Growth Mindset in Language Education
Never in our history does it seem more urgent than now to cultivate and harness critical-thinking skills in order to grapple with contemporary challenges. Accelerated by globalization, unprecedented technological developments, impactful demographic changes, great ecological disasters, and unique geopolitical trends have brought about tremendous disruption to our lives—the recent COVID-19 outbreak is an extreme case in point. We are currently living in a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) (Mack et al., 2016). Against the backdrop of this ever-changing VUCA environment, all of us (e.g., students, teachers, researchers, administrators, and policy makers) must be able to reorient and recreate ourselves, as well as language education, so that our day-to-day practice and research can cater to language teaching and learning in the new times.
A growth mindset, proposed by Professor Carol Dweck at Stanford University in her book Mindset (2006), describes individuals who regard that their inherent abilities and aptitudes can be enhanced over time by means of hard work, well thought-out strategies, and input from others. Those with a growth mindset thus strive to achieve what they want by investing plenteous time, motivation, and attention into improvement. They deem that their intelligence and skills can be refined with dedication and persistence—by seeking out inspiration in others’ success. The opposite of a growth mindset is a fixed mindset. While those with a growth mindset ascribe success and failure to the extent of work one puts in, those with a fixed mindset attribute them to the level of ability one innately possesses. Dweck put it aptly:
When you enter a mindset, you enter a new world. In one world (the world of fixed traits) success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other (the world of changing qualities) it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself.
People with a growth mindset welcome obstacles, rather than shun them, embrace one’s strengths, rather than weaknesses, and focus on the processes, rather than results. It is my hope that the 2023 JALT conference will become a platform for all of us to reflect on the past, examine the present, and envision the future—developing and exploring, with a growth mindset, as important stakeholders in language education. A growth mindset allows us to acquire a more sophisticated understanding about who we can be and what we can do, thereby guiding us to consider making changes and taking steps for the better future.