By Sam Piha
There has been a great deal of buzz about growth mindsets and its impact on young people's learning and development. Below we offer an interview with Eduardo Briceño.
Eduardo is the CEO of Mindset Works, which he co-founded with Carol Dweck, Lisa Blackwell and others, to help schools cultivate student ownership of their own learning. With his fellow mindsetters, Eduardo helps schools build learner capacity and success through practices that instill growth mindset beliefs and foundational learning skills in students, teachers and the broader community.
We invited Eduardo to speak at our recent How Kids Learn IV conference in San Francisco but he was unable to attend. We featured a video of Eduardo describing growth mindsets and we highly encourage our readers to watch it. Eduardo agreed to participate in an interview in lieu of his attending the conference. His responses are shown below. (Note: Mindset researcher, Carissa Romero at Stanford University, did present at the How Kids Learn IV conference, and a video of her presentation will be featured in an upcoming blog.)
Q: There is a lot of buzz about the influence of a growth
mindset. For those who are new to this concept, can you briefly describe what
is meant by “growth mindset”?
A: Yes, growth mindset awareness and practice is multiplying,
which is very exciting. Even the
U.S. President and First Lady have incorporated growth mindset language into
Discovered by Stanford Professor Carol Dweck, Ph.D., a
growth mindset is the understanding that personal qualities are malleable and
that we can develop our abilities.
People who understand that they can grow their intelligence (which is our ability
to acquire and apply knowledge and skills) and other abilities, behave in
learning-oriented ways. They
challenge themselves to learn what they don’t already know, they seek feedback,
they reflect, they view effort as something we can all benefit from rather than
as a sign of weakness, they value and learn from mistakes, and they persevere
in the face of setbacks. As a
result, they achieve higher rates of growth and success.
Q: What is opposite of a “growth mindset”?
A: The opposite of a growth mindset is a fixed mindset,
which is seeing personal qualities as fixed. For example, when people categorize others as “math people”,
or “athletic”, or “artistic”, in fixed ways, rather than as competencies they
have developed over time, or when they see other people as incapable of
developing certain abilities, they’re exhibiting a fixed mindset. People who are in a fixed mindset tend
to want to stay within their comfort zone, they become defensive when they
receive feedback, they view effort as a sign of weakness and inability, they
see mistakes as evidence of being incapable, and they disengage when things get
hard. As a result, they don’t grow
as much as people with a growth mindset and they achieve lower levels of
The great news, is that anybody can develop and strengthen
their growth mindsets!
Q: There is research that suggest that a growth mindset is a
good predictor of improved learning. Can you speak to this research?
A: Yes, there’s a lot of research that show that people with
a growth mindset learn and improve more, and as a result they reach higher
levels of ability and success. There
is a deep and growing body of research on this, in domains as varied as K-12
education, higher education, the workplace, sports, health, and relationships. Several of these studies can be
accessed from Carol
Dweck, Ph.D.’s Stanford profile page. Another great literature review that summarizes this body of
research in K-12 education is: Teaching
Adolescents to Become Learners (Farrington et. al.).
Q: How are mindsets developed?
A: Mindsets are beliefs. They’re developed like any other beliefs: from our
observations of the world, ourselves, and people around us. When other people believe that
abilities are fixed, they tend to say and do things that reflect those beliefs
and that lead us and others to view abilities as fixed. For example, if we hear other people
talking about who is smart, or attributing our success to being smart, it conveys
that intelligence is fixed, which is a fixed mindset. When our bosses don’t believe people can improve and as a
result don’t give and receive constructive feedback, it leads us to believe
that people can’t improve. When we
see IQ as something that is fixed, rather than as what it was intended for (to
measure cognitive abilities at any point in time), it leads us to foster a
We can cultivate growth mindsets by learning that
intelligence and abilities are malleable.
We can learn the scientific background behind the plasticity of the
brain, or how experts develop their high levels of expertise, and how we can do
the same. We can undertake
learning oriented behaviors and measure our progress over time. And we can support one another in our
growth journeys. This is a
lifelong undertaking. If you want
to learn more about other strategies, you can start your journey by subscribing
to our growth mindset
newsletter, or reading the article Mindsets
and Student Agency or Carol
Dweck’s book Mindset, or taking the Mindset
Works EducatorKit growth mindset teacher training course, or doing the Brainology® curriculum with
Q: Does it take a long time to help kids develop a growth
A: Research shows quick effects from growth mindset
interventions, but developing a growth mindset, and more broadly becoming a
better and better learner, is a lifelong journey. If we reflect throughout our lives about our habits and
what’s working and not, we will always continue to improve, to strengthen our
mindsets, and to become more effective learners. The schools that we serve at Mindset Works put a lot of
effort to building and deepening growth mindset cultures, which is not a quick
fix, is a way of being and aligning as a community.
Q: What can leaders in out-of-school time do to promote a
growth mindset in their youth programs?
A: Lots! As
mentioned above, they can teach the scientific background behind the plasticity
of the brain, or how experts develop their high levels of expertise, and how we
can do the same. They can speak
with students in growth mindset language, teach them how to give and receive
growth-oriented feedback and other learning strategies, and help them
self-assess their progress and strategies over time.
Q: Are there resources that are available to learn more
about the practical application of this research? Where would you send interested
out-of-school workers to find these resources?