Three students sitting together and studying
Studying

Fixed and growth mindset

Your mindset can also influence your level of motivation.

Carol Dweck’s theory about Fixed and Growth mindsets might be familiar to you from the assignment from Week 2 of this course. It was the topic of the text we asked you to summarise. If you let go of your fixed mindset and switch to your growth mindset, your motivation will improve. Especially when you’re faced with a challenge.

We will now look at both of these mindsets and their impact on motivation.

Fixed mindset

The fixed mindset works like this:

My achievements are a reflection of my intelligence and personality. They are congenital, and there’s not much I can do to change that. So if I perform well, it’s because I’m smart or a great person. And if I perform poorly, it’s because I’m stupid. If I find something difficult, it’s not really my thing and I won’t be able to learn it. If I don’t have a talent for something, there’s no point making an effort. Another person’s success is confronting, because it makes me confront my own shortcomings. That’s why I prefer to avoid situations where I have to do something that I’m not good at.

This mindset hinders progress. If we don’t think we can change, there’s not much point trying to improve. The result is that we give up almost immediately, which means we don’t get any better at it. Which just goes to reinforce our belief that we can’t learn it.

Growth mindset

The growth mindset goes something like this:

My achievements are a reflection of what I have learned and the effort I have put in. Regardless of where I am now, I can always get better. That applies to my intelligence and skills. So, if I perform well I have done a good job and worked hard. If I find something difficult, I have to make more of an effort or try to find a better strategy. If someone is more successful than me, it motivates me because that means I can learn something from that person. I like challenges because they give me the chance to improve.

Someone with a growth mindset approaches situations very differently to someone with a fixed mindset. If you have a fixed mindset, it will feel as though improvements are out of arm’s reach; if you have a growth mindset, they don’t seem that far away. And if you don’t believe that you can improve, you won’t. If you switch to the growth mindset, you will improve with every minute of studying and you’ll learn more. So, every moment spent studying is a success in itself.

Sometimes, studying is a real challenge. At some point, everyone comes across something that is more difficult than they expected. And even then – actually, especially then – there’s a good chance that you’ll learn something. And that’s why your chance of success, so the ‘expectancy’, remains high because of your growth mindset. And if you have a fixed mindset it’s going to plummet.

So, to sum up, with a growth mindset you increase your belief in the effectiveness of your own efforts - and thereby your actual chance of success.

In the table below you can check what your usual mindset is when studying. Read one situation at at time and tick off which thought is most recognisable for you:

Table

Share with the other learners:

  • Do you recognise any characteristics from the fixed or growth mindset when you are learning something new, and you run into something you don’t understand? How do you approach this?

  • The article suggests that adopting a growth mindset is almost always preferable to a fixed mindset. With what part of your study would a growth mindset be especially useful, and why?

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This article is from the free online course:

Improving Your Study Techniques

University of Groningen

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