Associate Professor Dr. Raihanah Mydin

LITERATURE AND GROWTH MINDSET: UNDERSTANDING CONFLICT, DEVELOPING GRIT

Abstract

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that between 10-20% of adolescents globally experience mental health issues. In the Malaysian context, the 2017 National Health and Morbidity Survey indicates that the number of youths suffering from depression and anxiety disorders have more than doubled since 2011. Another report states that six out of ten Malaysian youths suffer from some form of mental illness. 

Among the preventive measures encouraged by experts include creating awareness of the issue and developing strategies to manage it. One such strategy as explored within the field of positive psychology is through the harnessing of a growth mindset. The psychologist Professor Carol Dweck defines a growth mindset as a belief in the ever-evolving nature of our brain and its capacity to learn and grow through challenges.  A growth mindset, unlike a fixed mindset, can be cultivated irrespective of a person’s background or upbringing. Studies show that youth who have a growth mindset also have an elevated sense of mental wellbeing. 

In an age of heightened awareness of mental illness and its effect on the youth, how can educators from the field of humanities mobilize the student population and textual engagement towards developing a growth mindset? What can literary texts teach our youth about a growth mindset?

Literature is made up of narratives with themes that mirror the conflicts of humanity including anxiety, loneliness, depression, loss, and fear. Much like real life, the fictional characters are subjected to internal and/or external conflicts that affect the trajectory of their lives. How can teachers tap into the fictional world to create awareness about the value of grit in character development?  Can the fictional world be used to create dialogue with our learners about the importance of a growth mindset? This presentation considers these issues towards empowering both educators and learners on the importance of reading fiction towards the promotion of a growth mindset, specifically grit, among our youth.