(2007-06-12) Dweck Mindset Failure Success Smart

Carol Dweck contends that we don't serve our kids (Raising Kids, Educating Kids) by telling them how smart they are. For a few decades, it's been noted that a large percentage of all gifted students (those who score in the top 10 percent on aptitude tests) severely underestimate their own abilities. Those afflicted with this lack of perceived competence adopt lower standards for success and expect less of themselves. They underrate the importance of effort, and they overrate how much help they need from a parent... "When we praise children for their intelligence," Dweck wrote in her study summary, "we tell them that this is the name of the game: Look smart, don't risk making mistakes." (Risk Management, Failure). The only difference between the control group and the test group were two lessons, a total of 50 minutes spent teaching not math but a single idea: that the brain is a muscle. Giving it a harder workout makes you smarter. That alone improved their math scores. (Self Improvement) After reviewing those 200 studies, Roy Baumeister concluded that having high Self Esteem didn't improve grades or career achievement. It didn't even reduce alcohol usage. And it especially did not lower violence of any sort... Scholars from Reed College and Stanford reviewed over 150 praise studies. Their Meta Analysis determined that praised students become risk-averse and lack perceived autonomy. The scholars found consistent correlations between a liberal use of praise and students' "shorter task persistence, more eye-checking with the teacher, and inflected speech such that answers have the intonation of questions." Dweck's research on overpraised kids strongly suggests that image maintenance becomes their primary (Extrinsic) concern - they are more competitive and more interested in tearing others down... But it turns out that the ability to repeatedly respond to Failure by exerting more effort - instead of simply giving up - is a trait well studied in psychology. People with this trait, Persistence (or should tha be Resilience?), rebound well and can sustain their motivation through long periods of delayed gratification.

The key, she found, isn't ability; it's whether you look at ability as something inherent that needs to be demonstrated or as something that can be developed... "The Mastery-oriented children are really hell-bent on learning something," Dweck says, and "learning goals" inspire a different chain of thoughts and behaviors than "performance goals." Students for whom performance is paramount want to look smart even if it means not learning a thing in the process... The classroom workshop isn't feasible on a large scale; for one thing, it's too costly. So Dweck and Blackwell have designed a computer-based training module to simulate the live intervention. Their hip multimedia software, called Brainology, is still in development, but thanks to early buzz from a Time magazine article and Dweck's recent book, teachers have begun clamoring for it, one even asking to become a distributor.


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