Carol Dweck

The nail in Growth Mindset’s coffin?

2019-01-25T13:50:03+00:00March 6th, 2018|psychology|

As I'm sure everybody already knows, mind sets are beliefs about the nature of characteristics like intelligence. The theory is that students with growth mindsets believe their ability can be changed with effort and therefore do better academically than their peers who have fixed mindsets. Given the appeal of this theory, it's small wonder that schools around the world have rushed to intervene with their students in order to mould their mindsets. In January last year I wrote one of my most popular blog posts to date, the controversially titled, Is Growth Mindset Bollocks? In it I detailed the reasons for doubting the efficacy of what [...]

Is growth mindset bollocks?

2017-01-28T13:42:55+00:00January 25th, 2017|psychology|

Like everyone else, when I first came across Carol Dweck's theory of growth mindsets I was pretty psyched. There was something so satisfyingly truthy about the way the labels 'fixed' and 'growth' mindset could explain why children failed or succeeded at school. I wanted to believe that something as simple as telling children their brains are 'like a muscle' and showing them a cartoon about synapses forming could make them cleverer. And if praising effort instead of praising intelligence really did make all this happen, then why the hell wouldn't we? And best of all, the whole edifice was established on rock-solid, credible research and [...]

Making kids cleverer

2016-11-05T16:10:08+00:00November 5th, 2016|psychology|

One of the real problems with improving education systems is that there tends not to be much agreement about what education is actually for. I've written about this issue before and have made clear my view, education should exist to make children cleverer. Clearly this in part depends on a belief that it is actually possible to make children cleverer , no matter their starting point. So, what evidence is there that we can become more intelligent? Everyone knows about Carol Dweck's immensely popular theory of the growth mindset; that we can become cleverer by believing we can become cleverer. This is certainly [...]

Is growth mindset pseudoscience?

2017-01-06T19:41:55+00:00October 24th, 2015|research|

Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. Carl Sagan What's the difference between science and pseudoscience? The basis of all reputable science is prediction and falsification: a claim has to be made which we can then attempt to disprove. If we can't disprove it, the claim holds and we accept the theory as science. If the claim doesn't hold, we've learned something, we move one, we make progress. That's science. Pseudoscience doesn't work like that. It makes claims, sure, but they're so [...]

Why the ‘false growth mindset’ explains so much

2020-01-20T18:56:42+00:00June 20th, 2015|psychology|

Modest doubt is called the beacon of the wise. - Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida In the same way that I learned nothing from listening to the polished performance of Ken Robinson at yesterday's Education Festival at Wellington College, I found myself surprised at just how challenging Carol Dweck's slightly awkward delivery and clunky slides turned out to be. And to think I nearly didn't bother staying. After reading Self Theories and Mindset I thought I knew as much about Dweck's theories as anyone could ever reasonably want to know, but it turned out I was dead wrong. (A recurrent theme in my life!) [...]

A defence of the fixed mindset

2015-01-24T15:13:16+00:00January 23rd, 2015|learning|

The growth mindset has been so universally heralded as 'a good thing' that it's in danger of becoming one of those memes we think with rather than about. A number of commentators have been critical of the way mindset theory has been uncritical adopted and unthinkingly applied, but what if growth isn't always good? What if sometime we might be better off to be 'fixed' in our attitudes and beliefs? This is something that has been simmering away on my back burner for months, but then I encountered the following passage in the philosopher, Daniel Dennett's magnificent (and very witty) treatise on the human [...]

Grit and growth: who's to blame for low achievement?

2014-07-10T16:56:48+01:00July 10th, 2014|Featured|

I’ve recently read a couple of interesting articles which question the efficacy of the research of Carol Dweck (Mindset) and Angela Duckworth (Grit). The complaint is that if we attribute an individual’s failure to a fault or lack in their character then we are apportioning blame; the reason we are unsuccessful is down to our own weak will and poor attitude. The counter argument is that society should be held to account for the failure of those at its margins; if we fail it is down to our lack of opportunity and the prejudices we encounter. No one would argue that [...]

Getting feedback right Part 3: How can we increase pupils' effort?

2014-03-19T13:44:26+00:00March 19th, 2014|assessment|

I started to explore how we might make feedback more meaningful a few weeks back but then got sidetracked. If you haven't already looked at them, it might be worth spending a few moments on Part 1 (which discusses the different purposes for giving feedback) and Part 2 (which looks at how to increase pupils' understanding) before reading any further. Right. Still with me? Once we can be reasonably sure that pupils understand how to improve, our next step is to check that they can actually be bothered. It's become something of a cliché to say that success depends on hard [...]

Focusing on performance is the enemy of the growth mindset

2014-03-02T22:06:46+00:00March 2nd, 2014|learning|

Over the past year or so I've been following a line of thinking which has gone something like this: Learning and performance are not the same thing. Pupils' performance in lessons does not correspond with learning. Learning is invisible and takes place over time. We may be able to infer something about what has been learned by examining performance, but more often than not, we won't. Learning may follow from performance, but it may not. Performance may indicate learning, but, again, it may not. Responding to cues when something is fresh in our minds is easy. Learning is only learning if skills [...]

Hang on in there: could encouragement be more useful than praise?

2013-09-27T21:59:27+01:00September 27th, 2013|learning|

Last week I expanded on some of my doubts about the concept of praise, particularly the current consensus that we should be going out of our way to praise effort. I concluded by saying, "no one would disagree with the power of a sincere compliment – the difficulty is in knowing the difference. Maybe we should start thinking about how best to encourage pupils to learn." I intended to spend the week considering the question of what to do instead, and then Tim Taylor wrote this summarising Alfie Kohn's advice on how to make sure praise is sincere and useful: A: Don’t praise people, only [...]

Is praise counter productive?

2013-09-22T22:15:13+01:00September 22nd, 2013|behaviour, learning, myths|

I had an interesting discussion with Tim Taylor this morning. He said,  "At best, praising effort has a neutral or no effect when students are successful, but is likely to be negative when students are not successful." But what could possibly be wrong with praise? Surely praise is one of the most fundamental way to motivate pupils? Teachers are, generally, keen to praise pupils, and pupils , generally, welcome and expect it. We use praise to reward or change pupils' behaviour, and to that extent it may well be effective. But could this praise also be diluting learning and effort? Various research seems [...]

Doubts about Dweck? The problem with praise

2013-09-22T16:03:36+01:00January 27th, 2012|learning, myths|

Back in 2010 I was introduced to Carol Dweck's research into fixed and growth mindsets and the scales fell from my eyes. It was an epiphany. A veritable Damascene conversion. And like Saul before me, I quickly became an evangelist. The basic theory is that folk with growth mindsets will make effort for its own sake and when they encounter setbacks will see them as opportunities for learning. Your fixed mindset is all about success. Failure at a task is seen as evidence of personal failure. Struggle is seen as evidence of lack of ability. This is particularly toxic as hard [...]

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