that enhances students’ sense of learning
and progress. Homework assignments
should not feel like mindless, repetitive
exercises; rather, they should present
novel problems for students to solve,
require them to apply what they’ve
learned in new ways, or ask them to
stretch to the next level.
For example, suppose that students are learning about the rise and
fall of civilizations. Their homework
assignment might be to apply their
learning by designing a civilization that
would either thrive (by building in
positive factors) or implode (by building
in risk factors). They can write the story
of their civilization and what happened
to it. Or suppose students were studying
Shakespeare’s sonnets. For homework,
they could write a sonnet to the person
or animal of their choice in the style of
Fast learning is not
always the deepest
and best learning.
students who challenge themselves, are
resilient in the face of difficulty, and
show clear improvement over time.
Other schools give a separate grade for
challenge-seeking, effort, and resilience.
Of course, for that grade to be effective
(and not just a consolation prize),
teachers need to have reinforced the
value of these qualities daily throughout
the school year.
What if a student puts in great effort
but does not improve? The teacher
needs to factor in the effort but then
work with the student to figure out
what the impasse was and how the
student can break through that impasse.
© SUSIE FITZHUGH
Meaningful work not only promotes
learning in the immediate situation, but
also promotes a love of learning and
resilience in the face of obstacles. This
kind of meaningful work takes place in
classrooms in which teachers praise the
learning process rather than the students’ ability, convey the joy of tackling
challenging learning tasks, and highlight
progress and effort. Students who are
nurtured in such classrooms will have
the values and tools that breed lifelong
Blackwell, L., Trzesniewski, K., & Dweck,
C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an
adolescent transition: A longitudinal
study and an intervention. Child Development,
78( 1), 246–263.
Dweck, C. S. (1999). Self-theories: Their role
in motivation, personality, and development.
Philadelphia: Psychology Press.
Dweck, C. S. (2007). The perils and
promises of praise. Educational Leadership,
65( 2), 34–39.
Grade for Growth
The way teachers evaluate their stu-
dents’ work can also help students
develop a growth mindset. At one high
school in Chicago, when students don’t
master a particular unit of study, they
don’t receive a failing grade—instead,
they get a grade of Not Yet. Students are
not ashamed of that grade because they
know that they’re expected to master
the material, if not the first time, then
the next time, or the next.
Carol S. Dweck is the Lewis and Vir-
ginia Eaton Professor of Psychology
at Stanford University and the author
of Mindset: The New Psychology
of Success (Random House, 2006);