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  • Writer's picturealicjapawluczuk

Fixed & Growth Mindset

After successfully completing my first week as a research student, I decided to seriously think about my coping strategies for the next three years. As always, Google came in handy.

It was my first week, which meant loads of meetings, chatting to new colleagues and setting up my virtual work system. I managed to connect my folders, emails, online libraries and started with my literature review as soon as I could. My supervisor advised me to "write as I go", so over the next week, I would maniacally read and take notes, discovering the enormous amounts of literature that is out there (!). As always, my inner voice kept telling me "speed things up a little", resulting in a mixture of emotions - excitement & anxiety.

As much as I didn't want to admit it, I was a little bit anxious about switching the sides and becoming "the learner" again. This very subtle anxiety reminds me of the times, when I would be asked to sit in front of the camera, instead of what I know the best - filming & teaching.

At the same time however, I was super excited about being able to study the fascinating topics that have been influencing my work for as a Digital Media Educator. I am only into the second week of literature review and am already overwhelmed with the amount of fascinating theories and projects. I am learning - and it feels great!

BUT, how do I know if I am learning enough?


I obviously decided to ask Dr.Google about my mixture of concerns and anxieties. Among hundreds of results, I came across the idea of Fixed and Growth Mindset, which in a way, helped me to adjust my attitude towards my studying experience. After learning a little bit about it, I've decided to open my mind to this new experience and all exciting challenges it brings ahead. ( well, at least for now!)

Fixed & Growth Mindset

The concept of Mindset was developed by an American psychologist Carol Dweck, who had been researching personality and intelligence developments in children and adults for over 20 years. According to Dweck, there are two types of mindset: Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset. The main difference between the two is how you perceive your intelligence and talents.

In fixed mindset, people consider their intelligence as a fixed trait:

"Believing that 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. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics."

The main problem with the fixed mindset, is the fact that by solely focusing on maintaining your reputation, you do not give yourself a permission to fail and therefore gain new learning experiences. People with fixed-mindset are described as constantly striving for success and terrified of failures. Additionally they tend to be more focused on maintaining their “reputation” rather then taking the risk to test and develop their skills further. Adopting this approach, definitely deprives you from exploring new learning opportunities and creative ideas.

On the contrary, people with Growth Mindset are believed to perceive their talents and intelligence as "work in progress" . According to them, intelligence and creativity can be developed through regular work. This approach creates room for passionate learning experience, without "the hunger for approval".

"Not only are people with this mindset not discouraged by failure, but they don’t actually see themselves as failing in those situations — they see themselves as learning"

Growth mindset & academic work

Learning about Dweck's theory, helped me to realise that I was approaching most of my professional work with the growth mindset. As a digital practitioner I would often try and fail ( and then try and try again). Experimenting with different projects' ideas was always the most exciting of my work. Is academic work any different? I am yet to find out.

However, for now, I would like to approach my PhD experience as "work in progress" kind of thing . I am guessing my performance will be scrutinised and evaluated on a regular basis, which is an essential part of developing my skills further.

Failure can only make you anxious, if you perceive as it as your enemy. I prefer to think of it as an opportunity to test and strengthen my skills.

Video: Carol Dweck, "Developing a Growth Mindset

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