Carol Dweck’s Important Work on Mindsets
Praising students’ effort is more effective than praising inherent intelligence.
The wrong kind of praise creates self-defeating behavior. The right kind motivates students to learn.
The work of Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and the author of “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” is very impressive. Her research related to “mindsets” is of critical importance to all teachers and parents, and especially to teachers and parents of gifted students. Our tendency to praise gifted students for their intelligence may actually be detrimental to their long term intellectual growth and development as the following excerpt from a recent article summarizes:
(This picture is borrowed from a review of another recent article [the Stanford Magazine article, see below], posted at thesituationist.wordpress.com.)
“Educators commonly believe that praising students’ intelligence builds their confidence and motivation to learn and that students’ inherent intelligence is the major cause of their school achievement. [Carol Dweck’s] research shows that, on the contrary, praising students’ intelligence can be problematic. Praise is intricately connected to how students view their intelligence. Some students assume that intellectual ability is a fixed trait, that either they have it or they don't. Students in this fixed mind-set seek tasks that prove their intelligence and avoid ones that they might struggle with. Praising students for their intelligence tends to promote the fixed mind-set. Other students believe that they can develop their intellectual ability through effort and education. They take on challenges and learn from them. Praising students for their effort encourages this growth mind-set. Interventions that make students aware of the plasticity of the brain and the malleable quality of intelligence motivate students by boosting their confidence in their ability to grow and learn.” (from, “The Perils and Promises of Praise” Educational Leadership, October 2007,Volume 65 Number 2, pp 34 – 39, © 2007 by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development).
Dweck’s mindset research has been getting a lot of attention, lately. Here are several resources for you to peruse, and we highly recommend you read her book, Mindset:
- Carol Dweck's new website, www.mindsetonline.com/.
- Dweck’s advice to “praise the effort, not the result” was mentioned as one of “3 Steps to better kids” in the January 27, 2008 issue of USA Weekend news magazine. (The other two important steps, by the way, are “make sleep a priority” and “know your kid’s friends.”) The article is available online at www.usaweekend.com/thinksmart/#parentsmart.
- “The Secret to Raising Smart Kids” — December, 2007, Scientific American Mind article;
We also have a printable version of this article
- Interview with Carol Dweck — July, 2007, Indiana University; includes 6 short video clips of Carol Dweck speaking about her theories. (Dweck’s faculty page at Indiana University.)
- “The Effort Effect” — March, 2007 article in Stanford [University] Magazine. We also have a printable version of this article (Dweck’s faculty page at Stanford University.)
- Another article from Stanford (News Service), “New study yields instructive results on how mindset affects learning,” — February, 2007; includes a video clip of an interview with Professor Carol Dweck.
- “Students’ View of Intelligence Can Help Grades” — National Public Radio Story, February 15, 2007. Read or listen to the story at www.npr.org
- Graphic artist Nigel Holmes (www.nigelholmes.com) created an outstanding Mindset graphic for the Stanford article (above). Blogger Michael Graham Richard (www.michaelgr.com) wrote an excellent piece about mindsets, in which he used Holmes’ graphic. PVUSD GATE staff integrated Richard’s text and Holmes’ graphics to summarize the Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset.
- For our Fall 2007 Parent Workshops, PVUSD GATE staff (with assistance from teacher Dawn Binder) created several documents about mindsets:
- An 8-page booklet about Mindsets, available in English and en español. The booklet includes the Holmes-Richards-PVUSD graphics described above.
- A brief assessment, “Which Mindset Do You Have?”, is based on pages 12 – 13 of Mindset, and is available in English and en español.
- A reading activity on “Scenarios You May Experience,” with several pages of excerpts from Mindset.
- There are many more websites and articles about Carol Dweck and her mindsets work. If you know of a Dweck/Mindset resource you think is especially excellent, please let us know! You can find contact information at the PVUSD GATE main page.