Classroom Management Main Page - EDEL 414 - EDSE 415


Summary of Self-Theories (1999)

by Carol S. Dweck and others.


Carol Dweck in her research over the course of 20 years has developed a very useful paradigm with which to examine academic self-concept, achievement, and motivation. She shows very clearly that future success is not so much the result of talent or current level of achievement, but as a result of the orientation/tools one uses to approach learning tasks.


Two types of Students (and views of ability/intelligence):

Fixed ability/intelligence theory: These students seek to look smart and avoid looking dumb. Their highest desire is to accomplish tasks successfully and prove their ability to others. So they seek tasks that will make them look good to others and maintain their conception of themselves as high ability.


Incremental progress theory: These students see satisfaction coming from immersion in the process of learning. Every opportunity to learn or try is an opportunity to get better. They do not focus on what the outcome will say about them, but what they can attain from taking part in the venture.


Two corresponding reactions to failure:

Helpless Pattern: When confronted by failure, students with a fixed ability orientation dealt with it by assuming there was nothing they could do further. Their ability was not enough to overcome the difficulty of the tasks and so they felt helpless. After failure, they quickly began to put down their ability/intelligence and perceived the whole of their effort as disproportionately unsuccessful.


Mastery-Oriented Pattern: Students with an incremental/process orientation, when faced with a failure condition, immediately began to consider the various ways that they could approach the task differently. They used self-instruction to motivate and guide themselves through the challenging task.


How each type of pattern is conditioned


Helpless Pattern

Mastery-Oriented Pattern

Being given performance goals (i.e., goals related to measuring the ability of the participant.

Being given learning goals (i.e., goals related to how much one is going to learn)

Focus on ends/products

Focus on means/processes

Being given praise and feedback related to how good at the task or intelligent one is.

Being given operational feedback related to process aspects of the task.

Focus on ability/intelligence

Focus on effort and application

Promote stereotypical beliefs about various groups typical ability/intelligence.

Challenge stereotypical beliefs about various groups typical ability/intelligence.

Develop a failure psychology

         External locus of control

         Individuality and competition

         Worth is related to ability level

Develop a success psychology

         Internal locus of control

         Belonging and Acceptance

         Use personal standards to judge success