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The Growth Mindset - from The Messenger

November 20, 2015


There are two mindsets: fixed mindset and growth mindset.

Trevor Ragan, Train Ugly founder and national speaker, explained to an audience of more than 50 at the Fort Dodge Middle School auditorium Thursday that people are like tigers. A tiger at the zoo has his food brought to him and sleeps in a cage. A jungle tiger sleeps wherever it wants, and has to hunt for its food.

"The best learning happens when you're operating at the edge of your ability and when you're a little outside of your comfort zone," he said. "That is, out in the wild."

This is how learning occurs too, he said.

"How learning actually works involves struggle, involves mistakes and it happens in the wild," Ragan said.

Success is based on people's mindsets. A fixed mindset sets up students and athletes for failure, whereas a growth mindset allows them to be successful.

People with a growth mindset believe in working hard to improve.

"They've been shown to more likely persevere and work through their challenges," he said. "They believe in their ability to learn and figure stuff out."

He added, "They see challenges as opportunities to grow, and that is what they focus on."

Those with a fixed mindset, though, are focused mostly on their appearance. They're afraid of trying because they might fail.

"People with a fixed mindset will do anything they can do to avoid situations where they might make a mistake," he said.

Everyone learns two things, Ragan said: how to walk, and how to ride a bike.

"When you learn those two things, what do you a lot of? Falling and crashing," he said. "The interesting part is, when you're learning those things and making all of those mistakes, we celebrate them then ... As you get older, we stop celebrating mistakes and start to punish them, we start to become embarrassed by them."

These mindsets are predicated on feedback. A student who receives feedback based on their performance develops a fixed mindset. This person does well, so doesn't have to try harder. A growth mindset develops from praising skills, which require effort to develop.

A growth mindset can be achieved by believing its possible, taking action and getting results, Ragan said.

This technique has succeeded in sports. The U.S. Women's Volleyball team won its first gold medal recently, Ragan said, by switching to the growth mindset.

"There are two things we need to nail if we're going to teach this," Ragan said. "And that is, our belief toward learning and what we value."

With an awareness of the value of feedback, it is easy for students to pursue feedback that better develops a growth mindset, Ragan said.

"I can't change the way everyone is going to give them feedback," he said. "If you teach a kid this, and they understand how it works, they can start to change the bad feedback in their head. Because the truth is they're going to get a lot of bad feedback, everyday. But if they understand how this works, they can change it in their head."

"The growth mindset" The Messenger 20 Nov 2015: A1

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