Growth Mindset and Gifted Students
Maria Katsaros-Molzahn, Ed.D
Ever since Carol Dweck wrote Mindset: The New Psychology for Success (2006), the educational community has focused on the importance of teaching perseverance to all students. Dweck discovered that all people fall somewhere within the mindset range from fixed to growth. According to the research, 40% of all people fall within the growth mindset, another 40% the fixed, and 20% are somewhere down the middle.
People with a growth mindset understand that learning requires effort. Rather than having an idealistic outlook, these people tend to be pragmatists. They recognize that hard work does pay off. Conversely, people with a fixed mindset view traits and talents as bestowed, or fixed, at an early age. For fixed mindset personalities, practice might lead to a better outcome, but it is fraught with frustration. Most importantly, when a fixed mindset person fails at something, the fault is attributed to external variables, and not to the effort of the individual.
Interestingly, many gifted students tend to exhibit fixed mindset characteristics. Thinking about this population of children, this observation makes sense. Gifted children often possess a heightened awareness of perfection within a given domain. Further, their cognitive abilities usually mean their reasoning skills are at odds with their fine motor capabilities. They know how a product should appear, but may lack the appropriate skill set to ensure success. This can result in frustration and resignation... (“I just am not good at this.”)
Parenting (and teaching) gifted students is filled with joys and challenges. These kids have insights that go deep, and often beyond their years. However, when fixed mindset kicks in, they can lose sight of reason. Luckily, however, growth mindset thinking is teachable. With a bit of practice, students and parents can develop growth mindset thinking. Here are some tips to facilitate the process:
Tip #1: Talk about the brain as a muscle. All muscles need exercise, a healthy diet, and healthy habits to grow strong.
Tip #2: Model making mistakes! Children need to see adults in the process of cleaning up after mistakes. They need to hear phrases such as, “Oops, I just __________, this is frustrating. Now I have to______________.”
Tip #3: Differentiate between too easy, too hard, and just right. Growth mindset does not mean one can walk into an operating room and be the doctor. Instead, growth mindset means, if someone desires to work in the medical field, he/she sets forth the motions and extended effort to get accepted into the medical field, do the work, and continue to improve with practice.
Tip #4: Use real-life examples to teach about mindsets. Arguably, growth mindset existed long before Dwek named it. Reading books about real people from varying backgrounds allows children to view the inner lives of important people, and to vicariously experience the joys and challenges that they experienced as they learned to apply growth mindset practices. Some of my favorites include Carry On, Mr. Bowditch (Latham, 1955), Wilma Unlimited (Krull and Diaz, 2000), and Heart of A Samurai (Preus, 2012).
Tip #5: Take the mindset quiz (available online).
Remember, the growth mindset strategies do not guarantee success; instead, they make arriving at success easier.
Working for the Oregon School District, Maria has 25 years of experience in the field of gifted education. Ever since reading and teaching about Growth Mindset, Maria discovered students were more comfortable accepting challenges!
Published:February 28, 2006
Publisher:Random House Publishing Group
Author:Carol S. Dweck
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