Growth mindsets, also known as implicit theories, are defined as core assumptions about the malleability of personal qualities. Students hold different implicit theories, from a more fixed mindset or entity theory of intelligence to of a more growth mindset or incremental theory. The concept of a fixed vs. growth mindset was developed by Carol Dweck.3 She observed that when students were given problems too difficult to solve, some gave up easily and some persisted. Those who gave up easily had a fixed mindset. Fixed mindset students “see intellectual ability as something of which people have a fixed, unchangeable amount,” while growth mindset students “see intellectual ability as something that can be grown or developed over time” (Yeager and Dweck, 2012). The mindsets of students make them perceive their academic world differently. Students with a fixed mindset tend to conceive everything as a measurement of their ability and intellect, such as academic performance, challenges, troubles, etc. They believed intelligence was a given quantity and their inability to solve the problems indicated they were not smart enough. Those who persisted in the face of difficulty had a growth mindset. They believed intelligence could be developed with effort and so persisted in the face of difficulty. A student with a fixed mindset believes intelligence is immutable; a person with a growth mindset believes that with effort intelligence can be increased. However, students with a growth mindset tend to think of their academic lives in terms of learning, growing, and developing. Growth mindset students interpret setbacks, challenges, and effort as selective approaches to improving their ability, intelligence, and experience.
In the literature, research shows that growth mindset can lead to school achievement. There are many intervention experiments that demonstrate that changing students’ theories of intelligence from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset exerts impact on their academic behaviors in the long run (Blackwell et al., 2007). In a clear demonstration, students who were encouraged to view intelligence as malleable reported greater enjoyment of the academic process, greater academic engagement, and obtained higher grade point averages (GPA) than their counter parts in two control groups.
Example: It also has been found in class activity that increasing the growth mindset of students low achieving students helps to raise their academic achievement more than high-achieving students with fixed mindset. For example, once 9th grade students were divided into two groups. Higher achiever of the class and the lower achiever in physics. Higher achiever student group were taught that their intelligence is fixed and they have a particular level of intelligence they cannot enhance their abilities to learn. While growth mindset is endorsed in lower achiever students group. Afterwards, different exams were given and the results were compared. It has been found that students who learnt growth mindset achieved high score in physics comparatively. Hence, it is clear from the above example that students who believe that their strengths, intelligence and intellectual abilities are not fixed they can do more and more and achieves higher academic score compared to those who think their abilities and strengths are fixed. Henceforth, students must be endorsed with growth mindset statements in every class room to build growth mindset in them.
There are two theories that explain the difference between high achievers and at-risk students even more than does the difference in their intellectual abilities. The theories are Growth Mindset and Learned Helplessness. Growth Mindset and Learned Helplessness predict who will be resilient and who will give up. Understanding and applying these two theories allows us to foster growth mindset and to prevent learned helplessness. Every teacher can increase student growth and achievement by becoming well versed in these two theories and how to apply them. Research based on these two theories demonstrates students’ beliefs about intelligence and student experiences with failure have a profound impact on how hard students try in school and ultimately how well they perform. Whether a student has a growth or a fixed mindset depends on their belief about the nature of intelligence. Whether a student develops learned helplessness depends on their reinforcement history. Because learned helplessness is cognitive and a function of reinforcement and history in contrast to a fixed mindset which depends on belief about the nature of intelligence and it is based on behavioral theory.
In school, learned helplessness relates to poor grades and underachievement, and to behavior difficulties. Students who experience repeated school failure are particularly prone to develop a learned helpless response style. Because of repeated academic failure, these students begin to doubt their own abilities, leading them to doubt that they can do anything to overcome their school difficulties. For example, 5th grade students who have good previous record, were given a logical problem of mathematics, few of the students solved the problem while many of them were unable to solve it. Next day, after practicing similar problems, students were again given the problem. Now, some of the students who failed to solve the question were able to solve it but few of them again failed to solve the question. After sometime, when these students were given a problem they said they can never do it so they are going to skip these problems from the course. They are feeling helpless and loss all the abilities to solve them. It is clear some the above example that they felt helpless after some failure in solving problem. By advocating students the importance of a growth mindset, increases their motivation and achievement. Students with fixed mind set cannot achieve good grades. In the entry test of grade 6th, marks in mathematics were observed. Afterward some students were endorsed with growth mindset statements like ‘You can always greatly change how intelligent you are”. While some students were endorsed with fixed mindset statement that you have certain level of intelligence you cannot do much to change. Their marks were tracked for two years. Students with a growth mindset steadily improved over the next two years whereas those with a fixed mindset declined in mathematics achievement.
To minimize the negative impact of learned helplessness in students, we need to train them to focus on strategies and processes to reach their academic goals, reinforcing the belief that, through effort, they are in control of their own behavior, and that they are in charge of developing their own academic skills.
Brooks and Goldstein (2001) defined resilience as the capacity to cope effectively with past and present adversity. Ryffet al. (1998) also proposed that resilience is the capacity to maintain and recover their high well-being in the face of life adversity. It acts as a protective factor in facing negative consequences and therefore aids individuals in maintaining their physical and psychological well-being. Yeager and Dweck (2012) contend that the underlying mechanism of growth mindset that leads to academic achievement seems to rely on the goals of students, their beliefs about effort and their attributions about their setbacks, and learning strategies in the face of academic difficulties, which are effective ways to promote resilience. Studies suggest that growth mindset can increase the resilience level of students in such a way students understand academic challenges in a way that promotes learning and resilience. Fixed mindset students perceive academic challenges as signs of lack of intelligence, which diminishes the resilience of students in academic areas, even for high-achieving students (Dweck, 2006). Notably, even when students were taught skills to be resilient in school, they may not apply these skills adequately because of their fixed mindset (Blackwell et al., 2007). The growth mindset students, meanwhile, interpret the academic challenges as a chance to improve their ability and sharpen their learning skill, which contributes to their resilience in academic areas, no matter for high or low achieving students (Dweck, 2008). Additionally, growth mindset students were more resilient and Frontiers in earned higher grades when they confronted challenging school transitions (Blackwell et al., 2007). Therefore, it seems that resilience is a potential factor that plays an important role in the psychological mechanisms relating growth mindset to academic achievement. Taken together, based on the cited research, growth mind set can be seen as a precursor of resilience.
PERMA and Positive Education
In 2009, Reivich, Gilham, Seligman, Linkins and Ernst defined positive education as ‘traditional education with the study of happiness and well-being. Positive education teaches the skills of well-being through direct practice and the curriculum, aiming to equip students with skills to build their resilience, optimism, character strengths, formation of positive relationships, and other significant factors that contribute to a flourishing (Waters, 2014). The goal of positive education is to help reveal and develop the child’s ability to effectively engage their combination of character strengths (Linkinset al., 2015). Further, the positive education promotes the psychological characteristics and character strengths which are associated with students’ higher academic performance, lower risk behaviors, and long-term benefits for their physical health.
Positive education is about merging flourishing positive emotion, engagement, positive relationships, meaning and accomplishment with traditional education. While many schools focus primarily on academic performance, positive education is about developing your child’s sense of well-being and social responsibility.
Seligman (2011) suggests five components of well-being, and developed a new model of well-being which he called PERMA. PERMA posits that well-being consists of the nurturing of one or more of the five following elements that contribute to overall well-being, are important areas that people pursue for their own sake, and can be defined and measured independently of one another. These elements are:
Positive emotions include feelings of joy and laughter. One easy way to do this is classrooms is to use humor. I once taught with a teacher who showed a funny youtube video. The videos did not connect to the content she taught, but they gave the students something to look forward to, and helped them begin to associate her class with positive emotions.
Engagement refers to psychological connection to activities or organizations. It relates very closely to flow experiences. It is the experience of being totally immersed in activities that meet a unique balance between our interests and curiosity. It also involves allowing students to choose topics and activities of interest to them, and creating a space for students to explore their own curiosity.
Relationships, the third element in the PERMA well-being model, deals with whether a person is able to build and maintain positive relationships with others (Seligman, 2011). In school settings, positive relationships with peers and teachers help students to experience support and acceptance, and feel connected to school. Relationships can also motivate students to achieve and behave according to a school’s pro-social culture, contributing to a positive school culture.
Relationships deal with whether a person is able to build and maintain positive relationships with others. In school settings, positive relationships with peers and teachers help students to experience support and acceptance, and feel connected to school. Relationships can also motivate students to achieve and behave according to a school’s pro-social culture, contributing to a positive school culture.
Meaning can be implemented classrooms in a variety of ways. Designing learning experiences within a real-world context can give students a meaningful way to practice skills and apply content knowledge.
Accomplishment refers to the application of a personal skills and effort as a person moves towards a desired goal. This requires both motivation and persistence in an attempt to overcome possible challenges whilst having enough insight to remain flexible along the path to achievement. Recognizing accomplishment is an important factor in motivating students and creating a productive learning environment.
PERMA model was developed as a conceptual model to guide individuals to find paths for flourishing. In this model psychological well-being is defined. Seligman believes that strength in each of PERMA’s areas can help individuals find lives of happiness, fulfillment, and meaning.
Growth mindset can serve as a protective factor against psychological problems, such as depression, behaviors problems, school disengagement, burn out, and other negative outcome variables. Resilience might be the key factor in reaching the objective of positive education, not only to enhance the well-being of students but also their academic achievement. Voluminous research indicates that wellbeing could be taught in schools. Teachers can serve as role models to develop the ‘whole student’ to have wellbeing in social, moral, emotional and intellectual developments.