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March 2016 | Volume 58 | Number 3
Which approaches to growth and fixed mindsets have become blurry? And which offer clarity?
Since the publication of her book Mindset in 2006, Carol Dweck's research into the conditions that encourage motivation, persistence, and effort has become enormously popular in schools. The Stanford psychologist's findings show that when we have a fixed mindset, we believe our ability is carved in stone—if success doesn't come naturally, it will not come at all. With this mindset, we act in ways that will preserve our self-esteem and sense of mastery. When we cultivate a growth mindset, however, we believe that we can develop our basic qualities through effort. We are willing to risk mistakes because we know they are part of the learning process.
Buoyed by this research, educators now prompt students to change their brains through effort. Teachers focus their feedback on students' learning processes, not on their personal attributes ("I like how you referred to your notes when you got stuck" versus "You're really smart!").
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