Happy New Year, Listers!
I don't know if you're aware of the book Mindset, by Carol Dweck, but I
would highly recommend it. I think it explains so many of our students.
I've pasted a rather lengthy description below, so that you can get a
better idea of what the book contains. It's already changed the way I
view my own actions and those of my students.
I agree with the assessment: "This book is an essential read for
parents, teachers, coaches, and others who are instrumental in
determining a child's mind-set, and in turn, his or her future success,
as well as for those who would like to increase their own feelings of
success and fulfillment." --Library Journal
Have a great semester,
Mindset is one of those rare books that can help you make positive
changes in your life and at the same time see the world in a new way.
A leading expert in motivation and personality psychology, Carol Dweck
has discovered in more than twenty years of research that our mindset is
not a minor personality quirk: it creates our whole mental world. It
explains how we become optimistic or pessimistic. It shapes our goals,
our attitude toward work and relationships, and how we raise our kids,
ultimately predicting whether or not we will fulfill our potential.
Dweck has found that everyone has one of two basic mindsets.
If you have the fixed mindset, you believe that your talents and
abilities are set in stone-either you have them or you don't. You must
prove yourself over and over, trying to look smart and talented at all
costs. This is the path of stagnation. If you have a growth mindset,
however, you know that talents can be developed and that great abilities
are built over time. This is the path of opportunity-and success.
Dweck demonstrates that mindset unfolds in childhood and adulthood and
drives every aspect of our lives, from work to sports, from
relationships to parenting. She reveals how creative geniuses in all
fields-music, literature, science, sports, business-apply the growth
mindset to achieve results. Perhaps even more important, she shows us
how we can change our mindset at any stage of life to achieve true
success and fulfillment. She looks across a broad range of
applications and helps parents, teachers, coaches, and executives see
how they can promote the growth mindset.
Highly engaging and very practical, Mindset breaks new ground as it
leads you to change how you feel about yourself and your future.
"This book is an essential read for parents, teachers, coaches, and
others who are instrumental in determining a child's mind-set, and in
turn, his or her future success, as well as for those who would like to
increase their own feelings of success and fulfillment." --Library
1. The Mindsets
Why Do People Differ?
What Does All This Mean for You? The Two Mindsets
A View from the Two Mindsets
So, What's New?
Self-Insight: Who Has Accurate Views of Their Assets and Limitations?
What's iIn Store
2. Inside The Mindsets
Is Success About Learning-Or Proving You're Smart?
Mindsets Change the Meaning of Failure
Mindsets Change the Meaning of Effort
Questions and Answers
3. The Truth About Ability and Accomplishment
Mindset and School Achievement
Is Artistic Ability a Gift?
The Danger of Praise and Positive Labels
Negative Labels and How They Work
4. Sports: The Mindset Of A Champion
The Idea of the Natural
What Is Success?
What Is Failure?
Taking Charge of Success
What Does It Mean to Be a Star?
Hearing the Mindsets
5. Business: Mindset and Leadership
Enron and the Talent Mindset
Organizations That Grow
A Study of Mindset and Management Decisions
Leadership and the Fixed Mindset
Fixed-Mindset Leaders in Action
Growth-Mindset Leaders in Action
A Study of Group Processes
Groupthink Versus We Think
Are Leaders Born or Made?
6. Relationships: Mindsets In Love (Or Not)
Relationships Are Different
Mindsets Falling in Love
The Partner as Enemy
Competition: Who's The Greatest?
Developing in Relationships
Bullies and Victims: Revenge Revisited
7. Parents, Teachers, And Coaches:
Where Do Mindsets Come From?
Parents (and Teachers): Messages About Success and Failure
Children Learn The Messages
Teachers (and Parents): What Makes a Great Teacher (or Parent)?
Coaches: Winning Through Mindset
8. Changing Mindsets: A Workshop
The Nature of Change
The Mindset Lectures
A Mindset Workshop
More About Change
Taking the First Step: A Workshop for You
People Who Don't Want to Change
Changing Your Child's Mindset
Mindset and Willpower
The Road Ahead
About the Author
Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., is widely regarded as one of the world's leading
researchers in the fields of personality, social psychology, and
developmental psychology. She has been the William B. Ransford Professor
of Psychology at Columbia University and is now the Lewis and Virginia
Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and a member of the
American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her scholarly book Self-Theories:
Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development was named Book of
the Year by the World Education Fellowship. Her work has been featured
in such publications as The New Yorker, Time, The New York Times, The
Washington Post, and The Boston Globe, and she has appeared on Today and
20/20. She lives with her husband in Palo Alto, California.
Excerpt. (c) Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
As a young researcher, just starting out, something happened that
changed my life. I was obsessed with understanding how people cope with
failures, and I decided to study it by watching how students grapple
with hard problems. So I brought children one at a time to a room in
their school, made them comfortable, and then gave them a series of
puzzles to solve. The first ones were fairly easy, but the next ones
were hard. As the students grunted, perspired, and toiled, I watched
their strategies and probed what they were thinking and feeling. I
expected differences among children in how they coped with the
difficulty, but I saw something I never expected.
Confronted with the hard puzzles, one ten-year-old boy pulled up his
chair, rubbed his hands together, smacked his lips, and cried out, "I
love a challenge!" Another, sweating away on these puzzles, looked up
with a pleased expression and said with authority, "You know, I was
hoping this would be informative!"
What's wrong with them? I wondered. I always thought you coped with
failure or you didn't cope with failure. I never thought anyone loved
failure. Were these alien children or were they on to something?
