ABILITY-EFFORT-ATTITUDE: How the Growth Mindset Affects Learning


I don’t know how! I can’t! I don’t want to! I don’t care!

Working in public education for 20+ years has afforded me the opportunity to observe some consistently true dynamics. One such interaction is the interplay between attitude, effort, and ability among students. In recent years there has been a push in education to understand and encourage the development of a “growth mindset” in learners. Carol Dweck has done extensive research and made some rather amazing discoveries, namely that encouraging students to enjoy the process of learning reaps a more favorable outcome than praising them for successes. The former fosters a learning environment more open to persevering through difficult tasks and tolerating mistakes while the latter creates an environment where students are more interested in mastery of a task, thus possibly avoiding difficult tasks that may result in mistakes and failures along the way.

A growth mindset views working hard as more desirable than being smart. Dr. Dweck states, “This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your Sunflower_sprout_cefforts. Although people may differ in every which way in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments, everyone can change and grow through application and experience.” Believing this gives students a powerful perspective from which to springboard their learning.

With this in mind, this interactive lesson illustrates, in a visual way, how these three important attributes affect learning in school. Truth be told, these three attributes affect pretty much anything a person learns, not just academics. This activity can be generalized for playing sports, playing an instrument, developing a hobby, performing on stage, etc., and shows participants that hard work, persistence, and a positive attitude are keys to learning!

ability effort attitude

Sunflower clip art credit: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/The-Traveling-Artist

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