by Lacy Compton
In a 2010 article, psychologist Carol Dweck noted that many students enter middle school with the belief that we are all born with a set-in-stone intelligence level and that they couldn't get smarter, despite how hard they worked. This state of thinking, Dweck proposed in her 2006 book, Mindset, is characteristic of a fixed mindset. Those with a fixed mindset see challenge as something to be avoided, and their performance can stagnate. Alternatively, Dweck suggests, those with a growth mindset believe that everyone can grow and change based on their experiences and persistence.
In her new book, Mindsets in the Classroom, author Mary Cay Ricci proposes that teachers and schools can work to help their students change their mindsets, instead adopting a growth mindset where students' hard work and effort equals achievement and increased levels of performance.
Dweck's study and Ricci's own work with children in the Washington, DC, and Baltimore, MD, areas prompted her to conduct a study of children's mindsets in school settings. What she found was remarkable: In the kindergarten classroom she surveyed one fall, 100% of the children came to school with a growth mindset. The numbers stayed relatively high with the first graders she surveyed (with 90% still having a growth mindset), but dropped dramatically when she moved up to third graders.
Her results? A startling 42% of the third graders Ricci surveyed already had a fixed mindset about their potential academic performance.
Her study, and countless workshops aimed at changing this way of thinking in children, led Ricci to write Mindsets in the Classroom, which provides practical, easy-to-implement strategies for helping schools create a culture of success and growth. The book also suggests ways districts can work with parents to change the way they praise and react to their children's accomplishments, as well as their failures.
If you're interested in mindsets and schools, check out the sample chapter from Ricci's book on our site. You also might be interested in the advice from the following websites:
- Helping Students Maintain Positive Mindsets
- Classroom Strategies to Foster a Growth Mindset
- Mindset Online: Parents, Teachers, and Coaches