Most people are aware of the power of belief. What we believe about ourselves and others can be empowering or limiting and have consequences that can range from amusing to horrifying. The idea that intelligence is fixed is one such belief. It affects both how we learn as students and how we teach as educators.

The feedback we receive from an early age, and as students, can create an empowering or limiting narrative for each of us as learners and an entrenched mindset. A student with a limiting narrative and mindset may be closed to their own potential for growth or change. Educators can inadvertently re-enforce existing narratives and mindsets by the way in which they encourage and reward students’ learning and achievements.

“I’m dreading STATS 193 – I’m terrible with numbers – always have been.”

“I hate writing – which majors don’t involve much writing?”

“I have a short attention span and get bored really easily – that’s why I get bad marks – everyone says so.”

So does your mindset empower you or limit you? Disrupting an entrenched mindset is difficult. For the fortunate, a disrupting event or experience can become the catalyst for re-examining the existing narrative and building a new, more enabling one. Recently, I encountered two students whose narratives as learners had been challenged with life-changing consequences for them. The transition to university had provided a series of disrupting events and experiences that served as the catalyst for a change to their narrative and the accompanying mindsets about themselves as learners. I recall the slightly bewildered expression of one of the students, as he tried to explain how he felt, having discovered that he could no longer rely on the mindset that had previously defined his academic capabilities. He is now fearless about his learning as he cannot and does not assume that he cannot understand something new. He is experiencing intelligence not as 2-D, geometric image with fixed dimensions but as the product of the brain,  a living and evolving entity of huge complexity, and immeasurable capacity to learn.

Carol Dweck is an internationally renowned Psychologist and authority on the origins of mindsets and how these impact on all of us in the many roles and contexts we experience in our lives. In her recent TedTalk, ‘The Power of Believing that You Can Improve’  she communicates some powerful messages about mindsets in learners. These constrain the brain’s capabilities, and as a result, individuals’ academic achievements and life aspirations. She sets out to prove that developing ‘persistence’ in learners can change this.  Using case studies in some inner city schools in the US, she proves that a fundamental shift that encourages and rewards ‘persistence’ in learners, creates a culture of learning, confident learners and a dramatic change in academic results.

What she has to say is inspiring, informative and motivational. YOU can make a change TODAY to become a more accomplished learner.

Watch the Ted talk.