Achieving the Dream (ATD) Reads

Achieving the Dream (ATD) Reads
Alexandria ATD group picture at the February 3 college-wide meeting.

The College Achieving the Dream (ATD) committees across the campuses are reading “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol S. Dweck and the Medical Education Campus (MEC) group will make brief observations as they make their way through it. Dweck explains “how we can learn to fulfill our potential by understanding and exploring the two different types of mindsets, fixed and growth.”

The fixed mindset requires a person to continually prove themselves with beliefs that our abilities are “carved in stone” and difficult to alter. In a fixed mindset, effort is seen as a weakness and often is feared by those who feel that effort denigrates your given abilities and puts you at risk for failure. A quote from the book states without effort, you can always say, “I could have been [fill in the blank]” but once you try, you cannot say that anymore. This makes a fixed mindset person vulnerable to failure.

Growth mindset is the belief that an individual’s qualities can be nurtured and grow with effort and experiences. These people believe that there is no limit to what they can accomplish or become and are willing to put in the effort to reaching their goals.

Dweck gives several examples of each mindset and shows the reader the effects on the individual and very quickly one surmises that the growth mindset leads to a more productive, successful, happier life. She relates this to those students who have a growth mindset as being successful even in the wake of challenging situations, which made them more determined to succeed.

There is a question in the book that asks: Are mindsets a permanent part of our makeup or can you change them? Dweck’s response is hopeful: mindsets are an important part of your personality but you can change them. Just by knowing about the two mindsets, you can start thinking and reacting in new ways. People state they start to catch themselves when they are in the throes of the fixed mindset – passing up a chance for learning, feeling labeled by failure or getting discouraged when something requires a lot of effort. Then they switch themselves into the growth mindset – making sure they take the challenge, learn from the failure or continue the effort.

Which mindset are you? Which mindset are your students? English Associate Professor Laura Young at the Loudoun Campus and Achieving the Dream member, presented at the college-wide meeting on February 3. She has developed Grit + Growth Mindset = Success; using an engaging introductory activity at the beginning of a semester helps students strengthen their understanding of what persistence is and how it affects their ability to be successful in their classes and in life. One way to do this is using a Ted Talk video titled “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” as a lesson hook, and then provide opportunities for students to explore the ideas of “grit,” “persistence,” “growth mindset,” “fixed mindset,” “perseverance” and “success” through readings, in-class discussions and online discussions.

Through this college-wide reading, NOVA faculty are asked to reflect on their mindsets and find ways to help students to do the same. Contact Young at for a sample lesson plan.


4 thoughts on “Achieving the Dream (ATD) Reads

  1. This book has been a welcomed addition to my learning collection as a higher education practitioner and advocate for students. It is has helped me to reconsider my interactions with and expectations of students, as well as my colleagues. Shifting to a growth mindset is life-changing for us as individuals, and can be transformational for NOVA if faculty, staff and students understood and applied the concepts therein. Awesome read!!!!

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