The Importance of Mindset

I’ve been working in Kindergarten classrooms lately. And I LOVE it! I was a little unsure about it as the program is so much different than when I taught Kindergarten a decade ago. For those of you that don’t know, the Kindergarten program is focussed on growth in a child centred, student-led play-based learning environment. Children are seen as capable and competent. There are no grades on the report card, but rather, information about how different skills are progressing. Kindergarten teachers get to write about progress and growth, rather than a measured and fixed grade. Growth was a big theme of the Kindergarten professional development day I recently attended, and I am loving it!

I am realising that in my music teaching I apply this mindset. I recently watched this video (below) that talks about the importance of mindset. It resonates with me because I see first hand how this influences my own children and students. I can really see the benefits of this growth mindset.

So what is mindset? It’s how we think about ability and talent. On the spectrum, there are two mindsets: “fixed” and “growth”. Those with a fixed mindset believe it’s innate and unchangeable, where accomplishments are measured and they are set (some people got it some don’t. See my rant on “you are so talented” like it’s some miraculous gift that didn’t take hundreds of hours of practice). They see critical feedback as a personal attack. Whereas those with a growth mindset see it as improvement through practice. They see critical feedback as a chance to improve, and that it’s based on their work on a specific day. They believe that you are in control of your abilities and you work to attain them, and believe in their capacity to learn and grow.

So why does this matter? Well, those with a growth mindset tend to accept challenges and work on improvement (what some measure as grit or persistence). With a fixed mindset, this setback might cause them to withdraw. The results of the studies mentioned below are amazing so I don’t want to spoil it here. When we foster growth and practice we are creating a love for learning. After all, the brain is continually growing (thanks to neuroplasticity). The growth mindset is the foundation for great learning.

We often encourage parents to praise their kids. This is fantastic! How we execute this praise can make a big difference. “That’s a really good score, good job!” fosters a fixed mindset, one where they are more focused on how they are judged by others and how they performed. “Wow, I can tell you worked really hard on this, I can really see your progress!” fosters a growth mindset, one more focussed on our learning. Okay, slight spoiler alert, in one of the studies mentioned the group receiving fixed mindset praise tended to choose puzzles they already knew that they were able to do, and didn’t improve over their initial score. Those in the growth mindset group chose ones that are more challenging, worked through those challenges, and improved. Whenever possible we should praise the process (not just the result), so our children can continue to work through challenges rather than avoid challenge and effort.

Mindset is bigger than one Ted Talk, and it can change depending on the day. So what can we do to encourage it though?
1) Recognise that growth is beneficial. Praise the process and their effort over the result.
2) Encourage your children or students to ask for and act on feedback.
3) Have high, challenging, and realistic expectations and communicate this to your students.
4) Create a growth culture that values learning, education, and development, share your abilities and teach others.
5) Encourage helpful self-talk, and questions. If you find yourself in a fixed mindset, you can change it to growth from “I can’t do it”, think “I can’t do it, yet.”


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Some of the topics we touched on in our Kindergarten Professional Development Day

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