Growth mindset interventions

Goldie Uttamchandani

Goldie Uttamchandani provides us with an explanation of how coaching in schools can be used to develop a positive growth mindset.

What is a growth mindset ?

The positive effects of coaching in the academic arena are proving to be extraordinary in preparing young people. The integration of coaching concepts into classrooms for school students can be life-changing for students, using coaching as a means of personal and professional development for school staff can improve overall academic scores and transform a school’s culture. With the amazing results coaching in education has been observed as a powerful tool. It is no wonder that more schools are implementing coaching practices and that more teachers and other school staff are being trained as coaches. This revolution in education has grown slowly over the years, and there is no doubt that it will continue in the years to come.

A positive mindset encourages educating a whole child and building competencies for life. (e.g. cultivating hope and positivity, developing a compass for self-direction and self-determination, audacity and future-thinking, relational skills, insight, and perseverance amongst others). 

In coaching, how we word things affects confidence, the words ‘yet’ or ‘not yet,’ give school students greater confidence, they give them a path into the future that creates greater persistence. This is achieved by educating them with tools of a growth mindset. It is important to note that positive mindset change only occurs if the inner dialogue one has with themselves begins to change. There is almost an unlearning process that needs to begin, before learning again. 

Our conscious and unconscious thoughts affect us and how something as simple as wording can have a powerful impact on our brain and ability to improve. The power of our most basic beliefs. Whether conscious or subconscious, they strongly “affect what we want and whether we succeed in getting it.” Much of what we think we understand of our personality comes from our “positive mindset.” This both propels us and prevents us from fulfilling our potential_ Carol Dweck, American Psychologist at Stanford University.

The way you see yourself can conclude everything. If you a limited in your beliefs that your qualities are unchangeable — the fixed mindset — you strive to prove yourself correct repeatedly rather than learning from your mistakes. Growth-minded people are open to making mistakes and accepting to learn new things each time, this will help you thrive towards success - a growth mindset

A desire to face challenges, motivation for learning, and seeing failure as a trampoline to bounce towards growth are all characteristics associated with a growth mindset. In this type of mindset, one is also open to receiving support from their relational circuit. What doesn't come as a surprise is that, this type of positive mindset is heavily aligned with happiness and achievement in life.

In opposition, those with a fixed mindset understand their intelligence and capabilities cannot be modified in a meaningful way. As a result, mistakes are often seen as rigid failures rather than opportunities or cushions to grow and learn from. When stuck in a fixed mindset we often lean on a harsh inner dialogue, we may fear new experiences, avoid risks, and feel the need to repeatedly prove ourselves over and over again, but from an established comfort zone.

Enabling teachers to follow the rules of a growth mindset:

  1. Mistakes are to learn from 
  2. Improve your innate strengths and talents
  3. Never give up on the effort
  4. Dedicate time to celebrate 
  5. Success is hidden in reflections of failures
  6. Embrace feedback
  7. Tussle and toil are part of the growth

What a growth mindset IS NOT

Whilst we dedicate time to understanding what a growth mindset is and differentiate it from a fixed mindset, it is vital to also understand what a growth mindset is NOT. Often referred to as a false growth mindset, as Carol Dweck explains. This occurs when often educators or parents aren't intentional enough to take the longer, more cumbersome path of accompanying students to identify strategies that connect them to success. The struggle is a key component in attaining a growth mindset, it can frequently be mistaken for assuming the student simply doesn't have a growth mindset or even worse, already has it when they have not really fully understood it yet. It is incorrect to think we have a growth mindset all the time. What is true is that we tend to conflate between fixed and growth, striving to attain a growth mindset, but can have triggers such as competition or out of comfort zone scenarios that place us back in fixed mindset. There are some red flags to look out for if a false growth mindset is being championed without realisation. 

1. Using labels in praise for abilities, rather than actions. 

Remember a growth mindset journey is all about moving towards improvement, learning, stretching, pushing what works, to work even better. If you praise an already existing ability, this invites a stall. An example of this would be you are so creative, intelligent...

Instead, rewarding effort in an action serves better. As an example of this can be, I observed you used three literary techniques in your poem, how did this balance serve you in the final piece?

2. Giving praise for mediocre effort is also handicapping the process of growth. It always helps to be mindful of the fact that we are enabling young people to cultivate beliefs that serve them in a growth mindset, not trying to change the adult in us, to feel good from giving praise. In this context an example of mediocre effort praise would be a coach telling his tennis student, you got lucky with that shot, excellent point. 

Instead, providing honest and helpful feedback would serve better in this result. You won the point on a stroke of luck, look out for adjustments in your technique to help prevent a jam in the future. 

3. Praising only effort. This may be the cornerstone of a growth mindset approach, yet can sometimes lead to stagnation and activate frustration if the student is not progressing towards desirable results. An example of this praise would be, keep going and don't lose sight of the finish line. The student may reach the finish line but might end up feeling that's the absolute best they could give. Do you observe a fixed mindset belief lingering?

Instead, you should also encourage your students to try a different approach when what they are doing isn’t working or ask for help when they cannot understand or do something on their own.

4. Praising achievement without process back up. This is a common misconception on part of educators and a mistake they can make, when managing low-achieving children. Amazing, you tried really hard. In what? How is my empty progress being rewarded a false self esteem prize? 

Instead of praise, the child here needs help, encouragement to try a different strategy. Ultimately being able to execute a growth mindset as a professional is also a learning process which takes time.

