One of the barriers to opportunities afforded by education is the mindset of our students. There’s a considerable body of evidence supporting the view that implicit theories of intellect can undermine or improve student motivation in school. Whether the student directs their efforts trying not to look ‘dumb’ or actively engages with challenging and difficult work also appears to affect the progress they make in school and their attainment in exams. However, these experimental findings may be trickier to apply effectively within a whole-school context and there are some risks associated with trying to enthusiastically promote a ‘growth’ mindset as some kind of magical solution for the problems of poor motivation.
Learned helplessness and attribution theory
Carol Dweck is synonymous with the terms growth and fixed mindset. She developed her ideas during the 1960s studying the phenomenon of ‘learned helplessness’ in animal motivation.
These animal studies found that when exposed…
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