To maximize learning, experts are encouraging teachers and students to shift from a fixed mindset, based on a student’s innate talents and strengths, to a growth mindset, focused on strategies to make new brain connections through input from others and learning from mistakes. Carolyn Woo of Purdue University suggests that “IQ and college entrance tests lean toward a fixed mindset, as they employ a snapshot in time as indicators of future potential”. It does not follow, however, that a student’s score must merely be a summary of his fixed assets, therefore unchangeable. Effort is a key to change, but the tests are designed to deny admission to better scores through mere practice. Let’s consider how Carol Dweck’s elements of a growth mindset will unlock better scores. In her book Mindset: the New Psychology of Success, Dweck asserts that seeking help from others, trying new strategies, and capitalizing on setbacks foster a growth mindset which improves learning and outcomes. A growth mindset toward the tests can help students offer a better snapshot and even improve their academic skills for college.
The commitment to growth often entails seeking expert help. Students who engage a tutor for test prep help will reap a myriad of benefits leading to higher scores. Tutors can keep a student oriented toward goals for score improvement. Tutors can craft an individualized program for success, addressing weak areas while leveraging strengths. Dweck encourages teaching professionals to build an awareness of growth mindset theory into an education program. Tutors can build a growth mindset in their students by raising their awareness of the brain’s ability to grow: “every time [students] stretch themselves, work hard, and learn something new, their brain forms new connections and… they become smarter. So teaching growth mindset in the context of test prep learning “can have a substantial impact on their grades and achievement test score.”
Trying new strategies is often a key to better scores. A growth oriented tutor will be on the watch for the thought processes that students use to answer questions and solve problems. Moreover, a tutor will build a self-awareness into students so they can assess and change their own strategies. Students can endeavor to answer strategic questions: How long should I spend mapping a reading passage? In what order should I work the problems? What are my strategies for working the various question types? The possibilities for growth are endless, as is the potential for improvement!
Students must learn to embrace their mistakes. Capitalizing on setbacks through test reviews yields higher scores. According to Dweck, students at all skill levels must be…taught to enjoy challenges, effort, and mistakes. When a student embraces her mistakes and commits to a new way to approach a problem–which happens many times during the course of a tutor-led review session–her brain forms new connections and her testing skills grow.
These proven growth-mindset strategies can improve a student’s critical thinking, reasoning, and problem solving skills, giving her a higher fixed score snapshot, making her appear smarter, which she actually is! Studies with students from preschool to adult show significant gains in tests on fluid intelligence (the ability to reason and solve problems) after developing a growth mindset. Practice is a key component to better test scores. Practice combined with tutoring, new strategies, and test review is an unbeatable combination for success.