Mindset matters, but so does classroom culture

Each student’s mindset, his or her sense of self-efficacy and orientation to mastery, helps determine the child’s willingness to try again and seek alternative paths after failure. Having a growth mindset, however, might not be enough to ensure perseverance in the classroom, according to a group of researchers in Germany.

Gabriele Steuer and her colleagues investigated the impact of what they call the perceived “error climate” in the classroom. If the students feel that their grades will suffer or that they will feel humiliated in front of their classmates when they risk an answer that turns out wrong, they are much less willing to make – and learn – from mistakes.

Ludologist Jesper Juul, author of The Art of Failure, similarly argues that a student’s willingness to pursue failure in games disappears when he senses he is being observed and evaluated. Individual mindset is important, but context matters as well. We need to create classroom cultures that welcome risk-taking as part of the learning process while building individual student confidence and competence. Then we can make a lasting difference.