The Effort Effect: The Audacity of High Hopes

The effort effect on display at Buttercup Farm Nature Reserve, near Poughkeepsie. See below for a photo of the dam.

Intelligence is not fixed. It is it is learnable and teachable. It can be changed. The way we approach learning and thinking makes all the difference. It is our ‘mindset” that keeps us back. If we believe, and if we teach that intellgence is a fixed entity then we limit our abilites. If we say we can’t do that or are just no good at it then indeed we won’t be. If we think we can improve, if we believe that hard work, effort make the difference then we will get better at the ask we have set in our sights.

That is the basic premise of Carol Dweck’s Mindsets: The New Psychology of Success.
It’s a useful book and one that is having an impact in the world of education where it is appearing on teachers summer reading lists.
This article is a good introduction to her work:
The Effort Effect: According to a Stanford psychologist, you’ll reach new heights if you learn to embrace the occasional tumble.

Sports fans and athletes may enjoy the anecdote about her work with players on the Blackburn Rovers premier league football team.

When Dweck was working at Columbia University she conducted some interesting research in NYC schools on the inverse power of praise. Here is the story as reported by New York magazine: How not to talk to your kids

Basic idea: Praise the effort not the intelligence. Praising kids for being smart saps motivation.

I’ve posted about Carol Dweck’s work before Stop Praising Students.

And the end result of all the audacious high hopes? Here’s that beaver dam:


  1. GNeary:

    Beavers surely are hard working and audacious. Nice analogy for the growth mindset. Good photographs too. Thanks.


    And for all those, who think it’s OK to praise intelligence/ Big mistake in terms of children’s growth.

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