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Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

As a teacher, it’s important to keep up with educational reading and psychological growth. Mindset was recommended to me by another English teacher, who said that it made her look at success and failure in a different way and helped her understand the roles students play in the classroom when success and failure is on the line.

I enjoyed reading Mindset. The book focuses on two types of mindset: fixed and growth. People with the fixed mindset tend to believe that they have fixed abilities and talents that are what they are and cannot be further developed. To people with the fixed mindset, a failure is an embarrassment and affirmation that they cannot and will never be able to do whatever they failed at. The growth mindset is the opposite. Growth minded people tend to believe that with effort, they can achieve anything. They look at failures as learning opportunities.

Seems simple, right?

Wrong.

Carol Dweck sets out to answer several questions. Teacher-important questions include: How do mindsets affect students? How can I, as a teacher, cultivate the growth mindset in students? Can mindsets change?

Dweck argues that children are direct products of what they see and hear. If they see an adult “fail” and take it badly, that sets the example that failure is bad. The same is true when it comes to praising. We tend (yes, I said we, because I’ve done it, too) to praise based on ability and whether or not students did a “good” job. This can also put students in the fixed mindset category. If we keep saying, “Wow! You’re so talented! You made this look effortless!” When that same student struggles with something, they’ll think they’re no longer talented and are unable to achieve success. However, if we praise students based on hard work and effort, they will continue to work hard to achieve that success.

So is Dweck’s argument solid? Yes. Not only does she do a wonderful job of giving examples, I’ve also tried this out in my classroom. I’ve switched my praising technique (and am still working toward becoming a growth minded person) and I’ve seen definite results. Students who wanted nothing to do with English in the beginning of the year because, quote, “I’m not good at it,” are now coming up to me and saying they enjoy it and think they’re getting better at it. Because they are! They’re trying and always succeeding. They’re making mistakes and learning from them. To me, that’s success.

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