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Friday, April 27, 2012


I've been taking a course about learning communities as continuing professional development, and one of the topics that we've been talking about recently is called "Mindsets". Due to my interest in this topic, I'm reading a book by Carol Dweck entitled, "Mindset". What is a mindset? A mindset is an ingrained way of thinking about things; when I was in school, we called this a paradigm or schema. For the purposes of her book, Dweck identifies two main mindsets: fixed and growth. Most of Dweck's research is in relation to education and learning, and so her first interpretation of these is through that lens, but then she expands them into broader categories.

A fixed mindset person has the belief that people are basically born with a fixed amount of intelligence (or fixed personality traits, or a fixed skill set) and that this is essentially not changeable. A fixed mindset person will say, "Smart people do well on tests because they're smart." "Failure is bad." "Tests are a way to prove how smart you are." On the other hand, a growth mindset person believes that he or she can increase his/her amount of intelligence (or develop a certain personality trait or skill). He or she will say, "Smart people do well on tests because they've studied." "Failure is one way of improving." "Tests show how far you have to go before you master the skill."

Effort is one of the key results of different mindsets. Fixed mindset persons believe that they are as smart as they'll ever get, so why try studying? If they're smart they believe they'll do well without studying, and if they're not smart they believe they're not going to do well whether they study or not, so why bother? Growth mindset persons believe that effort is the pathway to improvement and mastery. They believe that they have the ability to substantially improve through practice and working at it.

In my next post, I'm going to examine some of the implications this has for education. But it's important to note that Dweck argues that mindsets can change! She has a plethora of examples of fixed mindset people shifting to a growth mindset, and she has examples of growth mindset people shifting to a fixed mindset depending on various circumstances.

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