Tag Archives: Carol Dweck

Pathways to success trump fear of trying

The prodigy was afraid of trying.  “Everything I was going through boiled down to fear.  Fear of trying and failing….If you go to an audition and don’t really try, if you’re not really prepared, if you didn’t work as hard as you could have and you don’t win, you have an excuse….Nothing is harder than saying ‘I gave it my all and it wasn’t good enough.'” (Dweck, 42 pag.)

I wonder how many learners (student-learners and teacher-learners) are afraid of trying and failing.

The result is a violent aversion to risk. You have no margin for error, so you avoid the possibility that you will ever make an error. (Deresiewicz, 22 pag.)

This means there’s a lot of intelligence out there being wasted by underestimating students’ potential to develop. (Dweck, 64 pag.)

When people believe their basic qualities can be developed, failures may still hurt, but failures don’t define them.   And if abilities can be expanded – if change and growth are possible – then there are still many paths to success.” (Dweck, 39 pag.)

How might we highlight many paths to success? What if we make paths to success visible enough for learners to try, risk, question, and learn?


Deresiewicz, William (2014-08-19). Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life. Free Press. Kindle Edition.

Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: the New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House, 2006. 39. Print.

Being Slow…Mindset…2nd Chances…Learning (TBT Remix)

Rule Three from The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle is SLOW IT DOWN.

“Why does slowing down work so well? The myelin model offers two reasons.  First, going slow allows you to attend more closely to errors, creating a higher degree of precision with each firing – and when it comes to growing myelin, precision is everything.  As football coach Tom Martinez likes to say ‘It’s not how fast you can do it. It’s how slowly you can do it correctly.’ Second, going slow helps the practitioner to develop something even more important: a working perception of the skill’s internal blueprint – the shape and rhythm of the interlocking skill circuits.”  (p. 85)

We still take a lot of heat from our colleagues about 2nd chance tests.  It makes many people, teachers and parents, uncomfortable.

About our version of 2nd chance tests:

  • Our learners take the test; we mark (not grade) each problem as correct or incorrect, and return the paper to the child without a number-no grade yet.
  • Their job is to find, correct, and identify errors.  We ask them to categorize an error as either a “simple mistake” or “needs more study”.
  • We also ask them to complete a table of specifications and determine their proficiency on the assessed essential learnings.
  • After all problems are corrected, students write a reflection about their work.
  • Armed with the experiences of teamwork, feedback, and self-assessment, students are given a 2nd Chance test and are tested on only the problems missed during the first testing experience.
  • The final test grade combines the correct work from the first test with the work from the 2nd Chance test.
  • Yes, it is completely possible to bomb the first test and end up with a 100 in my grade book.

My assumption is that this discomfort comes from how non-traditional – radical – this concept comes across.  Just because it is different does not make it a bad idea, does it?  The discomfort comes from gut-reaction or theory rather than practice.  Shouldn’t you try it?  What do learners say?

Here’s what some of my learners say.

“If you give your best effort the first time around, you will have learned more in the process and the second time around will be less stressful therefore making the hard work the first time more rewarding. I think that the second chance test is a very valuable learning technique. Even after that unit is complete, it shows you where you need to improve before you start building on those concepts. So far this year, I have seen great improvement in my learning from my previous years in math. This year it has all started clicking, and I am excited about the new units to come.”
~CM

“Before we jump into a new chapter, our class usually takes a formative assessment to tell us where we are and what we know before we actually start learning from Mrs. Gough. I take these seriously because I think they really do help. If I can see where I am in the beginning and then where I am in the end, I can see how much I’ve learned and accomplished.”
~ MC

In Mindset, Dr. Carol Dweck writes

“When people believe their basic qualities can be developed, failures may still hurt, but failures don’t define them.   And if abilities can be expanded – if change and growth are possible – then there are still many paths to success.” (p. 39)

More from my learners:

“Taking formative assessments and tests is something that I think is very important. I give my best effort, and work to learn from my mistakes. The second chance test is something that I think helps us actually learn from taking tests and making mistakes, rather than just getting tested on the material. Math has become one of my favorite subjects this year, and I have worked to learn from all my mistakes.
~VB

“I think that first chance tests and formative assessments are amazing because I can first understand my level and see what to work on and then really learn the material on the test to do better on the second chance. I do well in groups (except for the occasional random moments), and I love working in groups instead of taking notes the whole time. By helping others, it also helps me understand what I am doing wrong or just what I am supposed to do.”
~ HA

I feel the same as Daniel Coyle in the epilogue of The Talent Code when he writes

“Mostly though, I feel it in a changed attitude toward failure, which doesn’t feel like a setback or the writing on the wall anymore, but like a path forward.”

