Research

A good learning process

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    You are what you think

    Yes, I've made a mistake!

    Have you ever reacted this way to a mistake you have made? Then it is likely that you have a developing mindset.

    The American psychologist and researcher Carol Dweck has shown that a person's attitude towards challenges and adversity has a major impact on how they live their lives. A common phrase is - you are what you think.

    Carol Dweck distinguishes between two mindsets - the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. Students with a fixed mindset experience their intelligence as immutable. These students may tend to react negatively when they face challenges and adversity. On the other hand, students with a developing mindset experience that intelligence is dynamic and formable. These students see challenges and adversity as an opportunity for self-improvement and intellectual development.

    It is important to point out that your mindset depends on the situation you are in. You may well have one mindset in one situation and another in another situation. For example, one can have a developing mindset when practicing his/her sport, but a stuck when studying. A growth mindset is not more right than a fixed mindset and vice-versa. But it has been proven that the path to better learning is linked to challenges and to making mistakes.

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    Test your mindset

    If you are what you think - are you then fixed in your way of thinking or do you rather develop? Test yourself and get a view on how you can set a framework that promotes your learning and well-being.

    Read the statements below and assess how much you agree in them.

    1. I don't like to say anything in larger assemblies as I'm afraid to say something wrong or stupid.
    2. I quickly lose my enthusiasm when I face a challenge.
    3. I'm driven by praise and high marks.
    4. Sometimes I say no to a (professional) challenge if I'm unsure how to solve it.
    5. I often get sad when I receive criticism of my (professional) work.
    6. I quickly move on to the next task if the first task is too difficult or challenging.
    7. I prefer a (professional) task if I know in advance how to solve it.
    8. I know my strengths and weaknesses, and I prefer to concentrate on how to develop my strengths.
    9. I think intelligence is crucial for how well you understand texts and tasks.
    10. I care most about which marks I get.
    11. I find it hard to accept when a task requires more of me than I first anticipated.
    12. I often find it difficult to understand or solve a task due to e.g. noises around me or notifications on Facebook.

    Can you recognize yourself? If you agree or predominantly agree with these statements, you most likely have a fixed mindset. By focusing on your mindset - e.g. how you think - you can move the focus from performing to learning. The learning culture gives room to fail, and it focuses on what we can learn from the processes that did not go as we expected. Research shows that the people who dare in the process and learn from their mistakes have greater motivation for the tasks they throw themselves into. This inner motivation provides better well-being and increases your learning outcome.

    You can try to consider the following: 

    • What do you feel when you fail?
    • How do you react when you make a mistake?
    • Are you afraid of failing or is failing something you see as an opportunity to learn?

    You can also try to identify what holds you back and talk with e.g. a student counselor on the specific challenges that prevent you from stepping out of your comfort zone.

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    Start your learning process now

    You can start the good learning process today by thinking: "I can't figure it out right now, but practice makes perfect" instead of "This is too difficult. I give up". Remember that every mistake you make is progress.

    If you want to read more about Mindset, there are countless articles on the subject on the Internet. You are also welcome to stop by AAU Student Guidance and have a chat with one of us student counselors about how to work on a good learning process.

    Any mistake you make is another step in your development and path to succes!


    Keep in mind that everybody feels vulnerable when taking a chance. So give your fellow student a high five when he or she is brave enough to risk making a mistake!

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    An inspirational story

    There are many examples of people who have developed their potential by failing. One of these is the basketball player Michael Jordan.