During Monday Mentorship with Justyna McMillan, we talked about recommended resources for developing leadership skills. Justyna shared two important titles with us: Mindset by Carol Dweck and Michael Fullan's Change Leadership. Today, let's take a closer look at Mindset.
Justyna's comment was that she liked Dweck's work because it prompted her thinking regarding capacity, both her own and that of her high school students. Indeed, the central premise of Mindset is that our achievement in almost every aspect of human life is directly correlated to how we think about our potential. Or, in Dweck's words, "the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life" (emphasis is Dweck's.
Most often, the premise is summarized as people either see intelligence and learning as fixed or growing, with that underlying assumption profoundly impacting effort and achievement. An excellent synopsis beyond that which I'm prepared to tackle here can be found at Mindset Works.
In her early research, Dweck's team found that human qualities, including intellect, are malleable and can be enhanced through effort. Her most succinct summary is:
"The fixed mindset limits achievement. It fills people's minds with
interfering thoughts, it makes effort disagreeable, and it leads to
inferior learning strategies. What's more, it makes other people into
judges instead of allies. Whether we're talking about Darwin or
college students, important achievements require a clear focus, all-out
effort, and a bottomless trunk full of strategies. Plus allies in learning.
This is what the growth mindset gives people, and that's why it helps their abilities grow and bear fruit." (p. 67)
When attempting to distill clinical research into something usable for the lay person, especially in education, oftentimes what results in the public space is a far cry from the researcher's intent and/or actual findings. For example, Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences was not intended to be a statement about or to promote learning styles. A simple internet search of "misuse of Gardner's multiple intelligence theory" will yield countless hits demonstrating years of Gardner trying to clarify intent. But that's a post for another day.
I make the comparison to Gardner's work because as teaching of growth mindset proliferates in schools, we enter that murky water where Dweck's work can potentially be misunderstood (and is). In fact, she, too, has offered a clarification lest we conflate growth mindset with isolated effort. Read her article here, Carol Dweck Revisits Growth Mindset (Education Week, Sept 2015), to make sure you don't fall into the trap of teaching or promoting "false growth mindset." That article will frame a reading or re-reading of the original text.
Like Justyna, I find Dweck's work compelling and it is a key driver for my philosophy of the action-feedback-reflection-goal setting loop.
Disclaimer: While Leading Ladies is an Amazon Affiliate and earns minimal (cents) referral fees for linked purchases, Leading Ladies has no paid relationship with Carol Dweck. . . although I'd love to interview her for Monday Mentorships if any of you have connections. You never know. . . what with six degrees of separation and all.