Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset

Happy Thursday, everyone! I could not find a topic to write about today, until I read Ashley’s blog post, “The Liberation that Comes with Asking Questions.” She talks about her own experience working as an English tutor, which made me think of mine!

I learned about Carol S. Dweck’s fixed mindset and growth mindset while training to be a tutor for community college students.

Basically, she asserts that there are two mindsets.

If a person has a fixed mindset, the individual believes their abilities are fixed/established.

A person with a growth mindset believes that their abilities can be developed.

We were trained that parents should not simply tell their child, “Oh, you’re so smart,” when a child brings home a good grade. Instead, the parent should tell that child, “You worked really hard, and it paid off.”

The problem is that school can often be easy for children when they start. A child can believe that they were born intelligent (fixed mindset), but then when the assignments get harder and that child struggles for the first time, they may be confused that they are not instantly grasping the new material.

A child may then become afraid to ask questions when they don’t understand a lesson, because they have been repeatedly praised for being intelligent. Therefore, they fear looking stupid and decide it is best to hide their ignorance or misunderstanding.

However, I’m sure you can imagine how not asking questions can impede one’s learning.

A child can also have a fixed mindset by believing they are just dumb. Again, they will not ask questions, because they figure “what’s the point” if their intelligence is static.

Another sign that a person has a fixed mindset is if they ever say something like, “I’m not a math person.” Typically, this means, “I’m not good at math, and I never will be.”

It is important to note, even if a person has a growth mindset, they can still struggle. The difference is when they recognize that math is difficult for them, they will ask questions in class, go to their instructor’s office hours, and visit the tutoring center.

By the way, a person can have a fixed mindset in one area and a growth mindset in another.

I remember when I first learned about these mindsets, my mind exploded. I was that kid in class who was TERRIFIED to be called on. What if I didn’t know the right answer? What if I gave the wrong answer, and everyone would think, “What an idiot,” and then I’d die right there. Yes, I was a very dramatic child. Still am.

Obviously, I’m applying this to school, because I’ve been in college for ten years, and it’s all I think about. But, I feel this is also timely for all of you who made New Year resolutions. In what areas do you have a fixed mindset?

If you want a growth mindset, remember it’s about asking for help and finding effective resources.

Again, Happy Thursday!


T. Shaw

19 thoughts on “Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset”

  1. I struggled with asking questions at school in lot. While I’m in the classroom, I think I understand the lecture, but then when I’m at home and completing the assignment for that lecture, I struggle because I’m not sure if what I’m doing is right.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember learning about this with you! I still think about it too. I grew up thinking if I wasn’t automatically good at something, I wouldn’t ever be good at it. After that lesson, I had a tutoring session that didn’t go very well. I went home and worried about, but when I woke up the next morning I had this thought, that’s something I can work on. It was a new feeling, and it felt really good. Thanks for this reminder!!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. They talked to all the children in their primary school, so ages 4-11! Mine are now 11 and 13, and totally comfortable with the concepts.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m so impressed! I know I wish I could have learned about these concepts sooner. I think it’s a great tool for parents too. There were so many sports I didn’t try out for or clubs I didn’t join, and I wish my parents would have spent more time asking me why, instead of just assuming it was because I was a homebody. Which I am 😂 But, there was also a lot of unaddressed fear.
        Anyway, I’m really happy for your kids!

        Liked by 1 person

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