#Mindset by Carol Dweck
The book mindset reminded me of talking to a friend. The simplicity and flow of stories created an easy book about a fascinating topic. In Mindset, Carol Dweck discuss the study in psychology of people’s own beliefs have power. Her definitions of the two mindsets is perfect: “Believing that your qualities are carved in stone – the fixed mindset- creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over.” “This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.” That doesn’t mean that anyone can be a classic violinist, but it does mean that the possibilities of what we can create are unknown.
Carol Dweck discusses that the same person can have a growth mindset at certain mindset, but a fixed mindset at work. She asks “When do you feel smart: when you’re flawless or when your learning?” Growth mindset people thrive in challenges, whereas fixed mindset people thrive on success.
NASA believes there is potential for those who have had significant failures and bounced back from them. They have rejected applicants for astronauts who have a pure history of success. A famous ballet teacher, Marina Semyonova, selected her students based on those who were energized by criticism.
John McEnroe had a fixed mindset and ended up blaming others for mistakes that he made. Michael Jordan had a growth mindset. He didn’t even make his middle school basketball team and he worked hard to develop his abilities.
The movie “Groundhog Day” is the perfect example of someone with a fixed mindset who after many, many repeated days realizes that he can change and has a growth mindset at the end of the movie. Carol Dweck believes you can change. It is not that all growth mindset people are high achievers. But they learn from their mistakes and know that they can try to grow. “The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome.”
This mindset theory has implications for the educational world. Think of Jaime Escalante (of Stand and Deliver fame) who took his students and taught them Calculus. Think of Marva Collins who worked with inner-city Chicago kids. She taught second grade and had her students reading fifth grade reader and authors such as Shakespeare, Poe, Frost and Dickinson. Teachers need to believe that all students can grow. In today’s fast changing educational climate, teachers need to believe that they themselves can grow.
The growth mindset believes that success is when we are learning and improving, they want to take charge of the process that brings and maintains success. But for the fixed mindset success is superiority and these people blame others when success does not find them. Fixed mindset people look for their ability and talent to make you successful. They do not take control of motivation or ability.
The relationship chapter made me laugh a little because the fixed mindset people seem to think “If you have to work at it, it wasn’t meant to be.” I have known so many people who believe that. So crazy! I also like “My partner should know what I think, feel, and need…” Shyness usually is worse for fixed mindset people because they are more concerned with judgement. Along with this most bullies seem to be fixed mindset because they get a boost of self-esteem. To help this in schools, we must create an atmosphere of collaboration and self-improvement, not one of judgment.
As parents and teachers every word we say can give them the fixed or growth message. Do you want your children or students to believe they have permanent traits and they are being judged or that they are a developing person? Loved this quote from the author “you know, in France, when they’re nice to you, you feel like you’ve passed a test. But in Italy, there is no test.” That is the difference between growth and fixed. As adults we need to encourage that “skills and achievement come through commitment and effort.” The book also states that “the great teachers believe in the growth of the intellect and talent, and they are fascinated with the process of learning.” “Fixed minded teachers often think of themselves as finished products. Their role is simply to impart their knowledge.” Growth minded teachers LOVE LEARNING and a good way to learn is to try to teach someone else.
The coaches she talks about are: Bobby Knight for the fixed and John Wooden for the growth. With the growth mindset you look at each lose with the idea that you can learn and improve. With the fixed, it means that something was wrong. Many believe success lulls you into complacency. Failure helps you get better.
I wish I could just read this book to my students and fellow teachers. It is an amazing book, with many significant connections to teaching. There might be more to come. I see they have a Brainology website at http://www.mindsetworks.com/. Check it out if you have time.
One Idea is for Schools to ask all teachers to read pages 164-206, which is about teaching and coaching.