What the Growth Mindset Is, and What It Isn’t

einstein problems longer

Reposted from the Disappointed Idealist:

Carol Dweck’s broad theory is that students tend to fall into two camps : those who attribute their outcomes to external/ unchangeable factors such as intelligence or ability, and those who attribute their outcomes to internal, changeable factors, such as effort and perseverance. The latter group, she argues, then do rather better than the former when they come across challenges. This is not quite the same as the version of Dweck which is gaining traction rather quickly in the English education system, which is closer to the quote I took from Dylan Wiliam’s blog above : that the only determinant of outcomes is effort and perseverance.  Dweck can’t be blamed for that, and I can see how her theory could, in the hands of those of us who don’t have to meticulously footnote our tweets and policy statements, gradually metamorphose into the idea expressed above and in many other places.

At some point in the past, the not-irrational idea that it might be useful to try using different methods in lessons to get the message home, became the concept of “learning styles” which had to be shown in each lesson. In the last two years, the perfectly sensible idea that occasionally students might benefit from a little more in-depth consideration of their own work, has become a mountain of compulsory double-marking, endless DIRT and colour coded dots. The growth mindset is in danger of heading that way; I see too much wholehearted adoption of an oversimplified, and thus inaccurate, stance towards student achievement, based within the profession on a well-meaning desire to promote a positive, inspirational message of hope, but outside the profession supported by those advocating a self-serving philosophy which justifies inaction and victim-blaming.

My objection is to the way in which Dweck’s conclusions are rapidly metamorphosing into something completely different, and thus reinforcing the set of existing bonkers principles which are largely shaping education policy. Dweck’s well-meaning and perfectly reasonable research may well end up producing toxic outcomes if we don’t nip it in the bud.

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