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TEDxNorrkoping

Carol Dweck: The power of believing that you can improve

November 11, 2014

Carol Dweck researches “growth mindset” — the idea that we can grow our brain's capacity to learn and to solve problems. In this talk, she describes two ways to think about a problem that’s slightly too hard for you to solve. Are you not smart enough to solve it … or have you just not solved it yet? A great introduction to this influential field.

Carol Dweck - Psychologist
Carol Dweck is a pioneering researcher in the field of motivation, why people succeed (or don't) and how to foster success. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
The power of yet.
00:12
I heard about a high school in Chicago
00:15
where students had to pass
a certain number of courses to graduate,
00:17
and if they didn't pass a course,
they got the grade "Not Yet."
00:22
And I thought that was fantastic,
00:27
because if you get a failing grade,
you think, I'm nothing, I'm nowhere.
00:30
But if you get the grade "Not Yet"
00:34
you understand that
you're on a learning curve.
00:37
It gives you a path into the future.
00:40
"Not Yet" also gave me insight
into a critical event early in my career,
00:43
a real turning point.
00:52
I wanted to see
00:53
how children coped
with challenge and difficulty,
00:55
so I gave 10-year-olds
01:00
problems that were
slightly too hard for them.
01:03
Some of them reacted
in a shockingly positive way.
01:09
They said things like,
"I love a challenge,"
01:13
or, "You know, I was hoping
this would be informative."
01:17
They understood
that their abilities could be developed.
01:22
They had what I call a growth mindset.
01:29
But other students felt
it was tragic, catastrophic.
01:33
From their more fixed mindset perspective,
01:38
their intelligence had been
up for judgment and they failed.
01:42
Instead of luxuriating
in the power of yet,
01:50
they were gripped in the tyranny of now.
01:54
So what do they do next?
01:58
I'll tell you what they do next.
02:01
In one study, they told us
they would probably cheat the next time
02:03
instead of studying more
if they failed a test.
02:09
In another study, after a failure,
02:14
they looked for someone
who did worse than they did
02:16
so they could feel really
good about themselves.
02:20
And in study after study,
they have run from difficulty.
02:24
Scientists measured
the electrical activity from the brain
02:30
as students confronted an error.
02:36
On the left, you see
the fixed mindset students.
02:39
There's hardly any activity.
02:44
They run from the error.
02:46
They don't engage with it.
02:48
But on the right, you have
the students with the growth mindset,
02:51
the idea that abilities can be developed.
02:55
They engage deeply.
02:59
Their brain is on fire with yet.
03:01
They engage deeply.
03:04
They process the error.
03:05
They learn from it and they correct it.
03:08
How are we raising our children?
03:13
Are we raising them for now
instead of yet?
03:16
Are we raising kids who are
obsessed with getting A's?
03:21
Are we raising kids who don't know
how to dream big dreams?
03:26
Their biggest goal is getting the next A
or the next test score?
03:31
And are they carrying this need
for constant validation with them
03:38
into their future lives?
03:45
Maybe, because employers
are coming to me and saying,
03:48
we have already raised a generation
03:51
of young workers who
can't get through the day
03:55
without an award.
03:59
So what can we do?
04:02
How can we build that bridge to yet?
04:05
Here are some things we can do.
04:09
First of all, we can praise wisely,
not praising intelligence or talent.
04:11
That has failed.
04:18
Don't do that anymore.
04:20
But praising the process
that kids engage in:
04:22
their effort, their strategies,
their focus, their perseverance,
04:26
their improvement.
04:30
This process praise
04:32
creates kids who are hardy and resilient.
04:34
There are other ways to reward yet.
04:39
We recently teamed up with game scientists
04:42
from the University of Washington
04:46
to create a new online math game
that rewarded yet.
04:48
In this game, students were rewarded
for effort, strategy and progress.
04:53
The usual math game
05:00
rewards you for getting
answers right right now,
05:02
but this game rewarded process.
05:07
And we got more effort,
05:10
more strategies,
05:12
more engagement over
longer periods of time,
05:14
and more perseverance when
they hit really, really hard problems.
05:19
Just the words "yet"
or "not yet," we're finding,
05:25
give kids greater confidence,
05:28
give them a path into the future
that creates greater persistence.
05:32
And we can actually
change students' mindsets.
05:39
In one study, we taught them
05:43
that every time they push
out of their comfort zone
05:47
to learn something new and difficult,
05:51
the neurons in their brain can form
new, stronger connections,
05:54
and over time they can get smarter.
06:00
Look what happened: in this study,
06:04
students who were not
taught this growth mindset
06:06
continued to show declining grades
over this difficult school transition,
06:10
but those who were taught this lesson
showed a sharp rebound in their grades.
06:16
We have shown this now,
this kind of improvement,
06:23
with thousands and thousands of kids,
especially struggling students.
06:29
So let's talk about equality.
06:35
In our country, there are
groups of students
06:40
who chronically underperform,
06:44
for example, children in inner cities,
06:47
or children on
Native American reservations.
06:50
And they've done so poorly for so long
that many people think it's inevitable.
06:54
But when educators create
growth mindset classrooms steeped in yet,
07:00
equality happens.
07:09
And here are just a few examples.
07:12
In one year, a kindergarten class
in Harlem, New York
07:16
scored in the 95th percentile
on the National Achievement Test.
07:22
Many of those kids could not hold a pencil
when they arrived at school.
07:30
In one year,
07:37
fourth grade students
in the South Bronx, way behind,
07:39
became the number one fourth grade class
in the state of New York
07:45
on the state math test.
07:51
In a year to a year and a half,
07:55
Native American students
in a school on a reservation
07:58
went from the bottom of their district
to the top,
08:04
and that district included
affluent sections of Seattle.
08:11
So the native kids outdid
the Microsoft kids.
08:17
This happened because the meaning
08:24
of effort and difficulty were transformed.
08:27
Before, effort and difficulty
08:32
made them feel dumb,
made them feel like giving up,
08:36
but now, effort and difficulty,
08:41
that's when their neurons
are making new connections,
08:45
stronger connections.
08:49
That's when they're getting smarter.
08:50
I received a letter recently
from a 13-year-old boy.
08:54
He said, "Dear Professor Dweck,
08:59
I appreciate that your writing is based
on solid scientific research,
09:03
and that's why I decided
to put it into practice.
09:10
I put more effort into my schoolwork,
09:15
into my relationship with my family,
09:19
and into my relationship
with kids at school,
09:22
and I experienced great improvement
in all of those areas.
09:27
I now realize I've wasted
most of my life."
09:33
Let's not waste any more lives,
09:40
because once we know
09:46
that abilities are capable of such growth,
09:50
it becomes a basic human right
for children, all children,
09:55
to live in places that create that growth,
10:02
to live in places filled with yet.
10:08
Thank you.
10:14
(Applause)
10:16

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Carol Dweck - Psychologist
Carol Dweck is a pioneering researcher in the field of motivation, why people succeed (or don't) and how to foster success.

Why you should listen

As Carol Dweck describes it: "My work bridges developmental psychology, social psychology, and personality psychology, and examines the self-conceptions (or mindsets) people use to structure the self and guide their behavior. My research looks at the origins of these mindsets, their role in motivation and self-regulation, and their impact on achievement and interpersonal processes."

Dweck is a professor at Stanford and the author of Mindset, a classic work on motivation and "growth mindset." Her work is influential among educators and increasingly among business leaders as well.

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