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College Preparedness: Recovering from the PandemicSuzanne Shaffer
As students reflect on the past semester, or get ready to start a new academic year, an area they may need help with is what researchers call “mindset,” or the way someone views learning and the struggles that can accompany doing something hard.
As a college professor and parent, a day doesn't go by that I don’t hear a student (or my own kid!) express concern about the challenges they face. It’s their response to the challenges — their mindset — that can help them overcome self-doubt and difficulty and grow as learners throughout life.
Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford who has spent decades studying what makes some people more successful than others, calls the belief that everyone can improve a skill with hard work and focus “growth mindset.” You may be familiar with growth mindset and its counterpart “fixed mindset,” which is the belief that talent or intelligence is inborn and there’s nothing one can do to improve it.
“I’m not good at ______.” (Fill in the blank with the academic subject that’s giving them trouble.)
“I’ll never get better at _____.” (Fill in the blank with whatever they’re struggling with.)
"This is hard, and I don’t like the course anyway."
Students who say they are "bad at math," for example, have a fixed mindset about learning math, which could have a negative impact on their grades.
Cleaning out the fixed mindset statements and replacing them with growth mindset mantras takes time and support. If your student expresses attitudes or beliefs about their abilities similar to the statements above, then you have an opportunity to help them throw out those statements and replace them with better ones:
“With practice, I can learn how to become better at math.”
“By practicing problem sets and learning from my mistakes, I can learn how to answer questions correctly.”
“What I’m learning in this course will help me in other courses and in my life.”
The results are clear: Getting rid of negative self-talk and replacing it with growth mindset statements will set the stage for college success.