Choosing VCE Electives — Remembering the Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

We’ve discussed the Fixed versus Growth mindset model on the blog a few times.

It’s something worth noting and considering in many aspects of parenting.

But keeping the principles in mind when helping your kids pick VCE electives can be particularly beneficial for their long-term goals.

A recent article in The Atlantic discusses how a Fixed mindset inadvertently affects our children in their future study choices.

For example, for most students, science and maths subjects will be challenging — unlike other subjects, they’re not ‘intuitive’, or ‘easy’.

Success in these subjects requires repeated trial and error.

And the routine ‘failures’ as part of the learning process can quash students’ self esteem, and make them question their abilities.

In response, many parents — with the best of intentions — will comfort their child by saying ‘you’re just not a natural scientist’ or a ‘maths person’…

And they will redirect their praise onto other areas where the child may be more naturally gifted.

This is where the Fixed mindset comes into play.

In pushing praise onto areas of achievement or ability, your child comes to believe that their ability is Fixed — so what’s the point of trying harder when it won’t affect the outcome?

Or worse, what’s the point of trying at all?

Carol Dweck — professor of psychology at Stanford University — conducted dozens of studies with kids over the past 20 years, evaluating the impact of praise and self-esteem on academic achievement.

The findings showed that within this Fixed mindset model, kids became vulnerable…

‘They were not willing to take on challenges that might test their intelligence, and they weren’t resilient to obstacles.’

And while not everyone will be interested in maths or science, and the subjects will be challenging, they can also be important for a huge variety of future study and career paths, from engineering to medicine.

So if your child struggles with these subjects, but thinks they may want to work in a related field, encourage them to stick with them, and redirect your attention to ‘Process Praise’:

  • More narrating and commenting on what they are doing,
  • More praise for the strategies they are using, and
  • More praise for attention and persistence.

Dweck’s studies found that this kind of praise was powerful at even very young ages, with babies receiving Process Praise showing signs of a Growth mindset and a desire for challenge five years later.

Importantly, remember and remind your children that High School is a wonderful and nurturing opportunity for learning that they (most likely) won’t have again in their lives.

They could take the easy path, and do subjects that they will succeed in easily and comfortably, without as much effort (or interest)…

Or, they could utilise the opportunity to challenge themselves, and grow and learn in the process.

Ultimately, they will likely decide what is the best course of action for them.

But you can help by placing your praise in the right areas, so that they don’t have to question their ability, or their path in terms of it.

Further Reading:

The Problem with Championing ‘Success’ Over Kid’s Love of Learning

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