Sunday Chat: On Growth

Sunday Chat: On Growth

Dear Kazoo School friends,

Last week we marked the vernal equinox – the beginning of spring. With longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures comes a sense of hope and newness.

A friend of mine happened to share a link on Facebook today to an article titled “How Praise Became a Consolation Prize,” in which author Christine Gross-Loh interviews psychologist Carol Dweck about Dweck’s most recent research on what she calls a “false growth mindset.” Although this article was published last December, the theme of “growth” feels particularly fitting for this first week of spring.

I have written before about Dweck’s research on fixed and growth mindsets. In a chat from September 2014 (HERE), I wrote:

Dweck has done fascinating research that indicates that students who are told, “you’re so smart,” tend to come away thinking that they need to keep proving themselves, that they need to do anything to earn that 100%. These students seem to hold a “fixed” view of their potential – “either I am smart or I am not.” In contrast, students who are told, “I value your hard work,” learn to focus on effort, not necessarily getting a perfect score. These individuals are described as having a “growth” mindset – “I can approach a new task and learn new things.”

Where this research gets even more critical is the finding that people with fixed mindsets are less likely to take on challenges in the future – they are afraid that a mistake will be seen as evidence that they are not good enough. Those with growth mindsets, however, more eagerly embrace new challenges. Luckily, mindsets can be shifted. The more we emphasize the process of learning over any individual product, students internalize the message that effort matters.

In this new article, Dweck points out that, as the idea of a growth mindset has gained popularity, there has also been an increase in misunderstanding or misapplication of this idea. She explains:

“False growth mindset is saying you have growth mindset when you don’t really have it or you don’t really understand [what it is]. It’s also false in the sense that nobody has a growth mindset in everything all the time. Everyone is a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets… I think a lot of what happened [with false growth mindset among educators] is that… many educators just said, ‘Oh yeah, I have a growth mindset’ because either they know it’s the right mindset to have or they understood it in a way that made it seem easy.”

Further, Dweck cautions that teaching students to embrace a growth mindset is not as simple as praising effort over outcome. Instead, she says,

“Praise the effort that led to the outcome or learning progress; tie the praise to it. It’s not just effort, but strategy … so support the student in finding another strategy… Students need to know that if they’re stuck, they don’t need just effort. You don’t want them redoubling their efforts with the same ineffective strategies. You want them to know when to ask for help and when to use resources that are available. All of this is part of the process that needs to be taught and tied to learning.”

This is a crucial distinction, and one that parents and educators can take to heart. I highly recommend this article, and invite you to continue the conversation with me this week – how do we cultivate a growth mindset in our children and ourselves?

All my best,


2017-08-06T16:45:15+00:00March 26th, 2017|Head of School's Blog|