Carol S. Dweck, the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, was awarded, in 2017 , the prestigious ,new ‘Yidan Prize’ dedicated to ‘creating a better world through education today.’Her ground-breaking research focuses on the pioneering concept of the “growth mindset” built on a fundamental belief in the malleability of intelligence. The theory is about how children in the classroom are encouraged to evaluate and realize their full potential. Mindsets (aka implicit theories) are beliefs about the nature of human attributes (e.g., intelligence). The theory holds that individuals with growth mindsets (beliefs that attributes are malleable through positive effort) enjoy many positive outcomes—including higher academic achievement—while their peers who have fixed mindsets experience negative outcomes. Dweck claims that talent isn’t passed down in the genes ;its passed down in the mindset. (some recent research contests this idea). People with a fixed mindset believe talent is everything. If they’re not gifted with the ability to do something, they think they’re doomed to be a failure. Their intelligence is fixed and there is not much they can do about it. Their skills seem to be written down in their genes, just like their looks, which is why they never try to improve in something they perceive themselves to be bad at.
On the other hand, people with a growth mindset believe that whatever they want to achieve is theirs for the taking, as long as they work hard for it, apply themselves, dedicate themselves to their goal and practice as much as they can and show a bit of effort and resilience. The good news is that just about anyone can develop a growth mindset, if given the right support. Intelligence is not fixed, but malleable, fluid and changeable. The challenge for Dweck, though, has always been how educators interpret her research, in practice. Quite a lot seems to get lost in translation, something that she herself has acknowledged. Dweck fears that teachers who have misunderstood her work are now nagging children, and nagging doesn’t work. From a teachers perspective transforming ideas around mindset into practice appears to be about encouraging students to try new strategies, when they are struggling to learn a concept, and helping students to see error, or outright failure, as an opportunity to learn and improve and as a springboard for progress. . But there is also a sense that practical teacher training and professional development in mindset support, lags somewhat behind the theoretical framework. Like too much research, making sure that it is of real use to a teacher in the classroom and its full implications are understood, is a big challenge.
To be fair, unlike rather too many researchers who can become overly defensive when challenged , Dweck is prepared to look at the evidence as it develops and fine tune her theories and even to admit to errors. She has her critics, of course . Among them are those who claim that that there is slender evidence that students’ beliefs about their ability are in any way related to their attainment.
Given this claimed relationship between mindset and outcomes, interventions designed to increase students’ growth mindsets so increasing their academic achievement—have been implemented in schools around the world.
Now researchers have undertaken two meta -analyses . First , on the strength of the relationship between mindset and academic achievement and potential moderating factors. And, secondly, the effectiveness of mindset interventions on academic achievement and potential moderating factors. The researchers found that overall effects were weak for both of meta-analyses. But before mindset supporters become too disillusioned, the researchers found that some results supported specific tenets of the theory, namely, that students with low socioeconomic status or who are academically at risk might benefit from mind-set interventions.
Professor Dylan Wiliam commenting on the research said ” For me, the highlight is that six out of every seven growth mindset interventions had no significant impact on student achievement. So the question is, do you feel lucky today?”
To What Extent and Under Which Circumstances Are Growth Mind-Sets Important to Academic Achievement? Two Meta-Analyses
Victoria F. Sisk, Alexander P. Burgoyne, Jingze Sun,
March 5, 2018