Encourage a 'growth mindset' in students

Teachers who stereotype and discourage their students from taking on challenges will stymie their students' potential ("Teachers' bias can limit students' future"; last Thursday). They should encourage a "growth mindset" instead.

Students with a growth mindset take on more challenges, persist longer and are more resilient in the face of setbacks, as they believe that their intelligence or talent can be cultivated with practice.

In contrast, students with a fixed mindset shy away from challenges, as they think setbacks and effort are signs of limited intelligence. In a study of mathematics teachers by Stanford University, those who used growth-focused teaching methods, such as emphasising an understanding of the underlying concepts, giving feedback to deepen understanding and offering the students a chance to re-submit work, encouraged a growth mindset in their students.

Parents and teachers can encourage a growth mindset by praising the process, such as actions, persistence or strategies taken, instead of intelligence or talent, which will result in a fixed mindset.

Parents who react negatively to their children's setbacks or failures will also cause their children to believe that their abilities are permanently fixed and cannot be improved.

Research has also shown that a growth mindset can help thwart depression, decrease aggression and strengthen willpower, and may eventually lead to a more fulfilling career.

Teens who see themselves and others as still growing and learning are better equipped to deal with the storms of teenage life, compared to those with a fixed mindset, who often have hostile feelings towards people who they believe have excluded or wronged them.

In the workplace, people with a growth mindset see themselves and others as capable of innovation and creativity, while those with a fixed mindset tend to engage in tactics such as keeping secrets and hoarding information to outcompete others.

Given the wide-ranging advantages of a growth mindset, it is paramount that parents and teachers adopt and instil it in their children.

This article was first published on January 4, 2016.
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