Carol Dweck and Mindset Theory

Out of all of the theoretical perspectives we have covered in my At-Risk concentration courses, my favourite has to be Resilience and Mindset Theory. The term “resilience” is the ability to adapt to challenging circumstances in one’s life, and referring to one’s self as an individual who is capable of overcoming adversity. Supporters of resilience theory have stated that resilient individuals are a product of a complex relationship between nature (i.e., traits that are inherited at birth) and nurture ( the environment one lives in as well as the availability of certain resources and supports). It is important to note, however, that resilience  must be built up over long periods of time. If at-risk students are able to find and maintain a resilient attitude towards life, they are more likely to overcome their unique risk factors more successfully. Resilient individuals can also be referred to as having “grit,” or a drive and ability to persevere despite the challenges presented to them.

Carol Dweck’s mindset theory goes hand-in-hand with resilience. A “mindset” is a cognitive network of beliefs that is formed primarily by one’s views regarding three different subjects:
1) Implicit theories of Intelligence: Is intelligence a fixed trait that we are born with, or can it grow with time and effort?
2) Effort vs. Ability: Is performance determined by how hard one works, or how “good” one is at a certain task?
3) Learning vs. Performance Goals: Is success during a task more important (e.g., a high grade), or is the learning process?

According to Dweck, one’s answers  will determine the type of mindset that he or she has. Those with a fixed mindset tend to view intelligence as an unchangeable trait, value talent over effort, and focus primarily on performance instead of on learning goals. Individuals with a growth mindset hold exactly the opposite views. They believe that one’s intelligence level can be developed over time, that performance is determined primarily by effort, and that learning new lessons and skills are more important than achieving a successful outcome. As someone who was very blessed to have had strong adult role models (who helped me to become incredibly resilient) growing up, I am passionate about providing then same type of support to my own students, and to help them begin to form growth mindsets. Below I have linked the video of Carol Dweck’s TED talk, as well as a presentation about “grit,” which was shown in my Teaching At-Risk course (and which I found VERY intriguing!):




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