A Growth Mindset and Computer Science

As a teacher I am often given insets to keep me up to date with the latest learning strategies and theories.

One such theory that has interested me recently is the idea of a ‘Growth Mindset’, theorised by Carol Dweck.

Her site, http://mindsetonline.com/ explains the difference between two different mindsets, a fixed and a growth mindset:

‘In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.’

This is extremely important especially in computer science with programming. In my opinion, it’s a lot like trying to run before learning to walk properly. With programming you cannot expect to be able to create amazing, efficient programs off the bat. It takes a lot of time and a lot of practice. When I first started programming, I was at university studying Java. I didn’t understand it for nearly two weeks, as a lot of the concepts were alien to me and I just didn’t see the point to any of it. After immersing myself in it, day in, day out for several weeks, something finally clicked.

That’s my point, I persisted with it and it most certainly paid off. If you give up at the first hurdle, you won’t get anywhere. We were told about four different types of people:

  1. Naturally intelligent, fixed mindset – these people often do great and flourish early. That is, until they hit an obstacle and give up, as they do not want a challenge in case they fail at it and lose face.
  2. Not the brightest spark, growth mindset – these people often end up overtaking those people in type 1. This is because they persist, often catching up and overtaking those in category 1. They put an awful lot of effort into what they do.
  3. Naturally intelligent, growth mindset – this is the ideal mindset.
  4. Not the brightest spark, fixed mindset – these people think they have a fixed intelligence and cannot progress, they will give up at the first hurdle. Anything they are ‘good’ at, is a ‘Gift’.

I find the above very interesting. One of the main parts of programming is debugging code and finding issues and resolving them. If a person with a fixed mindset tries to learn programming and code, they will most likely give up on a program and ask someone else to do it or solve the program for them. Therefore, in my opinion, to be a great programmer, it is essential that one has a growth mindset. Have a look at the attached picture for more info.


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