Building lifelong learners


By Sara Howle


The Shift: Fixed Vs. Growth Mindset: Schools working to build lifelong learners, not just great students.

“Great works are performed, not by strength, but by perseverance.” Samuel Johnson understood what educators are now supporting in their classrooms as Growth Mindset.

As adults, many of us did not see education presented this way as we made our way through school. School was primarily about tasks and number grades assigned to the level that they were completed. For some children, this worked. However, there were many others who were not motivated by a grade allocated at the end of each quarter. Some just did not care to make the Honor Roll list or accept a paper certificate while others felt that no matter what they did, they couldn’t achieve it anyway.

This is called a fixed mindset. The fixed mindset is one that says phrases like “I am either good at something or I am not; I don’t like to be challenged; I give up when I am frustrated; and my abilities determine everything.” In the past, this approach has been applied to a variety of aspects in life from sports to education.

In paradox, a growth mindset is one that states, “I can learn anything that I put my mind to; I like to challenge myself and try new things; I can learn from my failures and try again; I persevere even when I am frustrated and my effort and attitude determine what I can accomplish”.

Students who are taught using a growth mindset receive benefits that pour over into other areas of their life. In the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck describes these benefits. These include having a higher level of enjoyment in life, experiencing less stress when trying new things, building better relationships and not feeling ‘stupid’ while learning new things.

When teachers, or better, an entire school, embrace a growth mindset, it frees the students to not only learn, but to enjoy their learning. It is though this newfound enjoyment that teachers are able to encourage students in exploration and discovery while learning. Teachers are free to allow students to succeed through continued perseverance and multiple attempts without the pressure of a first attempt being the one that is assigned a permanent grade.

True learners are ones who will continue to learn beyond the walls of a school and past the years of formal education. These learners are those who are shaped by a growth mindset. When you love to learn, you cannot imagine a life wherein you ever stop! When you are not afraid to fail, you strive… and the educational leaps are boundless.

As this school year gets underway, try shifting your mindset. Instead of asking your children what grade they received on a specific test or paper, try asking what they learned or better yet, what they enjoyed learning from the unit. Look for the ways your child can grow as a learner and not just at what they achieve. Children grow and learn every day. Sometimes we just need to take the time to pause and consider the ways in which we measure and identify that process.