But books, articles, TED talks, and teacher-training sessions devoted to-Angela
the wonders of adopting a growth mindset rarely bother to ask whether
the curriculum is meaningful, whether the pedagogy is thoughtful, or
whether the assessment of students’ learning is authentic (as opposed to
defining success merely as higher scores on dreadful standardized
The education fad that’s hurting our kids: What you need to know about “Growth Mindset” theory — and the harmful lessons it imparts
How a promising but oversimplified idea
caught fire, then got coopted by conservative ideology
of the most popular ideas in education these days can be summarized in a
single sentence (a fact that may help to account for its popularity).
Here’s the sentence:
tend to fare better when they regard intelligence and other abilities
not as fixed traits that they either have or lack, but as attributes
that can be improved through effort.
In a series of
monographs over many years and in a book published in 2000, psychologist
Carol Dweck used the label “incremental theory” to describe the
self-fulfilling belief that one can become smarter. Rebranding
it more catchily as the “growth mindset” allowed her to recycle the idea
a few years later in a best-selling book for general readers.
now, the growth mindset has approached the status of a cultural meme.
The premise is repeated with uncritical enthusiasm by educators and a
growing number of parents, managers, and journalists — to the point that
one half expects supporters to start referring to their smartphones as
“effortphones.” But, like the buzz over the related concept known as
“grit” (a form of self-discipline involving long-term persistence),
there’s something disconcerting about how the idea has been used — and
about the broader assumption that what students most need is a “mindset”
Unlike grit — which, as I’ve argued elsewhere,
is driven more by conservative ideology than by solid research —
Dweck’s basic thesis is supported by decades’ worth of good data. It’s
not just the habit of attributing your failure to being stupid that
holds you back, but also the habit of attributing your success to being
smart. Regardless of their track record, kids tend to do better in the
future if they believe that how well they did in the past was primarily a
result of effort.
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