"The Effort Effect," an article by Marina Krakovsky about Carol Dweck, reports on current research on attribution theory, which is concerned with people’s judgments about the causes of events and behavior.


From the article: "Common sense suggests that ability inspires self-confidence. And it does for a while—so long as the going is easy. But setbacks change everything. Dweck realized—and, with colleague Elaine Elliott soon demonstrated—that the difference lay in the kids’ goals. 'The mastery-oriented children are really hell-bent on learning something,' Dweck says, and 'learning goals' inspire a different chain of thoughts and behaviors than 'performance goals.'

Students for whom performance is paramount want to look smart even if it means not learning a thing in the process. For them, each task is a challenge to their self-image, and each setback becomes a personal threat. So they pursue only activities at which they’re sure to shine—and avoid the sorts of experiences necessary to grow and flourish in any endeavor. Students with learning goals, on the other hand, take necessary risks and don’t worry about failure because each mistake becomes a chance to learn." (Krakovsky, in the Stanford Alumni Magazine, March/April 2007)

It looks like the most effective learners view intelligence as something they're working on--and often joyfully. The other way to view learning is as static concept: I got it, I'm done. The problem with that view is it's easily shattered, and doesn't take into account the resilience that required for ongoing learning, particularly learning in this age of extremely accelerated information flow.

Are you seeing this in your students? Are the learners who are doing best actually the "humblest" in some regard, not making declarations about how much they know, but instead just getting on (enthusiastically) with learning? What affect and attitudes do you see in rapidly-progressing learners?

Tags: attribution+theory, intelligence, motivation

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Wow, this was interesting, and I found your comment, "Students for whom performance is paramount want to look smart even if it means not learning a thing in the process," especially thought-provoking.

I wonder how much of this is about the kind of teaching we're doing (especially with NCLB). We don't give students the time to become engaged with a topic. We also throw content at them--focus on teaching rather than learning. I can see students doing both--I have myself!--depending on how personal the learning was for them. If it was just a hoop to jump for the grade, they were performance oriented. If the lesson was personally meaningful, they're willing to spend hours on learning the material and concepts.
You know, I think this fits in with some business studies of successful executives done by Jim Collins (Good to Great, Built to Last). As I recall, the executives who were not in the limelight, who were "humble" and working on getting the right things done were much more successful in the long run than those who were constantly in publicity.

As always, I agree :) But the question is -how to do that? It isn't easy and that's why teaching is an art and the old adage that education is "that which remains when all else has been forgotten", rings true. Each teacher can approach it differently but still have the outcome you talk about --there are so many variables.

We have to teach little lessons along the way. And what Connie brings up isn't really negative. I think that learning should be seen as very connected to self image. It is a great motivator. What is destructive to me is when that is the sole motivation, or the motivation is linked to qualitative measures and not the process itself........

Hunger is soooo important, curiosity. Learning for learning sake is more than just a hippy euphemism. It is about desire.....all comes from desire and into desire is morely eaten by desire. We need educators first and foremost that in some "artistic" way , make kids hungry to learn.

I once heard an old Zen story. About a famous monk who taught music. Every student wanted to be his pupil. One of his best students brought his younger brother and said his brother was a genius, was incredibly talented and the monk should have him as a student. The brother even offered his own seat! The monk blankly said NO. Each day the younger brother would follow the older to school and sit outside the closed door listening attentively. Sometimes bending and trying to look through the small gap in the doorway. Each month, the older brother begged the monk to allow his younger brother to study with them. Each time he quickly said, NO. This went on for years. Finally one day the older brother asked and the monk quietly said YES. The student asked "why now after so many years?" The monk said, "Now he is ready, he is truly both hungry and beyond hunger.".

I don't know what it means but it speaks.

I agree with you all--it's not the judgment of the final product, it's the involvement with the process of learning, and the ongoing involvement with the process. It's not in the "proving" that we know learning has occurred; it's about "being in that learning" and staying with the learning in a lifelong way. I agree with you, David: it's especially in "artistic" involvement and investment things come alive.
From the article:
"Students with learning goals, on the other hand, take necessary risks and don’t worry about failure because each mistake becomes a chance to learn" This is how real-life seems to go. And as Steve said, in the business world "...the executives who were not in the limelight, who were 'humble' and working on getting the right things done were much more successful in the long run than those who were constantly in publicity."
Keep on keeping on, I guess, joyfully, mindfully, being both "hungry and beyond hunger."
thanks for the comments--
I've been completely obsessed with Carol Dweck this Summer. I read her books Mindset and Essays on Self Theories.

Her work has changed the way I see myself as a learner and how I want my children and my students to see themselves. I think her work is also a key to closing the achievement gap. She talks a lot about effective feedback - that it needs to be based on the process students are using, not on the product. We need to stop telling kids they're smart and be more specific about what they are doing and praise their learning. I wrote two blog entries about this and I would really like to develop some professional development for teachers based on her work. This is really important stuff. I highly recommend reading Mindset. I think this is a book we should give out to every new teacher and parent.

Thanks Connie for bringing her name to the Classroom 2.0 community!

Thanks for posting this. I did a search on classroom today for the term "motivation" and only found four discussions. This was one. To me this is the key to everything else we talk about in an eLearning and web 2.0. Unless learners (kids and adults) are motivated to learn, and keep learning (e.g. Good to Great) all of the information that the Internet collects is just gold on a distant island. I read the elearning strategy of the University of Zagreb today, and it almost completely overlooks the challenges and strategies it will need to implement for its faculty, students and alumni to be engaged learners, just to meet the goals the university has set for eLearning.

Where else is this topic being discussed. Can people contribute links so we can build a network connecting the different people/places where "motivation to learn" and "effective practices that do motivate learners to learn on-line" is the focus of the discussion?

Here are two articles that I feel are relative to this topic, and which I use in the strategy of my own organization:

TRIZ – Theory of Inventive Problem Solving - http://www.mazur.net/triz/
The ideas in this web site provide a basis for the eLearning strategy that I seek to deploy at CC, T/MC

ReThinking Engaged Universities - http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2005/03/09/cherwitz1
This article outlines a role that universities can adopt, with eLearning being the process of connecting and engaging students, faculty, alumni, community and other universities in applying the concepts of TRIZ to innovate solutions to problems important to one or more stakeholders. The greater the importance a problem/solution is to more stakeholders, the larger the level of motivation and participation in the eLearning process.

Dan Bassill
Hi Daniel,
Thanks for the comment and links.
There are other discussions about Dweck's work here, such as this forum: "Ways to Praise." The way we praise students actually has a lot of bearing on their motivation. I'll try to redo the link there so it's still active. She has several great articles in Educational Leadership.
The skills we're talking about need to be learned, and need to be practiced. I'm a parent, and no matter how many kids I've connected to via mentoring, it's different with each kid, and your own kids. For volunteers connecting with inner city kids, and coming from diverse economic, racial and social backgrounds, they have a lot of learning before they have a lot of impact. Most don't stay involved long enough for the learning to take place or for the child to grow up. We need to find ways to change that.

Getting the knowledge experts to connect directly in forums like this with the people who apply their knowledge is a new form of mentoring and teaching that extends beyond the formal classroom, and beyond the books and research papers they write. I'm not sure how many see this as their role yet.



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