The Importance of Growth Mindset and Neuroplasticity
You have probably heard the terms growth mindset and neuroplasticity being bandied about for several years now. But what do they mean and how can they help students?
Growth mindset, a term coined by psychologist Carol Dweck, describes how we perceive ourselves.
When we have a fixed mindset, we believe that things about us cannot change. For instance, a student who struggles to learn their times tables might believe they will never be good at math.
With a growth mindset, the student opens to the possibility that while he might struggle with math at the moment, with practice, help, and perseverance, he can become skilled at math. Just this change in self-perception puts the student on the road to new behaviors which can eventually change his mindset and help him feel successful.
Neuroplasticity is what actually happens in your brain when you make changes like this. Scientists used to think that our brains were fixed after childhood, but research has now shown we can alter the pathways in our brain when we focus on one thing instead of another. You can learn more about how this works by watching the video above.
When the math student starts getting extra help and practicing more often, he causes literal changes to his neural pathways and strengthens his math ability and, as a result, his belief in himself.
I like to show this video to students when they are feeling especially frustrated with a particular task or class so that they can learn that things do not always have to be the way they are at the moment. I remind them that there are always avenues they can take toward change, and while those paths may not be easy, they are almost always rewarding.