Cultivate a growth mindset

Simply learning from a textbook is not enough. Building a holistic and resilience-based outlook will prove to help students in the long run

By Nisthula Nagarajan

Published: Wed 19 May 2021, 9:17 PM

Last updated: Wed 19 May 2021, 11:20 PM

Whether an educator or a student, those in education are constantly looking for strategies to implement to foster a positive outcome. Universities are genuinely dedicated to helping students discover their true potential. 

One increasingly popular teaching strategy has less to do with lesson plans and curriculum and more to do with a teacher's overall approach to student interaction and instruction. It's something Stanford University psychologist Dr Carol Dweck has spent much of her career studying - what she calls the 'growth mindset'. This is when students know they can develop their skills and talents through effort and persistence, as well as being receptive to lessons and feedback, generally believing they can improve through hard work and trying new learning methods. The education field has been listening intently.

As exciting as it may be, university can be a challenging time. The challenge isn't necessarily in any one aspect like academics or living alone or adjusting to the new system but in the combination of all of these things happening simultaneously. Adopting a growth mindset here is key. Embracing this concept will allow students to work through challenges faced during university instead of inducing feelings of panic and stress.

Here are some points to keep in mind as a student to grow holistically while investing in academia: 

Try to expand on answers. Elaborate on thoughts during discussion. It will reveal to the professor what has been understood while encouraging the processing of content at a deeper level. This demonstrates a core aspect of the growth mindset - subject matter expertise isn't inherent, but developed. As students elaborate on thoughts and responses, they should see the values of effort and critical thinking.

Mistakes lead to new learning. Celebrate mistakes because that is where learning really comes from. Take the time to learn from them and ask the instructor for feedback. Sometimes students can correct their mistakes on an assignment, and return it to be graded again. This process gives students the chance to turn their mistakes into learning opportunities and also rewards their efforts by allowing them to earn a better grade after making the corrections.

Seek out new challenges. Even though they may struggle or fail, the amount of growth students experience through their willingness to engage in the process to try things that ask one to stretch in new ways will be powerful and could have a profound influence, not only on other areas of life but also the approach to what it means to encounter challenge and difficulty in general.

Consistency is key. This isn't university-specific but can build a strong work ethic. Many students try to cram an entire term's work in one night before an exam. This is definitely not sustainable. It also induces high levels of stress that can take a toll on physical and mental health. The key is to see the time one puts daily into university work as an investment in oneself. When obstacles get in the way it's important that students seek support and take time to reflect on where they are and where they are determined to be.

Get inspired by other's success. This can be the hardest one to practise. When peers succeed it can lead to comparisons and a blow to self-esteem. With a growth mindset, one is expected to offer sincere congratulations and be motivated by success - including their own and the others around. It is best to avoid comparing two different paths, as no two paths to success will look alike. In this way each student can be inspired by each of their peers, also inducing a strong competitive spirit. 

Practise meaningful networking. This is one of the most commonly used words at university: network, networking, creating a network, going to a networking event, etc. Meaningful networking, however, is when one reaches out to someone with a goal in mind or knowing what they wish to gain from the conversation. Networking for the sake of doing it can be exhausting and disadvantageous. Do plenty of research and find someone that will genuinely achieve the goal in mind and send them a message. Make sure to follow up and always accept any opportunities for mentoring. Having a mentor will help aspirants understand the field and navigate their way through it.

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