One more quote from our learners

“Overall, I feel as though I have done a pretty good job so far, but there is no one who can stop me from really stepping it up to an unbelievable level. The rest of the year I am going to fix any flaws I have, and show everyone what I can do when I REALLY put my mind to something.”
~ LM

In case this has been too broad for you, let’s go deep.  Here is one learner’s story from three perspectives.

From my perspective…

“GW came to me feeling that she is not very good at math and that she hasn’t been encouraged to like math.  She seeks an advocate and coach.  I strive to support GW as she becomes empowered to take control of her learning.  She is learning that it is great to struggle to learn; it is worth it to struggle to learn; and through the struggle she finds success.  Success leads to more confidence and more success.”   

From GW’s perspective…

“When I started out in math I had a really hard time and math was a definite challenge for me and my first test grade didn’t make it any easier. I was “in a hole” as my parents would tell me and I had to dig myself out. I started to go to extra help a lot more often and made solid B’s on my midterm and exam grades. What helped me through this process was the support. Support from not only my family but from Mrs. Gough and the faculty that really encouraged me to do my best.”

 From GW’s parents’ perspective…

“GW quietly got way behind in math first semester.  Partly due to an inner voice telling her she did not do well in math and partly a lack of commitment and time management. GW had given up.  Mrs. Gough communicated to us that GW needed to demonstrate the deep practice method on all homework. With our support and encouragement (not hands on help) GW began to do the deep practice on homework and began to “review and preview” every night. Our emphasis was ‘the process’ not the letter grade.

Her great success is directly attributed to the teacher/student relationship that Jill forged. Through encouragement (emails), support (office hours), an emphasis on deep practice and patience, Jill taught GW to try and try again, make the mistake, work through it, and get to the answer. Through perseverance, determination and resilience GW moved from failure and “not being good at math” to more than just passing. For us the 80 on her final exam was an A+ in effort, team work, student/teacher relationship, and determination.”

There are many take-a-ways for me…

  • If I can see where I am in the beginning and then where I am in the end, I can see how much I’ve learned and accomplished
  •  It’s not how fast you can do it. It’s how slowly you can do it correctly.
  • I have worked to learn from all my mistakes.
  • There are still many paths to success.
  • This year it has all started clicking.
  • I am excited about the new units to come.
  • There is no one who can stop me from really stepping it up to an unbelievable level.
  • Try and try again, make the mistake, work through it, and get to the answer. 

So here’s to being slow, making mistakes, and trying again.  It’s about learning content and skills.  It’s about learning perseverance and determination.  It’s about learning.  Period!

Time is a variable.

Learning is the constant.


Being Slow…Mindset…2nd Chances…Learning was originally posted on February 12, 2011.


Coyle, Daniel. The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born : It’s Grown, Here’s How. New York: Bantam, 2009. 217.  Print.

Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: the New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House, 2006. 39. Print.

Move the fulcrum to a positive mindset; find a path forward

Move the fulcrum so that all the advantage goes to a negative mindset, and we never rise off the ground. Move the fulcrum to a positive mindset, and the lever’s power is magnified— ready to move everything up. (Achor, 65 pag.)

“When people believe their basic qualities can be developed, failures may still hurt, but failures don’t define them.   And if abilities can be expanded – if change and growth are possible – then there are still many paths to success.” (Dweck, 39 pag.)

How are we intentionally teaching growth mindset? How might we coach ourselves and our learners using Carol Dweck’s first steps to changing your mindset?

Step1. Learn to hear your fixed mindset “voice.”

Step 2. Recognize that you have a choice.

Step 3. Talk back to it with a growth mindset voice.

Step 4. Take the growth mindset action.

“Mostly though, I feel it in a changed attitude toward failure, which doesn’t feel like a setback or the writing on the wall anymore, but like a path forward.” (Coyle, 217 pag.)


Achor, Shawn. The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work. New York: Broadway, 2010. Print.

