Mindset by Carol Dweck

If you have not read Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, you cannot understand how your view of your students affects their outcome. Published in 2007 by Ballantine Books, Dweck’s book remains a constant among teachers and their professional learning networks.

Dweck’s premise is simple.  Individuals either have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.  Individuals with a fixed mindset believe “qualities are carved in stone,” and individuals in this mindset are always rushing to prove their qualities. In this mindset, individuals are believed to have gifts or talents that are unattainable by others.

A growth mindset, however, “is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.” Gifts or talents they have not received do not limit one’s true potential.  In this mindset effort is praised, not giftedness or talent.

From these two mindsets Dweck delves into what these two views mean for parents, teachers, corporate managers, professional athletes, artists, etc. Doing so, she fills her work with examples of individuals who she believes fit into either mindset, solidifying her description of both paradigms.

As a teacher, this book has changed how I give encouragement to students. Rather than glorifying great work or outcomes, I praise the effort to achieve the outcomes.  A fixed mindset only focuses on the outcome, and slowly the focus drifts to how special one is to have reached an outcome. The growth mindset praises the effort, opening the routes to success to all who work hard. In my classroom, I praise those who work to decode difficult texts and apply this knowledge to new situations. While I could praise the end result, this tends to create a fixed mindset in students; they might believe they are so special for having achieved a certain plateau. By praising the work, students remain focused on the effort applied to achieve the goal.

As a parent, I now take this approach with my sons. I encourage them to continue practicing their drawing, sports, schoolwork, singing, drama, etc. I try not to focus on the goals they scored, the picture they colored, or the song they completed. While they receive the hugs and accolades, I continually remind them of the hard work they put in to achieve those results. My son now reminds his younger brothers that with effort anything is possible.

Dweck’s book does become repetitive, as her mindsets are explained in different professions.  However, this also makes the book easier to read. You can pick and choose which chapters to read, knowing the ideas are very similar. Even without this structure, the book is a very easy read. While research studies are referenced throughout the book, these references to not block the flow of ideas with overly scholarly thought.

If your school uses Dweck’s book for a voluntary book study, do not pass by the opportunity to read a book that will change your view of how people achieve success.


3 thoughts on “Mindset by Carol Dweck

  1. theiamprogram September 27, 2012 / 9:49 pm

    very very interesting! Anything that suggests that our psychological state and that of our teachers affects learning is certainly on the right track in my opinion

    • Justin Staub, Ed.D. October 15, 2012 / 5:35 pm

      Teachers need to stop relying entirely on “gut intuition.” Yes, while this feeling is likely a quantifiable characteristic, we also need to recognize as teachers we need to quantify and explain our processes. I agree, any work that begins to explain the “gut feeling” we sometimes operate on is good!

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