“The goal of this assignment is to help you to write an outline of self-reflective narrative essay”.1
“Brainology : Transforming Students’ Motivation to Learn ” by Carol S. Dwec k
This is an exciting time for our brains. More and more research is showing that our brains change
constantly with learning and experience and that this takes place throughout our lives.
Does this have implications for students' motivation and learning? It certainly does. In my research in
collaboration with my graduate students, we have shown that what students believe about their brains —
whether they see their intelligence as something that's fixed or something that can grow and change — has
profound effects on their motivation, learning, and school achievement (Dweck, 2006). These different
beliefs, or mindsets, create different psychological worlds: one in which students are afraid of challenges
and devastated by setbacks, and one in which students relish challenges and are resilient in the face of
How do these mindsets work? How are the mindsets communicated to students? And, most important, can
they be changed? As we answer these questions, you will understand why so many students do not
achieve to their potential, why so many bright students stop working when school becomes challenging,
and why stereotypes have such profound effects on students' achievement. You will also l earn how praise
can have a negative effect on students' mindsets, harming their motivation to learn.
Mindsets and Achievemen t
Many students believe that intelligence is fixed, that each person has a certain amount and that's that. We
call this a fixed min dse t, and, as you will see, students with this mindset worry about how much of this fixed
intelligence they possess. A fixed mindset makes challenges threatening for students (because they
believe that their fixed ability may not be up to the task) and it makes mistakes and failures demoralizing
(because they believe that such setbacks reflect badly on their level of fixed intelligence) .
Other students believe that intelligence is something that can be cultivated through effort and education.
They don't ne cessarily believe that everyone has the same abilities or that anyone can be as smart as
Einstein, but they do believe that everyone can improve their abilities. And they understand that even
Einstein wasn't Einstein until he put in years of focused hard w ork. In short, students with thi s growth
mindse t believe that intelligence is a potential that can be realized through learning. As a result, confronting
challenges, profiting from mistakes, and persevering in the face of setbacks become ways of getting
sma rter .
To understand the different worlds these mindsets create, we followed several hundred students across a
difficult school transition — the transition to seventh grade. This is when the academic work often gets
much harder, the grading gets stricter, and the school environment gets less personalized with students
moving from class to class. As the students entered seventh grade, we measured their mindsets (along
with a number of other things) and then we monitored their grades over the next two years.
The first thing we found was that students with different mindsets cared about different things in school.
Those with a growth mindset were much more interested in learning than in just looking smart in school.
This was not the case for students with a fix ed mindset. In fact, in many of our studies with students from
preschool age to college age, we find that students with a fixed mindset care so much about how smart
they will appear that they often reject learning opportunities — even ones that are critica l to their success
(Cimpian, et al ., 2007; Hong, et al ., 1999; Nussbaum and Dweck, 2008; Mangels, et al ., 2006). 2
Next, we found that students with the two mindsets had radically different beliefs about effort. Those with a
growth mindset had a very straightforward (and correct) idea of effort — the idea that the harder you work,
the more your ability will grow and th at even geniuses have had to work hard for their accomplishments. In
contrast, the students with the fixed mindset believed that if you worked hard it meant that you didn't have
ability, and that things would just come naturally to you if you did. This mea ns that every time something is
hard for them and requires effort, it's both a threat and a bind. If they work hard at it that means that they
aren't good at it, but if they don't work hard they won't do well. Clearly, since just about every worthwhile
pur suit involves effort over a long period of time, this is a potentially crippling belief, not only in school but
also in life.
Students with different mindsets also had very different reactions to setbacks. Those with growth mindsets
reported that, after a setback in school, they would simply study more or study differently the next time. But
those with fixed mindsets were more likely to say that they would feel dumb, study less the next time, and
seriously consider cheating. If you feel dumb — permanently d umb — in an academic area, there is no
good way to bounce back and be successful in the future. In a growth mindset, however, you can make a
plan of positive action that can remedy a deficiency. (Hong. et al ., 1999; Nussbaum and Dweck, 2008;
Heyman, et al ., 1992)
Finally, when we looked at the math grades they went on to earn, we found that the students with a growth
mindset had pulled ahead. Although both groups had started seventh grade with equivalent achievement
test scores, a growth mindset quickly pro pelled students ahead of their fixed -mindset peers, and this gap
only increased over the two years of the study.
