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  • Writer's pictureLaura Sandefer


At Acton, everyone is learning and growing all the time – adults included. This is because we are fueled by element #2 of the Acton learner driven model: Growth Mindset.

How people think about their abilities and intellect impacts learning and predicts success as proven through the remarkable work of Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck. Her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” is a must-read for guides at Acton Academy. A short excerpt describes the impact of mindset:

“Believing your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset — creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character — well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. … Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?… There’s another mindset in which these traits are not simply a hand you’re dealt and have to live with, always trying to convince yourself and others that you have a royal flush when you’re secretly worried it’s a pair of tens. In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.”

A growth mindset means you can learn anything with effort and time. Strategy, struggle, mistakes, resilience and grit become common everyday experiences in relation to learning.

Growth mindset can be observed at Acton mainly in the language used, and specifically, how we praise. For example, rather than saying, “You are so smart!” we say, “Wow! I can tell you worked really hard on that! Tell me about the strategies you used.”

Dr. Dweck says: “If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach them to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence. Praising children’s intelligence harms motivation and it harms performance.”

Take it from a recovering fixed mindset learner, element #2 opens up the world of possibility!

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