In Mindset, Carol Dweck explores two different ways people look at concepts like talent, ability and intelligence — two outlooks which, her research suggests, have a profound impact on how people learn and how they cope with setbacks.
People with what Dweck calls the “fixed mindset” believe that talent, ability and intelligence are fixed qualities which cannot be altered very much. People with this mindset can be very bright and talented, but they tend to fold when faced with failure because they believe failures prove they aren’t actually that bright or talented. They are more likely to play it safe, seeking out situations where their abilities won’t be challenged too much.
People with a “growth mindset,” on the other hand, are more likely to see talent, intelligence and ability as fluid qualities that can change with effort and hard work. Such people see setbacks as opportunities for learning and growth, and are far more likely to move forward.
I found this idea helpful both as a teacher and as a parent. I can see how my very bright and talented children both have elements of the fixed mindset and get really upset with failure, viewing it as a judgement on their intelligence rather than an opportunity to learn. I also see in my students how the ones who are able to progress the most are those who can get away from a “fixed” idea of their own intelligence and abilities and see themselves as capable of growth and change.
As is often the case when I read self-help or personal-development type books, I would have appreciated less time spent on examples of the problem and more pages devoted to tips on how to help people learn the growth mindset. But even with what was given, I think I learned a lot that I can use to help me as a teacher and as a parent.