Book Review: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck

One of my favorite books of all times, Carol Dweck’s Mindset has changed my thinking in fundamental ways.  If you’re going to read anything before the start of your school year (either as teachers or parents), read this one! 


At first glance, Dweck’s Mindset appears to be a pop-culture self-help book.  Don’t be fooled.  Dweck has spent decades studying achievement, success, and individuals’ mindsets or established attitudes in a variety of contexts.  This book is the presentations of this research in a very digestible “general population” format.  It has sparked many other articles across the internet, particularly in regards to how we praise our children as parents and teachers to either their benefit or detriment.

The book begins with three chapters about mindsets.  Essentially there are two mindsets, fixed and growth.  They suggest whether intelligence is viewed as a fixed trait (you either do or do not possess it) or a malleable trait (your response to various circumstances and opportunities directly impacts growth in intelligence).  A person’s mindset impacts how he or she responds to failures, setbacks, challenges, and opportunities to take risks.  Subsequent chapters explore the concept of mindset in various settings.

Favorite features: Powerful language & no blanket labels

First, I think language is powerful, and the ways in which Dweck points out the deeper messages communicated by what we say and her suggestions for growth-minded language were hugely helpful to me professionally and personally.  Second, I’m not a fan of blanket labels.  I don’t believe one individual is all one thing in all areas of his or her life.  So I very much appreciated that she notes that individuals often possess different mindsets in different areas.  For example, while I had a strong growth mindset towards my own students, there are specific areas of my life about which my mindset can be fixed.  Again, while this book reads like a pop-culture self-help book, it’s based on years of thorough research.  For me this is crucial for considering anything I would consider implementing in a classroom.

Suggested uses: Read, plan, reflect.

First, read the book.  If you are a teacher, parent, or coach, and you’re pressed for time, read chapters 1-3 and 7-8.  (And if you really need to triage, start with chapters 1 and 8.)  Second, develop a way to help present mindset to students and come up with a whole-class or whole-family plan for identifying and correcting fixed mindsets.  Make it fun!  Finally, reflect, reflect, reflect.  Are your views about a student or a student population fixed or growth?  Are your views about your own capabilities fixed?  What is the growth-minded version of one of your fixed views?  How can you practice growth-minded thinking in this area or about this student or student population?  For more reflection question ideas, check out pages 5-7 of the Safe & Supportive Learning Environments Checklists.

Managing expectations: Food for thought rather than “plug and play”

I’ve learned that there is a certain allure for plug and play (or make and take) tools.  I get it; we are busy and we want to use the good stuff as soon as we get our hands on it.  Be forewarned: this book has mental tools rather than quick classroom tools.  In my opinion, it is best used to guide your thinking and serve as inspiration for your own tool development.  For an educator or parent, there are powerful practical implications, but it does take a bit of work to develop tools for introducing ideas in a given classroom.  I’ll be adding tools you can use in your own classrooms and homes in the weeks ahead, so keep checking back.  I’ve found the most creative ideas from other teachers in workshops I’ve conducted, so please feel free to share your brilliant ideas with all of us!

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Has anyone else read this book?  If so, what would you add to this review?  Please comment below!

Already read Mindset and want more Dweck?  Or do you prefer a deeper, more scholarly version?  Check out Dweck’s Self-Theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development


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