The PEAR Institute: Growth Mindset

This post is part of a series about the workshop presentations delivered at the 2018 ACT Skills Summit.


Growth Mindset involves believing that talent and intelligence can be developed and improved through continued learning, practice, and effort.

Caitlin McCormick, Senior Manager of Training and Coaching at The PEAR Institute, shared with attendees of the Growth Mindset research block about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) approaches to Growth Mindset interventions. Caitlin shared that CBT approaches are rooted in the fundamental principle that cognitions play a significant and primary role in the development of responses to situations. The prevailing thought that events instigate responses is actually not completely true; rather actions that take place in response to events are first filtered by the subjects automatic thoughts, or cognitions. However, altering one’s mindset can change one’s cognitions, which in turn can affect responses and outcomes from a situation.

McCormick outlined five components about how mindsets, cognitions, and outcomes are related:

  1. Mindsets impact our growth in all areas. These can be mindsets about our learning, or even mindsets about ourselves as people.
  2. Cognitions affect our reactions to events. Being praised for quality can rather than for effort can lead to a person feeling unsuccessful even when they have worked very hard at something and are improving at it.
  3. Cognitions about stress impact how stress affects us. If people are trained to become paralyzed by stress rather than motivated, they will be much less comfortable in tense situations.
  4. Cognitions about the nature of struggle inform how we react when times are hard. If struggle is seen as growth, it can be much more productive than seeing struggle as failure.
  5. Mindsets are self-reinforcing and can intensify over time. This applies to growth and fixed mindsets.

After leading an activity in which participants were asked to identify possible mindsets, cognitions, and outcomes for a scenario, McCormick then offered some possibilities for how educators can change mindsets in their students using PEAR’s Clover Model. The Clover Model is a whole-child approach to development and learning, emphasizing Belonging, Reflection, Active Engagement, and Assertiveness. In Belonging, students build a sense of self through the eyes of those they are close to, feel safer taking risks with people they have close relationships with, and are less affected by the phenomenon of Stereotype Threat when they feel like they belong. Through Assertiveness, students can voice their cognitions, which is vital since unexpressed mindsets are usually not challenged or changed. And by Reflecting, students can take time to metacognate, and recognize what their own mindsets and cognitions might be.

Implications for Practice:

  • Be conscious of language; focus on process not product
  • Normalize practice and failure
  • Give time and tools for reflecting on thoughts
  • Invest in strong relationships

Materials from this session as well as the rest of the sessions from the 2018 ACT Skills Summit can be found here.