Friday, June 27, 2014


Carol S. Dweck has become a hugely recognized name since the 2006 publication of her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success- How We Can Learn to Fulfill our Potential. I had read about the book, heard about it and finally have gotten around to reading it. In it she describe two types of mindsets- growth and fixed. I was surprised to see how she sees both in some people. I had thought we were one or the other. I was further intrigued by how limited interventions can greatly influence mindset and the potential for success.

The diagrams below are modifications from p. 245 in her book and describe the slope that each mindset puts a person on.

Throughout the text she describes both well-known people and people from her daily interactions with one predominant mindset or another. She discusses how their mindset either sets them up to learn from their mistakes or implode from their mistakes. These examples illustrate the importance of having a mindset that is open to growth.

In school, all to often we only reward success. We minimize effort, in part because we do not recognize how effort is involved. For my daughter who has refused to study for an exam since I stopped making her in third grade because she has learned it all long before the test, very little effort is involved in school other than showing up. Some of the students with whom I work professionally try very hard and encounter very limited success. Unfortunately we reward the result and often assume a level of effort related to it. We need to be careful how we talk about success so as to see it as a result of work. While everyone has some things which come easier to them than others, it is important to push the kids in their "easy" areas to apply effort so that they learn how to deal with the frustrations related to failure and that we recognize how hard they might have to work in their other areas and encourage them to push through the challenges and see them as stepping stones to success rather than road blocks.

One of the tools of encouragement is praise. Much research has been done regarding praise. We know that we should praise 3-4 times as often as we criticize. We know that praise should be specific. "Your reading rate has improved three words per minute this week," rather than "good job reading." According to Dweck, we need to include the information about mindset as well. We can indicate the work it takes to get there: "You have read this passage four times and each time your reading rate increased. You can see your progress on the chart. More importantly, when you read the new passage your reading rate was higher than on the first time through the last passage. That's hard work paying off." Many authors have recently written about feedback. We need to spend our time giving constructive feedback that focuses in on work leading to improvement rather than a quick thumbs up to signify succcess.

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