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Middle School Principal, Dr. Ron Lalonde, discusses the significant impact that growth mindset has on the learning of adolescents, particularly in math

February 28, 2024

Working on a growth mindset has had a significant impact on the learning of adolescents, particularly in math. The book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, which was published in 2007, is an exciting summary of the trend noticed by Stanford researcher Carol Dweck. Dweck and her team observed subjects, engaged in challenging tasks, and the statements they made about themselves as they tackled these challenges. These observations revealed a marked division between those who believed they could achieve with effort and determination and those who would attribute their inability to a fixed characteristic. This distinction led to further research and the important insight that a growth mindset can be primed by the way educators speak about learning and how they speak to the learner. Attributing success to effort and hard work rather than emphasizing natural talent often leads to positive beliefs that keep learners engaged longer and less likely to give up.

It wasn’t magic, but many researchers and educators saw the gains that could come when trial and error are promoted and when praise shifts away from the person and onto the way they engage with the task. When this positive talk replaces harsh criticism and negative assumptions about the learner, many learners develop positive self-talk and greater resilience.

As research in mindset matures, researchers and educators are learning more subtle aspects of attribution and how it impacts beliefs about learning. Promoting students' attributing success to effort, of course, reinforces the value of effort and can lead learners to take a growth orientation toward their studies.

There are many areas of life in which there is nothing wrong with holding fixed beliefs. These beliefs allow for the habitual and automatic processes of our day that free up brain space for more deliberate learning and growing. Coupled with the right kind of practice, a growth mindset primes a learner to have positive beliefs about their ability to adapt. This increased determination, resilience, and hopeful attitude are particularly important in school and in adolescence. A growth orientation during the process of forming one’s identity keeps students engaged longer, trying harder, and believing that learning is within reach.

This week at TKS, we witnessed an incredible example of a growth mindset as students cheered on Professor Matteo Parsani in his return to KAUST as he completed a 3000-mile journey across Saudi Arabia on a hand bike. With a growth mindset, Matteo turned his accident into an opportunity to promote physical activities and sports, raise awareness about people with disabilities, showcase KAUST research, and highlight the beauty of Saudi Arabia's regions - all with inspiration from the Crown Prince, “We dream, and we achieve!”

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