In short, the belief that intelligence is fixed dampened students' motivation to learn, made them afraid of
effort, and made them want to quit after a setback. This is why so many bright students stop working when
school becomes hard. Many bright students find grade school easy and coast to success early on. But later
on, when they are challenged, they struggle. They don't want to make mistakes a nd feel dumb — and, most
of all, they don't want to work hard and feel dumb. So they simply retire.
It is the belief that intelligence can be developed that opens students to a love of learning, a belief in the
power of effort and constructive, determined reactions to setbacks.
How Do Students Learn These Mindsets?
In the 1990s, parents and schools decided that the most important thing for kids to have was self -esteem. If
children felt good about themselves, people believed, they would be set for life. In some quarters, self -
esteem in math seemed to become more important than knowing math, and self -esteem in English seemed
to become more important than reading and writing. But the biggest mistake was the belief that you could
simply hand children self -estee m by telling them how smart and talented they are. Even though this is such
an intuitively appealing idea, and even though it was exceedingly well -intentioned, I believe it has had
In the 1990s, we took a poll among parents and found th at almost 85 percent endorsed the notion that it
was necessary to praise their children's abilities to give them confidence and help them achieve. Their
children are now in the workforce and we are told that young workers cannot last through the day withou t
being propped up by praise, rewards, and recognition. Coaches are asking me where all the coachable
athletes have gone. Parents ask me why their children won't work hard in school. 3
Could all of this come from well -meant praise? Well, we were suspicious o f the praise movement at the
time. We had already seen in our research that it was the most vulnerable children who were already
obsessed with their intelligence and chronically worried about how smart they were. What if praising
intelligence made all chil dren concerned about their intelligence? This kind of praise might tell them that
having high intelligence and talent is the most important thing and is what makes you valuable. It might tell
them that intelligence is just something you have and not someth ing you develop. It might deny the role of
effort and dedication in achievement. In short, it might promote a fixed mindset with all of its vulnerabilities.
The wonderful thing about research is that you can put questions like this to the test — and we did (Kamins
and Dweck, 1999; Mueller and Dweck, 1998). We gave two groups of children problems from an IQ test,
and we praised them. We praised the children in one group for their intelligence, telling them, "Wow, that's
a really good score. You must be smart at this." We praised the children in another group for their effort:
"Wow, that's a really good score. You must have worked really hard." That's all we did, but the results were
dramatic. We did studies like this with children of different ages and ethnic ities from around the country,
and the results were the same.
Here is what happened with fifth graders. The children praised for their intelligence did not want to learn.
When we offered them a challenging task that they could learn from, the majority opte d for an easier one,
one on which they could avoid making mistakes. The children praised for their effort wanted the task they
could learn from.
The children praised for their intelligence lost their confidence as soon as the problems got more difficult.
Now, as a group, they thought they weren't smart. They also lost their enjoyment, and, as a result, their
performance plummeted. On the other hand, those praised for effort maintained their confidence, their
motivation, and their performance. Actually, their performance improved over time such that, by the end,
they were performing substantially better than the intelligence -praised children on this IQ test.
Finally, the children who were praised for their intelligence lied about their scores more often than the
children who were praised for their effort. We asked children to write something (anonymously) about their
experience to a child in another school and we left a little space for them to report their scores. Almost 40
percent of the intelligence -praise d children elevated their scores, whereas only 12 or 13 percent of children
in the other group did so. To me this suggests that, after students are praised for their intelligence, it's too
humiliating for them to admit mistakes.
The results were so strikin g that we repeated the study five times just to be sure, and each time roughly the
same things happened. Intelligence praise, compared to effort (or "process") praise, put children into a
fixed mindset. Instead of giving them confidence, it made them fragi le, so much so that a brush with
difficulty erased their confidence, their enjoyment, and their good performance, and made them ashamed of
their work. This can hardly be the self -esteem that parents and educators have been aiming for.
Often, when children stop working in school, parents deal with this by reassuring their children how smart
they are. We can now see that this simply fans the flames. It confirms the fixed mindset and makes kids all
the more certain that they don't want to try something difficult — something that could lose them their
parents' high regard. 4
How should we praise our students? How should we reassure them? By focusing them on the process they
engaged in — their effort, their strategies, their concentration, their perseverance, or their improvement.
"You really stuck to that until you got it. That's wonderful!"
"It was a hard project, but yo u did it one step at a time and it turned out great!"
