Friday, August 22, 2014

Dweck on Mindset

This summer, on the recommendation of two colleagues, I read Mindset by Carol Dweck (Stanford Psychology Professor).

On Wednesday, in my first set of fall semester classes, I mentioned Dweck’s descriptions of “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset” because I thought it might be helpful for students to consider.    

Dweck says that those with a “fixed mindset” embrace a static view of intelligence, avoid challenges, get defensive in the face of obstacles and criticism, and are threatened by the success of others.  People with a “fixed mindset” view failure as a negative verdict on their worth as a person. (pg. 244-46).  

In contrast, Dweck says that those with a “growth mindset” believe that intelligence can be developed, embrace challenges, persist and learn in the face of obstacles and criticism, and are inspired by the success of others.  People with a “growth mindset” view failure as an opportunity to learn and improve. (pg. 244-46).

To be clear, I (and Dweck) realize that there are limits to personal growth – otherwise I would be at an NFL practice right now instead of blogging – but it is helpful to realize that we can generally improve substantially with effort.   

In the long run, Dweck finds that those with a “growth mindset” tend to outperform those with a “fixed mindset.” Dweck also finds evidence that people can change their dominant mindset over time. 

I see students with both types of mindsets.  You can spot the “fixed mindset” student easily – “I am not a C student!”  The “growth mindset” student is just as easy to identify – “I got a C on this exam. I’d like to meet with you about my test and talk about how I can improve.”

Students are not the only ones who can learn from Dweck’s work.  When faced with criticism, defensiveness feels natural to me, but I am, slowly, learning to unpack the criticism and look for lessons that could help me grow and improve.    

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/business_law/2014/08/dweck-on-mindset.html

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