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040 - Mindset

posted Dec 2, 2015, 6:35 AM by Doug Muha   [ updated Dec 2, 2015, 6:42 AM ]

Counselor Notes 40

April 14, 2015


As we approach the yearly standardized testing (TCAP), I would like to point out to parents that so-called “intelligence” may not be something that is completely fixed at birth.  Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University wrote an interesting book on the way we view things (which includes intelligence) that has some application here.  The book is called Mindset (ISBN # 1-4000-6275-6) and here are a few interesting quotes from it:

     “Whether human qualities are things that can be cultivated or things that are carved in stone is an old issue.  What these beliefs mean for you is a new one: What are the consequences of thinking that your intelligence or personality is something you can develop, as opposed to something that is a fixed, deep-seated trait?”  p.4

     “... Robert Sternberg, the present day guru of intelligence, writes that the major factor in whether people achieve expertise 'is not some fixed prior ability, but purposeful engagement.'  Or as his forerunner Binet recognized, it's not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest.”  p. 5

     “... my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life....”  “Believing that your qualities are carved in stone – the fixed mindset – creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over.”   “...Every situation is evaluated: Will I success or fail?  Will I look smart or dumb?  Will I be accepted or rejected?  Will I feel like a winner or loser?”  p. 6

     “In this (the growth) mindset, the hand you're dealt is just the starting point for development.  This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.  Although people may differ in every which way – in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments – everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”  p. 7 

     (We).... “were trying to understand why some students were so caught up in proving their ability, while others could just let go and learn.  Suddenly we realized that there were two meanings to ability, not one: a fixed ability that needs to be proven, and a changeable ability that can be developed through learning.”  p. 15 

     “At the University of Hong Kong, everything is in English.  Classes are in English, textbooks are in English, and exams are in English.  But some students who enter the university are not fluent in English, so it would make sense for them to do something about it in a hurry.”  

     “...we asked them (students not fluent in English)... if the faculty offered a course for students who need to improve their English skill, would you take it?....”  

     “Later we looked at who said yes to the English course.  Students with the growth mindset said an empathic yes.  But those with the fixed mindset were not very interested.”

     “Believing that success is about learning, students with the growth mindset seized the chance.  But those with the fixed mindset didn't want to expose their deficiencies.  Instead, to feel smart in the short run, they were willing to put their college careers at risk.”  p. 17 – 18

I think that the teachers of Waverly Elementary School would agree that “purposeful engagement” really does help students grow and that their “intelligence” isn’t locked in at birth.  The TCAP test is designed to measure the gains students make through “application and experience.”  Parents who are interested in their child doing well on TCAP and life’s more important things would do well strive to cultivate the growth mindset within their child/children.

As the famous inventor Thomas Edison once said: “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration.”

Doug Muha Ed.S.
School Counselor
Waverly Elementary School