BOOK REVIEW: MINDSET: THE NEW PSYCHOLOGY OF SUCCESS - How we can learn to fulfill our potential
“Mindset” completely fulfills its three objectives in eight clear chapters. The first illustrates and introduces the mindsets, the second explores them in more depth, the third uncovers the truth about ability and accomplishment, the fourth through seventh provide examples of how the mindsets operate in the arenas of sports, business, relationships, and education, and the eighth explains how to change mindsets. Each chapter is supported by Dweck’s own research and research by both historical and contemporary psychologists and concludes with a sidebar on how to grow your mindset in a particular arena, such as sports, relationships, and education. Together, these eight chapters provide an in-depth look at how our minds work and how we can get stuck in (and get unstuck from) our habitual thinking patterns.
Through extensive research spanning decades, Dweck has identified two mindsets that impact success in all areas of our lives. The first is a fixed mindset. In this mindset, we believe that qualities are carved in stone and can’t be changed. For example, we are smart or dumb, talented or not, athletic or uncoordinated. In this mindset, people use phrases like, “I’m a total failure. I have no life. The world is out to get me. I’m the unluckiest person in the world.” In contrast, the growth mindset is characterized by viewing ourselves and the world as changeable; our qualities can be changed with effort. In this mindset, people use phrases like, “I’m going to study harder for my next test. I’ll ask my teacher questions. I’m going to review my test and see why I missed those questions.” Fixed mindsets represent rigid thinking, fear of judgment and failure, and identification with static qualities with no room for growth or learning. Growth mindsets are the basis for real learning and accomplishment and put the learner into a creator role.
Although there is gold in every chapter, this book really
shines in its presentation of educational scenarios and insight into students
and teachers at all educational levels. In summarizing her research on learning
in schoolchildren, Dweck says, “Praising children’s intelligence harms their
motivation and it harms their performance. Great teachers believe in the growth
of the intellect and talent, and they are fascinated with the process of
learning.” Effective teachers encourage learning by praising the effort
learning takes and the intellectual ability to learn, not “intelligence” as
if it were an absolute, fixed quality. In fact, one student at
Dweck further notes that Dr. Benjamin Bloom found that the
first teachers of 120 world-class musicians, artists, athletes and researchers
were incredibly warm and accepting. Dweck believes that this is the key to
effective education, which she summarizes as “challenge and nurture.” To
illustrate the methods of effective teachers, she profiles three “Great
Teachers” who maintain high academic standards while loving, accepting and
guiding their students to success. Marva Collins taught inner-city
Anyone can slip into a fixed mindset from time to time and as educators we regularly encounter fixed mindsets in our students (and in ourselves). Fixed mindsets cause our students to make choices that minimize rather than maximize their learning, so how can we help them switch from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset? First, set up lessons as learning tasks not judgments of ability. We can do this by characterizing the activity as a learning process and presenting skills and material as being learnable, for example by explaining that “these skills are developed through practice and this task is an opportunity to cultivate these skills.” Second, praise the effort not the ability. For example say, “I see that you’ve been working really hard on your homework and your math scores are improving.”
Reading this book resulted in a paradigm shift for me. I now understand how language indicates the framework or mindset through which someone views a problem or challenge and I can adjust my language accordingly to help the person switch mindsets and see new possibilities. I’ve changed the language I use with my children and students to ensure that I am promoting a growth mindset in every area - academic, professional and personal – because, as Dweck notes, “the best thing [parents] can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. The will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”
Inspiring and practical, this book is a must-have for all parents and educators who want to empower others (and themselves) to achieve their full potential in school and in life.
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)
--Cara Gubbins, Learning Resource Specialist, Butte College, CA GubbinsCa@butte.edu