the difference between fixed and growth mindsets

The difference between fixed and growth mindsets


When you fail, what is your thought process? Do you feel like you let yourself down because you didn’t have innate ability? Instead, do you feel like you just haven’t learned enough yet?

Based on your answers, you might be able to easily distinguish between having a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. This is a critical thing to understand for anyone looking to better understand how they learn and how they let themselves learn.

The Difference Between Fixed And Growth Mindsets

Let’s look at a simple example from my life. I know people who basically refuse to let themselves learn or are, at the very least, stubborn about learning new things. They feel as though they already have a level of understanding that should be sufficient. This is a fixed mindset which means these people feel as though their intelligence is static.

See Also: How to start thinking with a positive mindset

I also know people who feel as though every problem can be solved by learning something new. They aim to solve problems by learning new things, developing a better understanding, etc. This is a growth mindset which means the mind is always being asked to develop, evolve, and grow. Hence the name.


Carol Dweck On The Two Mindsets

This information comes via research by Carol Dweck who discusses the difference between fixed and growth mindsets in a 2012 interview:

“In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”

Should Students Be Told They’re Smart?

The research done by Dweck focuses on education and how student brains can be molded over time. In the research, it’s clear that the growth mindset is preferable for students. It explains that a growth mindset helps students adapt and cope with a variety of situations from time in school to adulthood.

According to the research, those with a growth mindset are more likely to continue working hard whether or not there are setbacks. It also states that a mindset can be affected by subtle environmental cues. An example in the research states that students being told “good job, you’re very smart” are more likely to develop a fixed mindset because they’re led to believe they have innate abilities. Meanwhile, students who are told “good job, you worked very hard” are shown that they taught themselves to figure out the solution and that learning with a growth mindset is helpful.

Watch Dweck’s TED Talk


Now there are many who think the two mindsets are akin to ‘learning styles’ which have been regularly viewed as unrealistic. The point here is that everyone learns differently and it’s critical to better understand how you or your students learn. Everyone is different and there are many gray areas between the two mindsets mentioned in this article.

So with that being said, use this as a chance to reflect on how you learn. How do you approach problems? How do you view your own intellect or ability to find solutions? Would you want to be part of one mindset or another?

Good luck on your journey and be sure to share your insight in the comments or with @DailyGenius on Twitter anytime!

Thumbnail by Allan Ajifo via Flickr cc

Written by Jeff Dunn

Jeff is an education and technology lover who has worked in far too many industries to count. Okay, like maybe 5 or 6. Jeff can indeed count that high but it’s not recommended. Jeff also likes to write bios in the third-person.

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