When I was in the 6th grade, my teacher Mrs. Wilson seated us around the room in I.Q. order. Only the highest IQ students were allowed to erase the blackboard or carry the flag in the school assembly. Mrs. Wilson believed that your IQ score embodied not just your inborn intelligence, but your character as well. This was my first and most powerful experience with the fixed mindset—the idea that your traits are fixed and that they define you. I have devoted my life to liberating students from this mindset.
Mindset introduces students to a body of research they can use in their lives, especially during this time when challenges are coming at them from every direction. Students struggle with work that is much harder than anything they’ve done before, are in an environment that may seem less supportive and nurturing than before, and. . . . they have to think about college! On top of this, new social challenges (and setbacks) constantly occur. In this context, students find the growth mindset—the idea that your qualities can be developed over time—to be critical to their adjustment. In fact, they often tell me that they use the growth mindset principles on a daily basis to rise to challenges and take on new ones.
Rigorous research shows that it can be very helpful for students to learn about the growth mindset in high school. It can positively effect motivation, grade point averages, and self-esteem. It can also help students transcend negative stereotypes, such as women in math or minority students in a variety of subjects, helping them understand that they can acquire these skills through good instruction and sustained effort.
Mindset has also played a key role in professional development. Many educational institutions have made it required reading for their administrators and teachers because the book is full of crucial information about how to motivate students. The same thing is happening with athletic organizations, in which, according to coaches, a growth mindset is proving essential for the development of an athlete’s (and a coach’s) potential. Business schools and business organizations are using Mindset to encourage effective leadership and necessary innovation in times of change.
Many teachers who have adopted Mindset in their courses tell me that the students enjoy it tremendously, that it provokes excellent class discussions, and that it lends itself to useful and interesting exercises. For example, students can write about something they would like to change in themselves and how they would go about it, and keep a journal of their changes. Students can be asked to do something “outrageously” growth mindset (something they might not have otherwise done) toward their goal of change, and they can write about it or share this with their classmates. Educators have told me that many of their students gain the courage to pursue their most valued goals, ones they may not have pursued in the past because of the fear of failure.
Almost every day, I get wonderful letters from teachers who have assigned Mindset. I hope I will get a letter from you.
Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.