Think.org Article with Huge Education Implications: Born winners don’t exist. Neither do born losers.

It won’t come as a surprise to very many that negative labelling can have hugely detrimental effects on children.  As educators and parents, we know how destructive it can be to tell a student he is not good at math, for example.  Such labelling creates self-fulfilling prophesies that are hard to avoid.

Who would have thought that positive labelling might have similarly detrimental effects on a person’s performance?  The following fascinating article from the website www.think.org explains why.

One of the causes of the fixed mindset is labeling. I can’t cook. I’m not creative. He’s stubborn. She is a genius. He is a real talent. Yes, even positive labeling leads to the fixed-mindset and can be detrimental. The problem with the positive labels is that people get used to feeling validated by them. Then, mostly unwittingly, they become defensive of their labels.

If you’ve heard too often that you are a talent, you become reluctant to seek out situations in which you may look bad. Bright kids with a fixed mindset stop seeking challenges at school that might make them look dumb, because part of their status is tied up in looking smart. Their mindset is shaped every time they get praised about being smart, instead of being praised for working hard or not giving up when the going gets tough.

The article gets even more interesting when it delves into the education implications of labelling.  Read on.

Your mindset is not fixed (if you thought it was, you simply may be in a fixed mindset right now). In fact, it can be influenced just by the language someone is exposed to. In one study, Dweck organized math classes spiced up with stories of great mathematicians. Half of the students were told about great mathematicians as geniuses – people who easily came up with their discoveries, who were ‘born for it’. The goal was to test the effect of that way of talking on the students. They discovered, it put them in a fixed mindset.

The other half of the students heard that great mathematicians had a passion for math, worked hard and ended up making these discoveries. This brought the children into a growth mindset. The underlying message in the second class was “skills and achievement come through commitment and effort”. Our brains sniff out the underlying messages of how they are being talked to, even if they don’t do that consciously.

If we weren’t motivated before to carefully watch how we talk to students and ourselves alike, this article gives us one more good reason to do so.  Read the full article here.

-Kristen

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