Several recent studies have unfairly thrown doubt on the importance of the Growth Mindset. To respond accurately to this criticism, two crucial points must be understood:
- The Growth Mindset is not growth.
- The Growth Mindset existed before Carol Dweck.
Over the next two weeks, I’ll unpack these points and explain why it’s important to stay focused on growth and how we can achieve that growth.
The Growth Mindset is not growth
It’s important to remember a Growth Mindset is not growth, it is simply the belief that growth is possible. Think of it as an invitation to grow.
Professor Dweck defines the Growth Mindset as the understanding that your most basic characteristics – such as your talents, abilities and intelligence – are malleable. She does not describe it as the actual growth of these characteristics. In fact, Dweck points out that some people with a Growth Mindset don’t change their abilities much, yet some people with a Fixed Mindset do.
Ultimately, it’s the actions you take that determine whether you achieve growth. If you take the right sort of actions, you will grow. If you take the wrong sort of actions, you will not grow, even if you have a Growth Mindset.
A Growth Mindset does not guarantee growth. It will encourage you to stretch beyond your current abilities and take on challenging tasks in your Learning Zone. It will also help you recognise that the mistakes you make in your Learning Zone don’t define you, they simply point the way forward. However, a Growth Mindset does not correct your mistakes.
This is why in my conversations about Growth Mindset I talk about Learning Agility. Learning Agility is understanding you’re capable of growth and knowing how to achieve that growth. An Agile Learner understands growth requires more than simply believing they can grow. They know they must engage in a set of actions – namely, engaging their Habits of Mind through the process of Virtuous Practice.