Carol Dweck: The power of believing that you can improve

A few months ago I was introduced to the idea of a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset.  I decided to look into this idea and watched Carol Dweck’s TED Talk on the subject.  Dweck discusses her study of how students react when confronted with a challenge or difficulty and what the results are when students are taught a growth mindset.  In her research she has found that some students when confronted with a challenge embrace the challenge and enjoy the process of learning something new.  These students are said to have a growth mindset.  Then there were the students that felt the situation was “catastrophic” when they came up against a difficulty problem. Dweck explained that these students had a fixed mindset.  Those with a fixed mindset ran from difficulties and felt dumb when not able to solve a difficult problem.

Dweck believes educators should help students create a growth mindset.  To do this she suggest praising our students, but praising our students for their effort, focus, progress and perseverance not their talent or intelligence.  She also advises educators to introduce the idea of “Not Yet.”  Her studies have found that just introducing these words gives students hope and confidence.  Her studies have also proven that teaching a growth mindset can improve performance at chronically under performing schools.

So how does this relate to leadership?   Deal and Peterson (2009) tell us that rules and policy can shape the culture of a school  and the “unwritten rules, the informal expectations, and rites and rituals of daily life may be even more meaningful harbingers of action and sustained progress” (p. 9).    School leaders have the ability to shape the culture of their school.  As part of shaping the culture, why not build a growth mindset for all stakeholders.  Teach the idea of “Not Yet,” praise with purpose, and encourage all learners to take risk and preserver.  According to Deal and Peterson (2009) the function and impact of culture affect every part of the school environment and this impact can be both positive and negative.  By creating a positive culture where students are praised for their ability to preserver and the progress they have made we prepare our students for the challenges they will face in the future and create a positive learning environment that is not just focused on the outcome of one test.

TED Talk link.

Deal, T.E. and Peterson, K.D. (2009) Shaping school culture: Pitfalls, paradoxes, and promises. 2nd edn. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc.,U.S.

Dweck, C. (2014) The power of believing that you can improve. Available at: (Accessed: 28 February 2016).
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