Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Imbibing one value - growth mindset - is more important than anything else

In my research, I discovered that there is one factor that determines whether a student will excel in the future life. It is the value of growth mindset. Carol Dweck has written about the effect of this mindset in her book.

Please remember that we must have a map and compass to achieve our work-goals. Map helps us to reach to the next destination by anticipating and preparing for expected hurdles while compass helps us in negotiating unexpected hurdles and opportunities. Compass has value settings which guide us in deciding how to put our effort.

Acquiring the value from outside till the age of 12-13 is automatic 

When parents and teachers have fixed mind set  in contrast to growth mind set, they believe that intelligence and talent are fixed traits independent of effort. They believe talent is innate in them. If they do not have it, they are unlucky and cannot do anything about it. 

In such a fixed mindset, external motivators like marks ( which both act as punishment and reward) are the only means to help them understand their intelligence. They avoid difficult subjects because they are worried about faring poorly in them and being labelled as 'stupid'. Even when they score well in a subject, they are worried about being evaluated in them because they may find that they are poor in them. They chose 'fail-safe' options like Engineering and medicine, because majority of their friends chose them. They tend to refuse to work on their passion in drawing , photography and adventure, because excelling in them takes lot of effort and time. Because these students are constantly worried about being evaluated, shifting the source of motivation from outside to within is very difficult for them.

However, if you have teachers who pat your back for the efforts you have taken to learn a difficult chapter, say in mathematics, and not patting on the basis of marks you get in the test, you learn to regard mistakes as the first step in excelling. ( Psychologist call it growth mind set) . They tend to work on a subject/topic, even when they fail for the first time. They believe, that with effort, they can master anything. For them intelligence is not a fixed trait, but like a muscle, it can be developed with practice. 

Luck may also help the students in acquiring this value. For instance, if the student is good in left-brain oriented (LBO) subjects such as physics, chemistry and maths, he or she tends to automatically get the support of parents, teachers and friends (PTF) in pursuing his path to excel. With some confidence in the bag, the student finds it easier to master those subjects because they start feeling 'I am good'. On the other hand, if the student is good in right-brain oriented subjects ( RBO) such as history, geography and language, then the support from parents, teachers and friends is minimal. Without the PTF support, it is not easy to master RBO subjects because they cannot put in the required practice. Without no confidence in the bag, they are unable to master these subjects and therefore start believing that 'i am bad'

Which students require help in imbibing this value?

Students good in RBO subjects ( such as music, art, dancing, history and geography), but poor in LBO subjects, definitely require lot of help and support to acquire this value.They are down because the environment around them is not offering them any encouragement. They have no  motivation to study subjects like physics and maths, while they are unable to muster enough energy to work on their strengths, although that is their only road to excellence. They require urgent help.

But students good in LBO subjects, nurtured with fixed mind set,  also require support. They tend to avoid difficult challenges because of fear of failure. They tend to constantly compare with others instead of feeling secured in their abilities. They tend to always feel that the grass is greener outside and therefore move from one activity to another. Inability to shift their motivation from outside to within stops them in finding their path of excellence.


Fixed mindset urges student to avoid difficult challenges because of the fear of 'failing' in them and being labelled as 'stupid'. On the other hand growth mindset urges students to accept that intelligence can be developed with practice and therefore anything can be learnt by effort. For them, learning difficult subjects is easier. 

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