Johnston Opening Minds Chapter 2: Learning Worlds: People, Performing, and Learning

In this chapter, Johnston discusses the different mindsets people have – the fixed mindset or the dynamic mindset, both of which are based off of Carol Dweck’s work. He talks about how our language can contribute to the adoption of either one of these mindsets.

  • “The problem is that these students live in a world of permanent traits and (in)abilities. They believe that people have fixed, unchanging characteristics (p. 10).”
  • “Often we try to boost these children’s self-esteem by convincing them that they really are smart (or good readers, or good at poetry). Unfortunately, by continuing the smart-dumb conversation, we actually confirm the children’s belief in the fixed characteristics (p. 10).”
  • “But if successes can be indicators of smartness, then failures, errors, or struggles can be evidence of stupidness. Heaping such praise upon these students to build their self-esteem won’t solve the problem, it will only deepen it (p. 10).”


Children’s Theories About Being Smart or Becoming Smart

  • Fixed performance frame (Fixed theory) vs Dynamic Frame (Dynamic Theory)
  • “In the dynamic world, the more you learn, the smarter you get, and though it can involve hard work, learning is the goal (p. 12).”
  • “In a dynamic world, when you run into difficulty it just means things are becoming more interesting. Challenging activities present no threat only the promise of learning something new (p. 12).”


Theories and Consequences

  • “In other words, a single comment can profoundly change the academic and moral choices children make. It literally changes the world they live in (p. 13).”


Agency and Helplessness

  • Characteristics of fixed frame: “Where possible, we try to avoid challenging tasks in which we might struggle and make mistakes, and thus provide evidence of our incompetence. We choose tasks that are easy enough that we’re guaranteed success but just hard enough for us to look good (p. 15).”
  • p. 17 offers a chart to compare the characteristics of dynamic frame and fixed frame


Changing Worlds

Beyond Being Smart

Theories, Relationships, and Feelings

  • “When faced with transgressions, people holding dynamic theories try to understand the thinking and the context of the transgression, to educate and forgive the transgressor (p. 21).”
  • P. 23 offers a chart comparing the consequences of dynamic frame vs fixed frame