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Carol Dweck

    Carol Dweck (1946-)

    “Mindset change is not about picking up a few pointers here and there. It’s about seeing things in a new way. When people…change to a growth mindset, they change from a judge-and-be-judged framework to a learn-and-help-learn framework. Their commitment is to growth, and growth takes plenty of time, effort, and mutual support.”

    Carol Dweck undoubtedly sees the key to success in the right mindset. She believes that the growth mindset boosts one’s motivation and self-regulation.

    Carol Dweck is an American psychologist who dedicated her life’s work to researching fixed and growth mindsets. She perceives them to be two ends of a spectrum on how individuals see their abilities. The ones closer to the fixed end of the spectrum see their abilities as inherent and fixed, while those who tend towards the growth end see their abilities as flexible and know that success is achievable through hard work and dedication.

    In terms of education, Dweck tried to understand why some students easily give up in the face of failure, while others succeed. Her research has shown that students’ motivation and achievement in school are affected by the way they think about their brainpower and ability. What’s even more important, Dweck’s work has confirmed that students’ mindsets can be changed in ways that have a long-lasting impact on their academic paths. Her contribution as the author of the “Mindset- The New Psychology of Success”, a professor, and a researcher in the field of education is indisputable. She changed education by giving educators the most powerful tool, a motivation to guide students in developing a growth mindset- “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try, try again!”


    Carol Dweck was born on October 17, 1948, in New York City. She went to high school in Brooklyn and continued her education at Barnard College where she graduated in 1967. Five years later Dweck received her Ph.D. in psychology and became an assistant professor at the University of Illinois. After several promotions, she accepted a teaching position at Harvard University, but soon after returned to Illinois as a professor of psychology. In 1989 she joined Columbia University and after fifteen years she joined the faculty at Stanford University where she works under the honorary title “Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology.”

    Carol Dweck has won many prestigious awards like the Klingenstein Award for leadership in education, the Ann Brown Award in developmental psychology, the Donald Campbell Award in social psychology, and the EL Thorndike Career Achievement Award in educational psychology. She has over 100 publications, many books, and journal articles translated into different languages and studied all over the world.  Her extensive research has been a binding bridge between developmental, social, and personality psychology. She observed individuals’ self-conceptions and the motivation’s role and effect on their accomplishment and interpersonal progress.

    Besides education, Dweck’s theory of two mindsets has a huge impact on business, healthcare, and parenting. We should be forever indebted to her for providing us with the instruments for fostering success, and for teaching us how to face a challenge and make the most of it!


    “No matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.”

    Carol Dweck had a way with words to explain complex matters in the simplest of ways. She believed that our intellect and abilities can advance over time if we made the effort. Hence, her theory of a growth mindset encourages teachers to guide their students to grow and face challenges. Teachers are lucky to follow her lead and teach students to stand up when they fall, to try again, and work hard to achieve great things.

    Dweck’s mindset theory focuses on the characteristics of a fixed and a growth mindset, and the possibility to initiate a change into a fixed mindset. She believes that the mindset strongly affects students’ approach to learning. She studied students with fixed, growth, and mindset that is somewhere in between, and came to the following conclusions:

    1. Students with fixed mindsets
    2. Have an inner desire to prove they are worthy and superior to others (ex. they accept learning tasks that promise a high chance of success);
    3. Avoid challenging situations with a potential for failure;
    4. Give up easily;
    5. Consider effort as worthless or as an indication of inadequacy (ex. they think trying too hard is a sign that they are dumb);
    6. Tune out negative feedback and are not interested in the correct answers to questions they didn’t answer correctly;
    7. Hold back on progress because they don’t believe progress is possible;
    • Students with growth mindsets
    • Embrace challenging situations, savoring the opportunity to learn and increase their skills;
    • Don’t try to prove themselves to others;
    • Continually improve their skills and talents;
    • Perceive failure as a sign that they simply need to work on their strategies;
    • Endure in the face of obstacles and recover from failure much faster than students with a fixed mindset;
    • See great effort as a necessary strategy for advancing their skills and understanding the task at hand;  
    • Show great interest in feedback following a wrong answer (ex. they see this as precious information that could help them increase their knowledge and skills);

    The important thing is that Carol Dweck believes that even though mindsets develop early in life they are not fixed, and can eventually be unlearned. Her motivation theory gives teachers the necessary insight into how to develop students’ mindsets and motivate change. Dweck researched how praise affects students. She praised students for their ability and their effort. The study showed that the students who were praised for their ability showed signs of a fixed mindset, while most of the students who were praised for their effort showed a growth mindset and a preference for challenging tasks. Additionally, they still enjoyed when they were faced with difficult questions, and even improved their confidence and performance. Contrariwise, those who received ability praise became discouraged, started doubting their capabilities, and failed in their performance. Here’s where the role of the teachers comes in handy. Teachers encourage a growth mindset by praising children for their hard work and effort and not their intelligence.


    Dweck’s theory’s impact on education is tremendous both for teachers and students. Her theory is a true reminder for students that there’s always room for growth, and an exceptional tool for teachers to motivate students to trust their intelligence and ability. Dweck’s mindset theory has a wide application in many areas including education. These are the benefits of the mindset theory in practice:

    • To enhance learning outcomes teachers should inspire the development of a growth mindset among students;
    • Teachers should praise effort and work ethic instead of intelligence and talent;
    • Teachers have to create a safe learning environment for making mistakes;
    • Teachers need to remind students that if they are not good at something, it doesn’t mean that they can’t improve, it only means that they are not good enough at it yet;
    • Teachers use mindset-based interventions in educational frameworks;
    • Teachers show students that intelligence is something we can change;
    • Teachers use challenging tasks to show students that a growth mindset is connected to overcoming those challenges and enabling higher academic achievement;
    • Teachers should use the phrase “yet” or “not yet” more often to let students know they are on a learning curve and there’s still room for improvement;
    • Teachers give slightly too hard assignments to students to encourage their development;
    • Teachers encourage students to dream big;
    • Teachers should leave stereotypes behind the classroom door and see each student’s huge learning potential;
    • Only teachers with growth mindsets can initiate change in students’ fixed mindsets;
    • Teachers with a growth mindset create classroom equity;
    • Teachers should see students’ abilities to raise their academic achievement and develop their growth mindset;
    • Teachers shouldn’t assign labels to children (“smart,” “stupid,” “slow,” “gifted,” and “talented”) as they support the growth of a fixed mindset;
    • Teachers provide feedback on the learning process of students rather than the product of learning;
    • Teachers increase the number of challenges and support students in overcoming challenges rather than emphasizing the significance of instant success;
    • Students who understand that success is not affected by natural ability, but rather by mindset have the desire to achieve their highest potential;
    • Students with growth mindsets choose not to quit and give up, but keep pushing and learning from experiences;
    • Students with growth mindsets convert life’s setbacks into future successes;
    • Students with growth mindsets are fully aware that failure can be a painful experience, but that doesn’t stop them to deal with failure and learn from it;
    • Students should work outside their comfort zone to improve their performance;

    For a successful implementation of Carol Dweck’s theory, teachers should work on improving their mindset to initiate change in students’ fixed mindsets. Carol Dweck’s ideas push both teachers and students out of their comfort zone to teach/learn something new and overcome obstacles. By empowering teachers with the means to make a difference, she made a growth mindset a reality. Her outstanding work is a gift for teachers to cherish, and students to thrive upon!

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