Thursday, January 3, 2013
Dweck is a Ph.D. who has researched her topic deeply, but she used a readable style to write this book, not intending it for intellectuals and academics, but for ordinary people. The overall principle is simple: People who follow a fixed mindset believe that abilities are limited. They have a certain amount of intelligence; their abilities have limits. Once they reach that limit, it's necessary to protect one's image and self esteem at all costs. Those with a growth mindset, however, believe that effort produces learning and growth. And--in a true growth mindset--Dweck shows how one can change his or her own mindset and can influence the mindset of others.
One experiment she documents illustrates the principles. Elementary ages children in two groups were given puzzles to complete. One group was told, upon completion, how smart they were to have finished the puzzle successfully. The other group was praised for their hard work in finishing the puzzle. As the puzzles grew increasingly difficult, the children in the first group didn't want to continue, assuming they'd reached the limit of their capabilities. The other children wanted more and harder puzzles, asking to bring them home and asking for information about obtaining similar puzzles of their own.
In the book, she applies this principle to sports, school, business, and personal relationships with many excellent examples. For example, she contrasts fixed mindset John McEnroe to growth mindset Tiger Woods and Bobby (Throw the Chair) Knight (guess which mindset) to John Wooden. In the end of the book, she also presents scenarios to think through how to internalize the growth mindset and to encourage it in one's children--or students.
I am thinking of my own students--college freshmen usually, ranging from 17 to 67. Many--especially some of the younger ones--are intent on taking the easy path. Others--other older students coming to college for the first time, some after completing a GED, lack faith in their own intelligence. My challenge this year will be to encourage growth. I'm reminded of a quotation I used to keep on my classroom wall: There are always two choices, two paths to take; one is easy, and it's only reward is that it's easy.