Was Carol Dweck Wrong About Growth Mindset?!?!
I am 97.898% percent sure that any educator reading this believes in growth mindset and the positive effect it has on student performance and success in school. Carol Dweck made a pretty convincing case for it in her cult book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. It makes sense to me too. If a student believes that he will learn a concept if he works hard, practices, and maintains a positive attitude why shouldn't he achieve better?
Personally, I'm a big believer in the power of positive thinking and how it can in turn positively influence many aspects of our life. I know it's not exactly the same as growth mindset. We can probably agree though that having a growth mindset is difficult without positive attitude and that positive attitude can help students be more successful. But, as it turns out, having a growth mindset may have little to do with success in school.
A recent study by Yue Li & Timothy C. Bates, “Does mindset affect children’s ability, school achievement, or response to challenge? Three failures to replicate,” turns the mindset theory on it's head. Just read the abstract below:
As it turns out, studies have been performed in the past indicating little or much lower correlation than the Dweck study, between growth mindset and school success, which authors mention in their paper. Basically, the kind of mindset one has does not change learning outcomes. Moreover, some claim that Dweck's study is "too perfect," as its results show that students with a growth mindset significantly outperform those with a fixed one. Have a look here and here. Thus, recent scientific studies that replicate Carol Dweck's methods show that mindset itself does not change academic performance.
I am afraid that, as is the case with the theory of learning styles, the evidence against the theory of mindsets is amounting. Our minds are malleable, but whether we believe it or not is inconsequential to performance. More recent studies are trending toward the conclusion that having a growth mindset does not lead to higher motivation when compared to a fixed mindset. I find that difficult to believe, because I believe that "attitude is everything," and preach that to my students.
I am glad about one thing though. I always found it difficult to find enough words to praise effort. There's a limit to how many times you can say You worked so hard on it! or I like the effort you put into this project! before kids think you're a weirdo. Personally, I love saying You're the bomb! or That's a great way to put it! Of course, it is important to elaborate and say what the student did well; give useful feedback. And, it looks more and more like that is perfectly fine. Praising intelligence does not lower performance and we can always give informational feedback with it just to be sure...
So where do we go from here? Growth mindset has developed into a cult in the K-12 community. We all want to believe, myself included, that believing in the fact that IQ increases as we learn (which by the way is true) will lead our students to be more successful. But as I think about it more, I'm realizing that maybe it is not the belief in our ability to become more intelligent that makes the difference. It is, and perhaps always was the amount of effort one puts into learning. Having a belief in one's abilities is not enough. ONE MUST ACT UPON THAT BELIEF. But, if believing in growth mindset does lead to action in some students, sign me up for the cult.
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