Do you have a fixed or fluid mindset?

Occasionally you stumble upon some research that just makes sense. Well this research about the effects of fixed and fluid mindsets on student motivation made sense to me.

Have you heard someone say they just no good at………… maths or whatever…. this suggests they may have a fixed mindset. Carol Dweck says that people’s self-theories about intelligence [in this case their maths intelligence] have a profound influence on their motivation to learn.  

 I watched my older child, who attends specialist skills training in a sport, want specific skills feedback connected to the current drill and the small amount of encouragement or praise they got from the coach went a long way.

It seems counter intuitive that praise can do harm. As parents we often want to lavish praise upon a child expecting that this would build a their self esteem  and provide confidence – well it doesn’t  according to Carol. 

She found that children’s performance worsens if they always hear how smart they are. Carol suggests we should praise children for their effort, their concentration and their strategies. Often “over praise” is about us just wanting to protect our children from failure.

It’s a hard habit to stop.

I raised this topic with teachers at the start of the year and have been busy finding articles to deepen our thinking. This week I had a conversation on mindsets with a small group of parents. There were lots of nods as we spoke. 

There are times we judge each other based on own self similarity, parents and teachers. Over the years  I’ve received some feedback that a few teachers don’t “praise” – or “constantly praise” their child – thinking that this was a sign they didn’t like their child. What I now think is that we all need some dialogue around this area of student motivation, praise and feedback.

What I’m keen on doing is provoking some thought and discussion on the topic and I’ve provided a link to this post in our school newsletter. Comments appreciated.

Links to some articles:

Standford University News

ABC News article

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7 Responses to Do you have a fixed or fluid mindset?

  1. Jimmy says:

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  2. Red says:

    I wonder if there is an age level where this theory fails to work. ie. if you have a “fixed” mindset for too many years does it progressively get more difficult to change it into a “fluid” mindset (or have it changed for you).

    • mwalker says:

      Red, Carol’s work was set in schools and universities and it’s reported that a coach of racing car drivers is “using” her work to validate their coaching methods for drivers. Those examples cover a wide age range: e.g. 5 – 35 or older I would think.

      Does it get more difficult as you get older to change mindsets? I’m not sure Carol’s publishd research covers that but it would seem fairly logical but I would suspect there are many variables at play there – e.g. one’s passion to change something.

      I saw a useful link when I was starting to research your wondering that would be useful to explain these concepts to others if your interested: http://images.pcmac.org/SiSFiles/Schools/TN/GreenevilleCity/GreenevilleHigh/Uploads/DocumentsCategories/Documents/Fixed%20or%20Fluid.pdf

      Thanks Mark

  3. Kattina bowell says:

    Mark I’d prefer you briefly sum up what you’d like the school community to know than say read my blog because I like reading the school newsletter but I have time to go to your blog. Thanks Kattina

  4. Kattina bowell says:

    Mark, I’d rather you simply sum up your new blogs than you say read my blog because I don’t have time to go to your blog and I like reading information in the newsletter. Same at school assembly it’s good to hear you tell us rather than us have to go to the blog. Thanks Kattina

    • mwalker says:

      Thanks Kattina for the feedback about liking a summary in the school newsletter or a talk at assembly.

      The parents and I at the recent communication gathering talked and made personal reflections for about an hour on this topic of mindsets and motivation. That parent conversation combined with some student feedback after my talk at assembly on the value of student effort led to the post.

      I’m interested in reactions to the work as we had some ahaa moments in our conversation as we recognised things in ourselves and our children.

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