Behavioral Book Breakdown: “Mindset”

Year: 2006 (updated 2016)

Author: Carol Dweck

This is a book from which I’ve been drawing long before I knew it existed. Dweck, a social psychologist, created a “mindset” test that has been shown to predict achievement and growth in learners, and, while presenting in Seattle at the TESOL conference last spring, we had our audience take the test and discuss its results. But admittedly, I hadn’t yet read the book from which it sprung.

This is an essential book for anyone who wants to understand why people behave, think, and learn (or don’t learn) the way they do. The premise is simple, that praising students – particularly youth – for innate ability gives them a short burst of pride but doesn’t encourage them to seek and adapt to new challenges. Dweck cites myriad studies that support her theory, and it’s very convincing.

If there are flaws to the book, it’s that her anecdotes are mostly piles of things we’ve all heard before, particularly when she ventures into the arena of athletics. But every one of us has what she calls a “fixed” mindset – the belief that we can’t or won’t improve – regarding at least some of the activities in which we engage, and it can truly hold us back.

Reading the book was fairly personal for me, as a child who struggled to admit when he had any sort of trouble until it had gotten rather out of hand, and I would urge anyone interested in human development, and particularly education, to check it out.