"I like how you chose the tough problems to solve. You're really going to stretch yourself and learn new
"I know that school used to be a snap for you. What a waste that was. Now you really hav e an opportunity
to develop your abilities."
Can a growth mindset be taught directly to kids? If it can be taught, will it enhance their motivation and
grades? We set out to answer this question by creating a growth mindset workshop (Blackwell, et al .,
2007). We took seventh graders and divided them into two groups. Both groups got an eight -session
workshop full of great study skills, but the "growth mindset group" also got lessons in the growth mindset —
what it was and how to apply it to their schoolwork. Those lessons began with an article called " You Can
Grow Your Intelligence: New Research Shows the Brain Can Be Developed Like a Mus cle ." Students were
mesmerized by this article and its message. They loved the idea that the growth of their brains was in their
This article and the lessons that followed changed the terms of engagement for students. Many students
had seen school a s a place where they performed and were judged, but now they understood that they had
an active role to play in the development of their minds. They got to work, and by the end of the semester
the growth -mindset group showed a significant increase in their math grades. The control group — the
group that had gotten eight sessions of study skills — showed no improvement and continued to decline.
Even though they had learned many useful study skills, they did not have the motivation to put them into
The teachers, who didn't even know there were two different groups, singled out students in the growth -
mindset group as showing clear changes in their motivation. They reported that these students were now
far more engaged with their schoolwork and were pu tting considerably more effort into their classroom
learning, homework, and studying.
Joshua Aronson, Catherine Good, and their colleagues had similar findings (Aronson, Fried, and Good,
2002; Good, Aronson, and Inzlicht, 2003). Their studies and ours also found that negatively stereotyped
students (such as girls in math, or African -American and Hispanic students in math and verbal areas)
showed substantial benefits from being in a growth -mindset workshop. Stereotypes are typically fixed -
mindset labels. The y imply that the trait or ability in question is fixed and that some groups have it and
others don't. Much of the harm that stereotypes do comes from the fixed -mindset message they send. The
growth mindset, while not denying that performance differences mi ght exist, portrays abilities as acquirable
and sends a particularly encouraging message to students who have been negatively stereotyped — one
that they respond to with renewed motivation and engagement. 5
Inspired by these positive findings, we started to think about how we could make a growth mindset
workshop more widely available. To do this, we have begun to develop a computer -based program called
"Brainology." In six computer modules, students learn about the brain and how to make it work better. They
follow two hip teens through their school day, learn how to confront and solve schoolwork problems, and
create study plans. They visit a state -of-the -art virtual brain lab, do brain experiments, and find out such
things as how the brain changes with learnin g — how it grows new connections every time students learn
something new. They also learn how to use this idea in their schoolwork by putting their study skills to work
to make themselves smarter.
We pilot -tested Brainology in 20 New York City schools. Vir tually all of the students loved it and reported
(anonymously) the ways in which they changed their ideas about learning and changed their learning and
study habits. Here are some things they said in response to the question, "Did you change your mind abou t
I did change my mind about how the brain works…I will try harder because I know that the more you try,
the more your brain works.
Yes... I imagine neurons making connections in my brain and I feel like I am learning something.
My favorite thin g from Brainology is the neurons part where when u learn something, there are connections
and they keep growing. I always picture them when I'm in school.
Teachers also reported changes in their students, saying that they had become more active and eager
learners: "They offer to practice, study, take notes, or pay attention to ensure that connections will be
What Do We Value?
In our society, we seem to worship talent — and we often portray it as a gift. Now we can see that this is
not motivating to our students. Those who think they have this gift expect to sit there with it and be
successful. When they aren't successful, they get defensive and demoralized, and often opt out. Those
who don't think they have the gift also become defensive and demorali zed, and often opt out as well.
We need to correct the harmful idea that people simply have gifts that transport them to success, and to
teach our students that no matter how smart or talented someone is — be it Einstein, Mozart, or Michael
Jordan — no one succeeds in a big way without enormous amounts of dedication and effort. It is through
effort that people build their abilities and realize their potential. More and more research is showing there is
one thing that sets the great successes apart from their equally talented peers — how hard they've worked
(Ericsson, et al ., 2006).
Next time you're tempted to praise your students' intelligence or talent, restrain yourself. Instead, teach
them how much fun a challenging task is, how interesting and informative errors are, and how great it is to
struggle with something and make progress. Most of all, teach them that by taking on challenges, making
mistakes, and putting forth effort, they are making themselves smarter.
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