Everyone has a role model, someone who pointed the way at a critical
moment in their lives. These children were my role models. They
obviously knew something I didn't and I was determined to figure it
out-to understand the kind of mindset that could turn a failure into a
What did they know? They knew that human qualities, such as intellectual
skills, could be cultivated through effort. And that's what they were
doing-getting smarter. Not only weren't they discouraged by failure,
they didn't even think they were failing. They thought they were
I, on the other hand, thought human qualities were carved in stone. You
were smart or you weren't, and failure meant you weren't. It was that
simple. If you could arrange successes and avoid failures (at all
costs), you could stay smart. Struggles, mistakes, perseverance were
just not part of this picture.
Whether human qualities are things that can be cultivated or things that
are carved in stone is an old issue. What these beliefs mean for you is
a new one: What are the consequences of thinking that your intelligence
or personality is something you can develop, as opposed to something
that is a fixed, deep-seated trait? Let's first look in on the age-old,
fiercely waged debate about human nature and then return to the question
of what these beliefs mean for you.
WHY DO PEOPLE DIFFER?
Since the dawn of time, people have thought differently, acted
differently, and fared differently from each other. It was guaranteed
that someone would ask the question of why people differed-why some
people are smarter or more moral-and whether there was something that
made them permanently different. Experts lined up on both sides. Some
claimed that there was a strong physical basis for these differences,
making them unavoidable and unalterable. Through the ages, these alleged
physical differences have included bumps on the skull (phrenology), the
size and shape of the skull (craniology), and, today, genes.
Others pointed to the strong differences in people's backgrounds,
experiences, training, or ways of learning. It may surprise you to know
that a big champion of this view was Alfred Binet, the inventor of the
IQ test. Wasn't the IQ test meant to summarize children's unchangeable
intelligence? In fact, no. Binet, a Frenchman working in Paris in the
early twentieth century, designed this test to identify children who
were not profiting from the Paris public schools, so that new
educational programs could be designed to get them back on track.
Without denying individual differences in children's intellects, he
believed that education and practice could bring about fundamental
changes in intelligence. Here is a quote from one of his major books,
Modern Ideas About Children, in which he summarizes his work with
hundreds of children with learning difficulties:
A few modern philosophers . . . assert that an individual's intelligence
is a fixed quantity, a quantity which cannot be increased. We must
protest and react against this brutal pessimism. . . . With practice,
training, and above all, method, we manage to increase our attention,
our memory, our judgment and literally to become more intelligent than
we were before.
Who's right? Today most experts agree that it's not either-or. It's not
nature or nurture, genes or environment. From conception on, there's a
constant give and take between the two. In fact, as Gilbert Gottlieb, an
eminent neuroscientist, put it, not only do genes and environment
cooperate as we develop, but genes require input from the environment to
At the same time, scientists are learning that people have more capacity
for lifelong learning and brain development than they ever thought. Of
course, each person has a unique genetic endowment. People may start
with different temperaments and different aptitudes, but it is clear
that experience, training, and personal effort take them the rest of the
way. Robert Sternberg, the present-day guru of intelligence, writes that
the major factor in whether people achieve expertise "is not some fixed
prior ability, but purposeful engagement." Or, as his forerunner Binet
recognized, it's not always the people who start out the smartest who
end up the smartest.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN FOR YOU? THE TWO MINDSETS
It's one thing to have pundits spouting their opinions about scientific
issues. It's another thing to understand how these views apply to you.
For twenty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for
yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine
whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish
the things you value. How does this happen? How can a simple belief have
the power to transform your psychology and, as a result, your life?
Believing that your qualities are carved in stone-the fixed
mindset-creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have
only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a
certain moral character-well, then you'd better prove that you have a
healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn't do to look or feel deficient in
these most basic characteristics.
Some of us are trained in this mindset from an early age. Even as a
child, I was focused on being smart, but the fixed mindset was really
stamped in by Mrs. Wilson, my sixth-grade teacher. Unlike Alfred Binet,
she believed that people's IQ scores told the whole story of who they
were. We were seated around the room in IQ order, and only the
highest-IQ students could be trusted to carry the flag, clap the
erasers, or take a note to the principal. Aside from the daily
stomachaches she provoked with her judgmental stance, she was creating a
mindset in which everyone in the class had one consuming goal-look
smart, don't look dumb. Who cared about or enjoyed learning when our
whole being was at stake every time she gave us a test or called on us
I've seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving
themselves-in the classroom, in their careers, and in their
relationships. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their
intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated:
Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or
rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?
But doesn't our society value intelligence, personality, and character?
Isn't it normal to want these traits? Yes, but . . .
There's another mindset in which these traits are not simply a hand
you're dealt and have to live with, always trying to convince yourself
and others that you have a royal flush when you're secretly worried it's
a pair of tens. In this mindset, the hand you're dealt is just the
starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the
belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through
your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way-in their
initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments-everyone can
change and grow through application and experience.
Do people with this mindset believe that anyone can be anything, that
anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or
Beethoven? No, but they believe that a person's true potential is
unknown (and unknowable); that it's impossible to foresee what can be
accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.
Did you know that Darwin and Tolstoy were considered ordinary children?
That Ben Hogan, one of the greatest golfers of all time, was completely
uncoordinated and graceless as a child? That the photographer Cindy
Sherman, who has been on virtually every list of the most important
artists of the twentieth century, failed her first photography course?
That Geraldine Page, one of our greatest actresses, was advised to give
it up for lack of talent?
You can see how the belief that cherished qualities can be developed
creates a passion for learning. Why waste time proving over and over how
great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies
instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will
just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge
you to grow? And why seek out t...
Saundra McGuire, Ph.D.
Assistant Vice Chancellor for Learning and Teaching
Professor, Department of Chemistry
736 Choppin Hall
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
Saundra Y. McGuire, Ph.D.
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