Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, will present her research about children's achievement and tenacity on Tues., Oct. 26, in the Parish Hall from 7 - 8:30 p.m. We hope to see you there.
By Karan Merry
Head of School
Few issues are as emotionally charged for parents as the intelligence of their child. Is she smart? Is he really, really smart?
In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., provides many surprising insights about how we can encourage our children to do their best.
The Danger of The Label 'Smart'
The first insight has to do with labels. We’re all aware of the impact of sticking a negative label on a child, but there’s no harm in telling your daughter she’s smart, right? As it turns out, the label “smart” creates its own set of problems.
Dr. Dweck and her team of researchers gave hundreds of students, most of them early adolescents, ten problems from a nonverbal IQ test. She then divided the students into two groups of equal ability. One group received praised based on achievement. “That’s a really good score,” the researchers told them. “You must be smart at this.”
The other group received praise for effort: “That’s a really good score. You must have worked really hard.” The praise changed everything. Facing more difficult problems, the "Smart Students" floundered, said they weren’t having fun, and performed poorly. Even when researchers presented easy problems, their performance was worse than it had been in the beginning.
In contrast, the students who had been praised for their hard work seemed to welcome the more difficult problems and to learn from them, even though they, too, struggled. When easier problems came around, they outperformed both their previous scores and the scores of the students who had been praised for being smart.
A Fixed or Malleable Brain?
What’s going on here? Dr. Dweck makes sense of the research by categorizing two ways of talking about intelligence. The first is to consider intelligence an innate, highly valued characteristic over which a child has no control. Dr. Dweck calls this the fixed mindset.
The other approach is to talk about intelligence as something that can be developed and improved through hard work and appropriate learning methods. Dr. Dweck calls this the growth mindset. She cites research that shows that children who are told that their achievements are tied to their efforts, and who are taught effective learning strategies, take risks, improve their performance, and express greater joy in the process.
The growth mindset is one I embrace. We’ll be hearing from Dr. Dweck on Tuesday night. I invite you to come to the event, read the book, and let us know what you think.
Read about Prof. Dweck's work in Stanford Magazine. Read the New York magazine cover story How Not to Talk to Your Kids.