Motivation and emotion/Book/2018/Growth mindset development

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Growth mindset development:
How can a growth mindset be developed?

Overview[edit | edit source]


By the end of this chapter you should be able to:

  1. Define a Growth Mindset
  2. Understand how we can cultivate a growth mindset culture
  3. Know how we can work towards having a growth mindset on an individual level
  4. Understand how this will effect our motivation

Growth mindset[edit | edit source]

Growth mindset is defined as the degree to which students believe their intelligence, skills, and ability are malleable (Dweck, 1999). The other side to this is having a fixed mindset, in which people believe that their intellect, abilities and skills a relatively stable. These mindsets, and what we as individuals lean towards on the continuum of mindset (they are not always stable) can have far reaching effects on motivation and achievements throughout our lifespan[factual?]. Developing a growth mindset, particularly as a young person or student has been shown to have positive implications with academic outcome (students) as well as improved resiliency and a reduction in self-handicapping behaviours[factual?]. This growth mindset will also show higher levels of academic engagement and setting growth orientated goals (Dweck, 2006). How we use our goals to motivate ourselves will have many implications on how we go about achieving our goals, and often, whether we are successful.

Motivation[edit | edit source]

Motivation is the driving force behind why we do what we do. It is important that when we are investigating the development of a growth mindset we keep this in mind, specifically what is our mindset and the motivation behind completing tasks, setting goals and trying to achieve. This source of motivation can have a great effect on our behaviour and have long term effects as to our performance and achieving specific goals and targets.

It has been shown that motivation is not at a constant level and can change over time due to many factors[factual?]. Motivation can wane, especially during times of adversity, or where we feel like we are not achieving or improving ourselves and working towards completing our goals. Having a growth mindset and intrinsic motivations (for example wanting to become the best we can be in a particular skill and setting mastery goals that lead to improvement rather than focusing solely on outcomes and results) rather than focusing on extrinsic rewards will lead to a greater resiliency to adversity (Benbou & Tirole, 2003).

There are many sources for motivation, and many factors will influence how we maintain this motivation. Williams and Burden (1997) differentiated two aspects of motivation: initiating motivation, which was concerned with the reasons for doing something and deciding to do something, and sustaining motivation referring to the effort for sustaining or persisting in doing something. Our growth mindset will have a positive effect on sustaining our motivation as we take adversity and failure as learning processes that will ultimately help us towards our goals.

Typically motivation is separated into two main areas; intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is defined as: “Intrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by internal rewards. In other words, the motivation to engage in a behavior arises from within the individual because it is intrinsically rewarding.”

Weinberg & Gould's theory includes 3 types of intrinsic motivators: 1. Knowledge - Learners have a genuine thirst for new knowledge. Learners long to know more about a new topic, which is why we suggest adding additional learning materials and resources in additional to the content of your program. 2. Accomplishment - Learners feel motivated by their accomplishments. Creating and developing quiz questions and displaying points through a leaderboard helps to feed this type of intrinsic motivation. 3. Stimulation - Learners are motivated by stimulation. Creating assignments and developing self-evaluations helps to increase learner engagement.

Extrinsic motivation can be defined as: “Extrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by external rewards such as money, fame, grades, and praise. This type of motivation arises from outside the individual, as opposed to intrinsic motivation, which originates inside of the individual.” There are several types of extrinsic rewards, but we focus on only these key three: Completion contingent rewards - Rewards given for completing a task Performance contingent rewards - Performance-based rewards Unexpected rewards - Rewards given unexpectedly

When creating a reinforcement program, you should make sure that it includes a balanced rewards system with a combination of completion and performance rewards. There is also a sub-category of performance rewards: competitive rewards. When learners are motivated by their competitive drive to beat peers' performance in the game, they are more likely to apply lessons learned. When the leader board is used correctly, it will motivate learners to continue down the ideal learning path. The last type of reward we use for training motivation is an unexpected reward. This is when learners receive a reward after performing a certain behavior, but they were not expecting to receive the reward. Unexpected rewards are very effective. Think about the last time you received an unexpected reward. How did it affect your motivation?

Mindsets[edit | edit source]

Developing a growth mindset will have many valuable benefits to an individual. The hallmarks of a growth mindset include hard work, perseverance and effort. These are obviously attributes that will allow a person to grow and continue to perform even in the face of adversity. It should therefore be a priority that we try and develop this mindset in ourselves, to allow ourselves to continuously grow (Ricci, 2016).

In the late 1990s, Dweck introduced the idea that there were two mindsets that people can possess about their abilities, intelligence, and talents: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset (Dweck, 1999). Those holding a fixed theory of mindset believe people are either intelligent or they are not (Dweck, 2006). On the other hand, individuals with a growth mindset believe in an incremental theory of intelligence whereby intelligence can grow and be developed through effort (Dweck, 2010). Individuals who believe in an incremental theory of intelligence are above all focused on mastery goals that will lead to new skills and knowledge being acquired (Dweck, 1999).

This [what?] is pertinent to many areas of our lives and can lead individuals to have differing beliefs about attaining their goals, and the effort that is put into attaining them. A growth mindset will lead to using effort as a tool in order continue to develop their skills and abilities, whereas having a fixed mindset will lead to the view that having to put in effort means you lack ability and cannot grow (Reeve).

