The Impact of Mindset

Author: Sue Musson

Do I have a growth or fixed mindset? Do I shift my mindset under certain circumstances? How does my mindset impact my personal and professional life?

MindsetI recently finished reading the book, Mindset, by Dr. Carol Dweck, for our school-wide professional development. This was a great read and as I gained an understanding of what a growth or fixed mindset means, I began asking questions. An important question that emerged while reading a chapter on teachers and coaches, was…how does the mindset of a teacher influence the classroom environment, one’s teaching methodology and most importantly, the developing mindset of a child?

Dr Dweck defines a “growth” mindset as one who is open, flexible, and is interested in promoting the thinking of others. A growth mindset is curious and willing to think “out of the box” and encourages others to do the same. This mindset is interested in the ideas of others, is motivated by collaboration and seeks all possibilities when problem solving. A growth mindset is also about encouraging and developing potential in oneself and others. Dr. Dweck defines a“fixed” mindset as one who is uncomfortable and disengaged from the thinking of others.  A “fixed” mindset typically presents only one outlook (his or her own), is egocentric when problem-solving and seeks strong agreement or alignment of thought from others, commonly referred to as,  “group-think”. This mindset  also adheres to the (longstanding) belief that intelligence and potential are pre-determined (genetically or by scores); and therefore, has pre-determined assumptions and judgments about potential.

With these two definitions in mind, I began to wonder more about the powerful impact of a teacher’s own mindset and messaging in a classroom (or a coach’s mindset and messaging on the field/court), and how he or she influences student learning. Does he or she encourage ongoing student potential and focus on effort and perseverance, or does she focus on “pre-determined” intelligence, “smarts” and outcomes of students, therefore already deciding one’s capabilities? The role of a teacher is powerful and influential, and can determine how a child internalizes his or her own developing mindset as a learner. This new understanding of mindsets, has expanded my thinking and clarified for me the importance and value of a school ambiance, and even future hiring practices.

I am so grateful to be surrounded by educators who exude a growth mindset and encourage and provide opportunities for collaborative, creative and open-ended thinking in the classroom. But what about other classrooms in other schools, especially with the (over)emphasis on test scores as the deciding factor of a child’s potential, or even a school’s success?

Knowing that our ultimate responsibility and role as educators is to “grow future adults” in an ever-changing and evolving, (not fixed) world,..how are we doing? Are we fully understanding our role on a child’s developing mindset as a young learner? Are we understanding how one’s created mindset will influence his/her resilience and in the future?

Ask yourself…what is your mindset? What is the impact of your mindset on others?

Mindsets in the ClassroomMindset is a must read, not only for the interest and influence on educational thinking and practice, but also to gain awareness of how one’s mindset contributes to one’s own thinking and perceptions of others, both personally and professionally. I already know that my next read will be Mindset in the Classroom, by Mary Cay Ricci.