Science of Learning

Growth Mindset

Authors: Kari L. Jordan BLOG

“No matter how hard I practice I’ll never be able to dunk a basketball.”

Each of us is born with a unique set of interests. Along the way we develop beliefs about our interests, and those beliefs determine whether we choose to cultivate our interests as we progress through adulthood.

For example, I think I’m a pretty “okay” singer, but I’ve always wanted to be a dynamic performer and sing in front of large audiences. Therefore, I learned to read music, joined several choruses and ensembles over the years, and frequently sing karaoke. I even auditioned for the American television series The Voice!

This describes what Carol Dweck calls the growth mindset. Those having a growth mindset believe any skill or ability can be acquired if one truly invests time, study, and effort.

You may think, on the contrary, that our unique interests and qualities are fixed. “No matter how hard I practice I’ll never be able to dunk a basketball.” This describes Dweck’s fixed mindset, or, the belief that our interests are innate, and failure to succeed in a particular area means one simply lacks the necessary abilities.

Let’s think about these two mindsets, growth and fixed, in the context of Data Carpentry’s instructor training and workshops. What kind of instructors would we arm our communities with if we trained them with a fixed mindset? An instructor with a fixed mindset would tell our learners, unless you’re brilliant and already have a knack for programming, you’ll not be able to develop the skills you learned in this workshop to conduct meaningful (and reproducible) research.

Aren’t you glad our instructors embody a growth mindset?

Without naming any names I’d love to hear about an experience you had with an instructor who embodied a growth mindset. What did s/he say to you to get you to invest time and effort into cultivating your data management and analysis skills? Tell us your story below.

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