1 (or 39) Top Idea(s) for Educators from Mindset by Carol Dweck

Mindset cover from Kindle version.Of the many books that I have read in the last year, Mindset by Carol Dweck has caused me to think and question my long held beliefs more than most. According to Dweck, our intelligence and our basic frame of mind can change. We can have either the fixed or growth mindsets.

  • You have a choice. Mindsets are just beliefs. They’re powerful beliefs, but they’re just something in your mind, and you can change your mind. Location 308

N.B. I read the kindle edition before kindle included page numbers, so I have included the kindle location number. While reading, I highlighted passages and made some notes. The passages in italics and the main bullet points are direct quotes from the book. The sub-bullets without italics are my thoughts. Those notes proceeded by “Note:” I wrote while reading the book.


The two mindsets will affect a person’s approach to any task. A person with the fixed mindset believes that he has a set amount of skill or intelligence or aptitude. The fixed mindset person is just good at stuff and will never get better or worse.

  • From the point of view of the fixed mindset, effort is only for people with deficiencies. Location 737

People with a fixed mindset will quit easily; they give up because there is no use in struggling or giving extra effort. Many fixed mindset people will not even attempt challenging tasks; that way they can’t fail.


The growth mindset on the other hand is filled with possibility. People witht the growth mindset believe that through hard work they can get smarter, better, stronger. Often the effort is the reward for the growth minded. Failure is a sign of just needed to try again only harder. Growth minded people will not give up very easily.

  • Not only weren’t they discouraged by failure, they didn’t even think they were failing. They thought they were learning. Location 110
  • Those with the growth mindset found success in doing their best, in learning and improving. And this is exactly what we find in the champions. Location 1650
  • Those with the growth mindset found setbacks motivating. They’re informative. They’re a wake-up call. Location 1671
  • You have to work hardest for the things you love most. Location 758
  • Actually, sometimes you plunge into something because you’re not good at it. Location 919

    • In 2011, as part of the EdCamp Boston planning team, I took on the task of creating the logo (from the generic EdCamp logo) when our teen artist fell through. I am not much of an artist and have only a limited skill set in computer graphics. Well, after much trial and error, I came up with a decent looking graphic using only free tools on the iPad. With that success behind me, I once again took on the role of graphic artist with EdCamp Vermont.
  • In the growth mindset, you don’t always need confidence. Location 917

Dweck explains that even the fixed mindset is not truly fixed – it can be broken.

  • People can also have different mindsets in different areas. Location 825
  • It’s also important to realize that even if people have a fixed mindset, they’re not always in that mindset. In fact, in many of our studies, we put people into a growth mindset. We tell them that an ability can be learned and that the task will give them a chance to do that. Or we have them read a scientific article that teaches them the growth mindset. The article describes people who did not have natural ability, but who developed exceptional skills. These experiences make our research participants into growth-minded thinkers, at least for the moment—and they act like growth-minded thinkers, too. Location 816

So what? What does all this talk of mindsets have to do with modern education? The mindsets cut right to the core of why we teach (hopefully). Educators must truly believe that EVERY child can be successful through the right combination of hard work and good instruction. The number 1 Top Idea for Educators from this book is:

  • Believing talents can be developed allows people to fulfill their potential. Location 840

We are all about fulfilling potential – our students’, our school’s, our community’s and our own potential.


Now that I have uncovered the 1 Top Idea of the fixed and growth mindsets, I want to share more of this powerful book. I’ve split up a slew of pithy quotes into categories that may be most relevant to educators.



  • I think by now we’re getting the idea that character grows out of mindset. Location 1564
    • So, by helping students with their mindset, we might be making progress on part of the hidden curriculum. Great.
  • Praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation and it harms their performance. Location 2839
    • WOW! This flies in the face of so much that I thought I knew.
  • We can praise them as much as we want for the growth-oriented process—what they accomplished through practice, study, persistence, and good strategies. And we can ask them about their work in a way that admires and appreciates their efforts and choices. Location 2874
    • Note: Can we make this part of the way teachers talk to students? Should we have a parent session about this?
    • From this time on, I must praise hard work, etc. whenever possible.
  • So what should we say when children complete a task—say, math problems—quickly and perfectly? Should we deny them the praise they have earned? Yes. When this happens, I say, “Whoops. I guess that was too easy. I apologize for wasting your time. Let’s do something you can really learn from!” Location 2894
    • Note: Wow! Imagine that in school.

Not trying

  • Many adolescents mobilize their resources, not for learning, but to protect their egos. And one of the main ways they do this (aside from providing vivid portraits of their teachers) is by not trying. Location 991
  • This low-effort syndrome is often seen as a way that adolescents assert their independence from adults, but it is also a way that students with the fixed mindset protect themselves. Location 996
  • John Holt, the great educator, says that these are the games all human beings play when others are sitting in judgment of them. “The worst student we had, the worst I have ever encountered, was in his life outside the classroom as mature, intelligent, and interesting a person as anyone at the school. What went wrong? . . . Somewhere along the line, his intelligence became disconnected from his schooling.” Location 998
  • teaching them this mindset unleashed their effort. Location 1004
    • Note: Should we teach the growth mindset early and often and explicitly in school?


  • There’s a big dose of fixed-mindset thinking in the bullies: Some people are superior and some are inferior. Location 2700
    • So, will teaching students to be growth minded reduce bullying?
  • But some schools have created a dramatic reduction in bullying by fighting the atmosphere of judgment and creating one of collaboration and self-improvement. Location 2753
  • First, while enforcing consistent discipline, he doesn’t judge the bully as a person. No criticism is directed at traits. Instead, he makes them feel liked and welcome at school every day. Then he praises every step in the right direction. But again, he does not praise the person; he praises their effort. Location 2763
    • The combination of building the relationship and praising the positive efforts sounds like a powerful way to approach the “frequent flyers” – the kids with the worst discipline records.


