Psychologist Carol Dweck’s “growth mindset” theory — students work harder and learn more if they believe they can “grow their brains” — is red-hot in the education world.
Everyone says they believe in the growth mindset, even when they don’t really, Dweck writes in Education Week. A “growth mindset isn’t just about effort.” It’s about learning and improving.
The student who didn’t learn anything is told, “Great effort! You tried your best!”
Instead, a teacher might say, “Let’s talk about what you’ve tried, and what you can try next.”
Dweck has a fear that keeps her up at night, she writes.
. . . that the mindset concepts, which grew up to counter the failed self-esteem movement, will be used to perpetuate that movement. In other words, if you want to make students feel good, even if they’re not learning, just praise their effort! Want to hide learning gaps from them? Just tell them, “Everyone is smart!”
She calls for “telling the truth about a student’s current achievement and then, together, doing something about it, helping him or her become smarter.”