Practising a growth mindset
The process of learning
a board game is a potent tool for practising your growth mindset
. In a short amount of time, you can start with fixed mindset symptoms, such as:
- feeling intimidated about learning something new
- feeling afraid that you won't feel intelligent
- feeling that it's too complicated for you
and achieve a growth mindset
- becoming comfortable with the process of learning something completely new
- seeing that there is a natural progression, from ignorance to familiarity, that everybody goes through
- proving to yourself that effort and learning opens up new horizons and makes everything seem easier
Why board games?
Board games (especially Euro-style games, see "Categories of Games," below) are particularly good for cognitive training and practising the growth mindset
because they provide clear feedback, they tend to be fun little laboratories for cognitive development (each game tends to be its own discrete mathematics-based world) instead of being oriented towards escapism, and they encourage thinking about other players' motivations and perspectives.
As a result of practising a growth mindset with board games:
- future learning becomes less effortful
- you will be more likely to embrace future efforts to learn
- you may be better equipped to handle learning in areas without clear feedback
How to practise
In order to practise the learning process with a board game,
- pick a game that isn't too long to play (10 to 60 minutes). See "Categories of Games," below.
- practise in an environment that makes it easy to learn from mistakes, such as a friend who already knows the game, or a computerised platform that enforces the game rules
- don't practise too much at once: spaced learning is more effective. You will learn much better if you try the game every week, instead of trying over and over again on the same day.
- practise for a half an hour a couple times a week. Just let the learning happen over time. Look back on your progress every couple weeks to remind yourself of how fast learning and practice can pay off.
- the cognitive benefits of mastering one game have diminishing returns. You'll develop faster by challenging yourself with learning new games instead of investing yourself in one game. Remember, the goal isn't to learn the game itself — it's to learn about your learning process, about thinking in new ways, and about various cognitive skills that are practised within each specific game, such as resource management, planning, risk management, and thinking about other people's perspectives.
Categories of games
For the purposes of these learning exercises, the following categories will be helpful:
- Eurogames (so-called because they first become popular in Germany) are board or card games with family-friendly themes, interesting mechanics, indirect competition (lots of interaction, but not outright nastiness), interesting choices, and a short playing time. Some well-known Eurogames are Settlers of Catan, Carcassone, Puerto Rico, and Ticket to Ride.
- Abstract games and card games, such as Go, Chess, or Bridge, can also be a good learning tool. They tend to be shorter, and focus on mechanics and interaction. However, because they tend to have very simple mechanics and hard-to-learn abstract strategies, they don't provide such a rich middle ground for learning to learn as Eurogames do.
- Dice-heavy games, such as Parcheesi, Monopoly, or Risk, may still be worthwhile, but they often take too long, tend to become more unbalanced towards the end of the game, and interesting choices are often diluted with a lot of intermediate steps or dice-rolling.
- Thematic games that seek to recreate a particular atmosphere tend to be more oriented towards a hobby or entertainment audience, and may be less useful for cognitive training or growth mindset training.
- Some videogames may be worthwhile as a learning challenge, but they are usually designed with principles of behaviour modification that may not only induce addictive behaviour, but also cause effort to be associated with "trying more" instead of "trying smarter." In addition, sometimes their game mechanics or rhythm may obscure what player interactions do exist.