  • Jaime Escalante (of Stand and Deliver fame) taught these inner-city Hispanic students college-level calculus. With his growth mindset, he asked “How can I teach them?” not “Can I teach them?” and “How will they learn best?” not “Can they learn?” Location 1090
    • Note: We’ve got to get every teacher thinking like this about all the kids.
  • This means there’s a lot of intelligence out there being wasted by underestimating students’ potential to develop. Location 1097
  • What any person in the world can learn, almost all persons can learn, if provided with the appropriate prior and current conditions of learning. Location 1122
  • Remember, test scores and measures of achievement tell you where a student is, but they don’t tell you where a student could end up. Location 1127
  • But some teachers preached and practiced a growth mindset. They focused on the idea that all children could develop their skills, and in their classrooms a weird thing happened. It didn’t matter whether students started the year in the high- or the low-ability group. Both groups ended the year way up high. It’s a powerful experience to see these findings. The group differences had simply disappeared under the guidance of teachers who taught for improvement, for these teachers had found a way to reach their “low-ability” students. Location 1134
  • In contrast, when students were praised for effort, 90 percent of them wanted the challenging new task that they could learn from. Location 1214


  • Don’t judge. Teach. It’s a learning process. Location 3021
  • Simply raising standards in our schools, without giving students the means of reaching them, is a recipe for disaster. Location 3150
  • The fixed mindset, plus stereotyping, plus women’s trust in people’s assessments: I think we can begin to understand why there’s a gender gap in math and science. Location 1340
  • The great teachers believe in the growth of the intellect and talent, and they are fascinated with the process of learning. Location 3158


  • they are constantly trying to improve. They surround themselves with the most able people they can find, they look squarely at their own mistakes and deficiencies, and they ask frankly what skills they and the company will need in the future. Location 1853
  • “If we’re managing good people who are clearly eating themselves up over an error, our job is to help them through it.” (Charlie, former boss of Jack Welch, quoted by Welch, quoted by Dweck) Location 2145
  • leadership is about growth and passion, not about brilliance. Location 2229
    • Maybe I do have a chance to be a decent leader.
  • Herodotus, writing in the fifth century B.C., reported that the ancient Persians used a version of Sloan’s techniques to prevent groupthink. Whenever a group reached a decision while sober, they later reconsidered it while intoxicated. Location 2278
    • I’m not advocating, merely offering up the wisdom of the ancients.
  • Create an organization that prizes the development of ability—and watch the leaders emerge. Location 2304


Becoming Growth Minded

  • “You have to apply yourself each day to becoming a little better. By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each and every day over a period of time, you will become a lot better.” Location 3378
    • Note: Wisdom from Wooden…(as quoted by Dweck)
  • The critical thing is to make a concrete, growth-oriented plan, and to stick to it. Location 3742


So, read the book and then make your plan. You can grow no matter how good you think you are.


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  1. Candice Logan-Washington said:

    This is an interesting take on improving your leadership skills. However, it mirrors the common sense of most urban educational leaders I have encountered in my career. It is a great source for novice and educators who move into challenging educational environments.

    June 6, 2012
    • Larry Fliegelman said:


      I can’t recall who it was who said something about common sense not being nearly common enough. I am sure there are plenty of administrators that you haven’t met who need to think differently about their leadership skills and about how people learn.

      In any case, thank you for reading and commenting.


      June 9, 2012
  2. Anthony said:

    This appears to be a life changing read….how we think what we will do. One has Determines what we do. If we refuse to change our mind set we will not be able to raise our level on consciousness and create necessary change. AS I read this excerpt I thought about the Pedagogy of Confidence by Yvette Jackson, she explains the importance of an individual’s mind set. How one thinks can shape policy and regulations that govern a schoolhouse, a district and national reform efforts. This books is a must read this summer….thanks for sharing

    June 8, 2012
    • Larry Fliegelman said:


      Thank you for the comment. I find myself constantly referring to the ideas of this book. I have had several teachers read it to discuss.

      Glad you found my post to be useful,

      June 9, 2012
  3. Brian Scriven said:

    This is powerful as we are constantly faced with educators who have a fixed mindset which in many cases equates to low expectations for students and learning. So often our mindset and beliefs hinder us from looking beyond our preconceived notions of the individual before us, which hinders our ability to reach the student or are willingness to differentiate. A student will often give you back the same amount of effort that you put forth. The low-effort syndrome can be found in teachers with fixed mindsets who must be exposed to professional development opportunities which could transform them into growth minded teachers.

    June 8, 2012
    • Larry Fliegelman said:


      Some good ponints to think about. Thank you for commenting.

      June 9, 2012
  4. Domingo said:

    Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I’ve truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed
    and I hope you write again very soon!

    February 21, 2013
  5. M. Horton said:

    I’ve been blogging about how principals can use research on motivation and influence to change the culture of their schools. Carol Dweck has been one of the first researchers I blogged about (right after Daniel Pink). Her ideas are so simple, but explain so much about the battles that principals face. Here’s the most recent of my posts about Dweck’s “Mindset.” http://motivationalschoolleadership.blogspot.com/2013/03/post-12-carol-dweck-part-3-how-to-fix.html

    Great post!

    March 15, 2013
  6. Mike,

    Dweck’s work has been influential. I have been following your blog (although I am a bit behind right now).

    Always good to have other school leaders writing about motivation and leadership.



    March 17, 2013

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