Our mindsets will also influence our goals and how we go about attaining them. A growth mindset will lead to setting mastery goals where we don’t only focus on good performance but becoming a master and improving our abilities. Fixed mindset goals look at performance and look to avoid embarrassment and looking poor in front of others. It is this mindset that allows individuals to continue to learn and seek improvement in the face of adversity. Grit is a term that develops from this, and commonly grit is a trait that we see in those whom are high performing, from business, athletics and many other endeavors where competition is high.

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Quiz Time!

1 If we hold a growth[spelling?] mindset do we believe intelligence and skills can be improved upon?

Improved Upon

2 Results based goals will lead to a growth mindset?


3 If we have a growth mindset do you see adversity as a learning tool?


Developing a growth mindset[edit | edit source]

There are different ways in which we can try to nurture a growth mindset in ourselves and others. Understanding that learning and improving our skills is a process that will have impacts biologically as well as in our mindsets can help with developing a growth mindset. Blackwell et al. (2007) suggest that if an individual understands how the brain works and how learning can increase intellectual ability, they can begin to gain a sense of control over their own learning. Therefor learning about the brain and plasticity can help explain how our brain and nerves can change over time in relation to this learning experience.

It has been shown that our neurons (the “brain cells”) become more efficient at communication with each as a new skill is learned[factual?]. This means that the high focus that is needed when first learning a task will eventually fade and the processes will become more automatic. An example of this is a musician learning a new piece of music. Initially the learning experience will be quite difficult as the musician works with a high level of focus and the required neurons communicate through new channels. Over time and with deliberate practice, these cells learn to communicate more efficiently, and less focus is required to play the music. An understanding of this process and how our brain can improve with practice has been shown to help develop a growth mindset (Patel, 2005 & Blackwell 2007)

It is also important, just like having a growth mindset looks at improving over a period of time and isn’t focused on short term goals, that we take a long term learning approach to developing a growth mindset. While brief interventions to promote growth mindset thinking have been shown to have only a short‐term impact, Dweck (2010) suggests that the culture and learning approaches within schools could help students to change their approach to learning and encourage the development of growth mindset beliefs.

Cultivating this culture and environment should be a priority of schools and teachers. A rewards system that not only rewards achievements but the learning process itself. Rewards for achievement are natural and should be encouraged, however it is important that the use of rewards is effective, and as previously stated, aims to encourage the learning and improvement process rather than a single achievement (Cameron & Pierce, 2002).

According to Dweck (2006), positive self-theories are necessary for developing a growth mindset as a means of achieving successful performance outcomes. This mindset that we can improve and achieve our goals is an important tool for students to use to continue to work hard and engage in their academics. Using a correct rewards system can help develop this positive mindset. Students who show negative self-theory (I'm not good enough, I’ll never be able to do this” etc) have been shown to have lower levels of engagement and academic success.

On a less holistic view and a more individual view on developing a growth mindset there are a few measures that we can take in order to accomplish this.

Tay and Diener (2011) outlined these elements to change a fixed mindset to a growth mindset:

  1. Self talk - the way people encourage themselves has a big impact on achieving goals. If a person tells themselves they are able to accomplish a task, they will be able to.
  2. Accept challenges - instead of not completing a difficult challenge, a fixed mindset individual should learn to embrace the challenge.
  3. Effort - a person is unlikely to accomplish goals if they do not put effort in.
  4. Improvement - improving on skills and abilities is necessary for the learning process, and will allow an individual to become better at what they want to achieve.
  5. Openness - one can never be sure if trying something will end in success or failure. Before making a statement such as, "it wont work?", the person should ask themselves , "why won't it work?". Being open to new experiences and trying new things is a vital aspect to learn new ideas.
  6. Celebrate - even celebrate the small successes, to make the progress to achieving a goal worthwhile.
  7. Learn from failure - take feedback of what worked, and what did not work that caused the failure. Failure does not mean you cannot try again, a new approach, or practicing may assist.
Figure 7. Having a growth mindset is beneficial to being gritty.

References[edit | edit source]

Benbou, R & Tirole, J. (2003). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation. The Review of Economic Studies Ltd.

Blackwell, L., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child Development, 78, 246–263.

Cameron, J., & Pierce, W. D. (2002). Rewards and intrinsic motivation: Resolving the controversy. Westport, CT, US: Bergin & Garvey.

Dweck, C. S. (1999). Self theories: Their role in motivation, personality, and development. Hove, UK: Psychology Press, Taylor and Francis.

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

Dweck, C. S. (2010). Even geniuses work hard. Educational Leadership, 68, 16–20.

Ricci, M. C., & Lee, M. (2016). Mindsets for parents: Strategies to encourage growth mindsets in kids. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Patel, R. et al. Functional brain changes following cognitive and motor skills training: A quantitative meta-analysis. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair. October 23, 2012 (online).

Williams, M., & Burden, R. L. (1997). Psychology for Language Teachers: A social constructivist approach. Cambridge: Cambrige University Press.

External links[edit | edit source]

  • For further information a Ted Talk of Dweck's will expleain[spelling?] how mindsets can effect our growth: