Learn how to learn

12 Sep

most people adhere to one of two mindsets:
fixed or growth. Fixed mindsets mistakenly believe that people
are either smart or not, that intelligence is fixed by genes.
People with growth mindsets correctly believe that capability
and intelligence can be grown through effort, struggle and
failure. Dweck found that those with a fixed mindset tended to
focus their effort on tasks where they had a high likelihood of
success and avoided tasks where they may have had to
struggle, which limited their learning. People with a growth
mindset, however, embraced challenges, and understood that
tenacity and effort could change their learning outcomes. As
you can imagine, this correlated with the latter group more
actively pushing themselves and growing intellectually.

The good news is that mindsets can be taught; they’re
malleable. What’s really fascinating is that Dweck and others
have developed techniques that they call “growth mindset
interventions,” which have shown that even small changes in
communication or seemingly innocuous comments can have
fairly long-lasting implications for a person’s mindset. For
instance, praising someone’s process (“I really like how you
struggled with that problem”) versus praising an innate trait or
talent (“You’re so clever!”) is one way to reinforce a growth ‐mindset with someone. Process praise acknowledges the
effort; talent praise reinforces the notion that one only
succeeds (or doesn’t) based on a fixed trait. And we’ve seen
this on Khan Academy as well: students are spending more
time learning on Khan Academy after being exposed to
messages that praise their tenacity and grit and that
underscore that the brain is like a muscle.

The Internet is a dream for someone with a growth
mindset. Between Khan Academy, MOOCs, and others, there is
unprecedented access to endless content to help you grow
your mind. However, society isn’t going to fully take advantage
of this without growth mindsets being more prevalent. So what
if we actively tried to change that? What if we began using
whatever means are at our disposal to start performing growth
mindset interventions on everyone we cared about? This is
much bigger than Khan Academy or algebra — it applies to how
you communicate with your children, how you manage your
team at work, how you learn a new language or instrument. If
society as a whole begins to embrace the struggle of learning,
there is no end to what that could mean for global human
potential.

And now here’s a surprise for you. By reading this article itself,
you’ve just undergone the first half of a growth-mindset
intervention. The research shows that just being exposed to the
research itself (for example, knowing that the brain grows most
by getting questions wrong, not right) can begin to change a
person’s mindset. The second half of the intervention is for you
to communicate the research with others. We’ve made a video
(above) that celebrates the struggle of learning that will help
you do this. After all, when my son, or for that matter, anyone
else asks me about learning, I only want them to know one
thing. As long as they embrace struggle and mistakes, they can
learn anything.

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