The achievement gap between effort and intelligence

Research has in fact shown the effects of two different types of praise on separate groups of students. Praising for intelligence and praising for effort can have growth mindset intervention going in opposite directions. Six different studies (carried out by Carol Dweck and Claudia Mueller), where students ranging in ages from 9-12 were asked to complete a problem-solving game. Upon completion, they were informed on having correctly answered 80% of the questions, were delivered praise for their natural intelligence or for their effort. Reports were later generated to inquire on how the students felt, thought and behaved in consequent duties. The main findings demonstrated:

  • Students who had been praised for their intelligence performed worse in future tasks.
  • Students who had been praised for their effort performed better in future tasks.
  • The majority (86%) of students praised for their intelligence asked for information about how their peers did on the same task.
  • Only 23% of students who had been praised for effort asked for this type of feedback – most of them asked for feedback about how they could do better.

How can a growth mindset be implemented?

The clue really lies in the concept itself. Changing or redirecting the mind is a core learning process where the work begins at the root. As adults we are able to filter a lot of information and execute a moderately mindful approach to our challenges and goals. Children and young people are still developing and do not have those head start abilities yet. The good news is, they are impressionable and at their peak of creativity. As a professional in self development, I can therefore play the role of a bridge that helps cultivate a mind that thrives on growth, from a place of conscious curiosity.

Through my years of coaching young people, I have observed their ability to be impressed as easily and in equal measure to be demotivated. The key often lies in providing a balance of space where they are able to absorb information which can immediately be put to use via activities and later provide feedback on their experience. The idea is to teach and learn at the same time. Coaching is the art of co creating in a space where the client can expand on their creative abilities to reach the highest potential of their positive mindset in order to explore more learning opportunities. In effect, this is also called a growth mindset.

Enabling a change in the mind begins with providing activities for young people that promote learning from a place of non judgement and harnessing their emotional literacy to understand why they may be feeling a certain way and how to understand others. This work is done through workshops, unrelated to the academic curriculum, in a casual recreational setting. I provide the groundwork of theory, which is immediately translated to live activities. A powerful feedback session is later encouraged to share, compare and mutually inspire compeers. In this final step of feedback is where we are giving birth to growth-minded people.

Examples of successful growth mindset projects

1. How to have a friendly relationship with our emotions. Students have learned to identify the hooks that often keep us blocked in a fixed mindset and lead us to feeling emotions such as frustration, sadness, anger or fear. Embodying these emotions is key to accepting their presence and through a series of steps one can enable the energy to flow through our body, to later invite new emotions. This is basic human motivation that sets a scene to target two key areas of mindset. Firstly, normalising that we are able to fluctuate between two types of mindset and secondly, having the tools to make the process and innate ability to transfer from one to the other.

2. Exercising Resilience. A pandemic has unequivocally been the best recent event for young people to view as a curse or blessing for themselves. This is also testament to discovering fixed and growth mindsets in individuals. Students are encouraged to identify past events of adversity and analyse how they overcame the challenges and struggles by tapping into their already existing strengths. This work is further made effective by asking young people to reflect on the same strategies to enhance or improve them further, to resolve new challenges. Resilience is a skill that needs continuous exercising and the process of bouncing back higher is what promotes a growth mindset and promotes successful people.

3. Cultivating Gratitude. Younger children are explained the theory behind exercising gratitude on a daily basis and how this has a rippling positive effect on their mindset too. A popular exercise which carries the work out of the classroom and into their respective worlds is writing a hand written letter to a person in their lives, to whom they want to thank. Posting these letters by hand, addressing the envelope and placing a physical stamp, are all part of the rewiring in their belief system, helping them to appreciate the relational network they have around them to further promote a growth mindset.

4. Compassion and self-compassion workshops. One of the principles of a growth mindset is to embrace failure as learning and this hinges on the premise of accepting being vulnerable and applying self-kindness. Young people already have a hard time identifying who they truly are, and this often leads them to have many harsh inner critic conversations. It is not possible to embrace a positive mindset if you are not able to accept your shortcomings and imperfections. What everyday life often consists of is a series of negative stereotypes that if seen through self-compassion, can help individuals develop a more positive relationship with themselves and in turn invite abundance mindset. 

Growth Mindset Vs Fixed Mindset
Growth Mindset Vs Fixed Mindset

A growth mindset culture goes beyond the classroom

These are a few examples of actionable ways in which a growth mindset can be implemented in a classroom. I do believe this is merely the tip of the iceberg though. True change can prevail when personal growth begins to be identified and viewed by educators and parents on equal par and not just complementary to successful academic performance. 

Young people in the vast majority feel rarely listened to and coaching parts from a core competency called "active listening", which would be the most important premise, to understand the student. Another key point in adolescents is little knowledge of themselves, due to the phase of the biological and hormonal change in which they are.

Coaching as a springboard for growth and intrinsic motivation.

In Coaching, a lot of work is done with intuition and body language, helping the professional to identify the emotional factor of the coachee and to be able to establish trust with him. In the coaching process, a teenager releases his fears, and embraces confidence, thus being able to fully know himself and respond to his own concerns, question his beliefs and move towards his desired goals using his creative ability to stimulate brain plasticity with guidance of personalised professional support. A coaching educational system implies self-inquiry and a view to preparing for the future, which complements the traditional educational system, based on the memory of aspects and concepts known from the past. 

Having more and more people with growth mindsets is the ultimate goal, but can take even adults years or a lifetime to achieve. A few workshops can provide good windows to look through, but real doors are opened when the work is done on a day-to-day basis and specific time is given to this, in parallel with academic education. 

We are in a challenging moment in our lives but also have powerful methods and an abundance of neuroscientific evidence by numerous scholars to make changes for ourselves and our future leaders (the students in our classrooms) toward success.

To continue this conversation with Goldie or ask her any questions please contact her directly here.