Coyle, Daniel. The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born : It’s Grown, Here’s How. New York: Bantam, 2009. 217.  Print.

Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: the New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House, 2006. 39. Print.

In an “I can …” culture: Embracing “What if” and “Yet” (TBT Remix)

Carol Dweck’s newly released TED talk, The power of believing that you can improve, helped me select this week’s Throwback Thursday post.

A previous post, Spreading an “I can …” culture: Aware, Enable, Empower, has generated genuinely some really great questions.

What if they can’t, Jill? Really, what if they can’t say “I can…” at the end of the unit?

Erin Paynter, @erinpaynter, published How Do You Help Student Reach Their Yet?  Can it be as simple as adding the word yet?  What if we repeat the questions with yet?

What if they can’t yet?  Really, what if they say “I can’t yet…” at the end of the unit?

From Erin Paynter:

“I find this one word to be a powerful tool to open a dialogue and to pause for reflection – on best instructional practices, on motivation, on student and parent engagement, and on teacher professional development plans.  It begins to wipe the slate clean so that we can work collaboratively on ways to engage our students in their learning by using more effective tools and strategies. It opens the dialogue to why and how – why aren’t they reaching their goals, and how can we get them there?”

Isn’t the answer now obvious?  We try again.  We collaborate to investigate other techniques, strategies, and opportunities.  We take action.  We send the message that “you can…” and we are going to work on it together until you can.  Learning is the constant; time is a variable.

Peyton Williams, @epdwilliams, published essential learning “I can…” statements in her 5 Week Update for 8th Grade English post and in her 5 week update for Writing Workshop Enviro Writing post.

From Peyten in an open letter to parents and students explaining her grading policy:

1) Letting a kid fail is not in my job description. I am supposed to teach, not judge. If it takes Johnny 17 times to understand where to put a comma between independent clauses, then so be it. I want him to learn commas, not learn that he can’t do them.

“I can…” instead of “I can’t…”  is teaching for learning.

How might we foster growth mindset in ourselves and others?

What if we embrace the power of yet?


In an “I can…” culture: Embracing “What if” and “Yet” was originally published on September 19, 2012

#TEDTalkTuesday: Believing, happiness, and dreams

Carol Dweck: The power of believing that you can improve

“Let’s not waste any more lives, because once we know that abilities are capable of such growth, it becomes a basic human right for children, all children, to live in places that create that growth, to live in places filled with yet.”

Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work

What we need to be able to do is to reverse this formula so we can start to see what our brains are actually capable of. Because dopamine, which floods into your system when you’re positive, has two functions. Not only does it make you happier, it turns on all of the learning centers in your brain allowing you to adapt to the world in a different way.”

Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution!

“And every day, everywhere, our children spread their dreams beneath our feet. And we should tread softly.”

Intersection of struggle and hope

Many days we stand in the intersection of struggle and hope.

We can observe our children carefully and look into their eyes and say, “Can I tell you what a great person you are?” and follow-up with concrete examples of the way they give amazing hugs and how kindly they treat their friends.  This is the stuff of our most important relationships: Aiming to understand and be understood. (Lehman, Christopher, and Kate Roberts)

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. (Dweck, Carol)

Move the fulcrum so that all the advantage goes to a negative mindset, and we never rise off the ground. Move the fulcrum to a positive mindset, and the lever’s power is magnified— ready to move everything up. (Achor, Shawn.)

To pursue bright spots is to ask the question “What’s working, and how can we do more of it?” Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Yet, in the real world, this obvious question is almost never asked. Instead, the question we ask is more problem focused: “What’s broken, and how do we fix it?” (Heath, Chip and Dan Heath)

And so the challenge of our future is to say, are we going to connect and amplify positive tribes that want to make things better for all of us?  (Godin, Seth)

 Move the fulcrum. Pursue bright spots. Amplify to make things better.

Aim to understand and to be understood.


Achor, Shawn (2010-09-14). The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work (Kindle Locations 947-948). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Dweck, Carol (2006-02-28). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (Kindle Locations 1135-1138). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Heath, Chip; Heath, Dan (2010-02-10). Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (p. 45). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Lehman, Christopher, and Kate Roberts. Falling in Love with Close Reading: Lessons for Analyzing Texts and Life. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Transcript: Seth Godin – The Art of Noticing, and Then Creating.” On Being. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2014.