how you see the potential of your everyday possibilities.
Applying The Growth Mindset to Online Learning
Online learning is new for many people and sometimes the hardest thing to do is simply to take the leap into trying something new. Maybe you need to upgrade MCR3U? Perhaps you’ve had some challenges learning chemistry and need a new format of SCH4U?
As an accredited Ontario online high school, we structure our courses per the Ontario Ministry of Education standards. We break up our lessons into very intentional and digestible content that ensures our courses are consistent for all students and creates a positive and streamlined experience so you can earn Ontario high school credits online.
If you’re currently attending high school in Ontario, or if you’re looking for an adult high school in order to upgrade your marks as an international student, OES has a wide range of courses available. From SBI4U to MHF4U, the amazing teachers at OES are ready to support you and help you meet your goals all over the world.
The Ontario eSecondary School has been inspected and accredited by the Ontario Ministry of Education. What does this mean? As a virtual school, all of our courses are recognized by and can be used toward an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) and are also recognized as part of your OUAC application. This makes OES a great partner for upgrading Ontario high school credits online and is also perfect for adult students or international students looking to earn credits for post-secondary.
Learn more about our courses at oeshighschool.com/courses
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