Praise and the Fixed or Growth Mindset
The dangers of praise are exacerbated in certain types of people. According to the research of Carol Dweck, some of us are predisposed to take a “fixed” view of our qualities, skills, and abilities. We tend to think that we are the way we are and little can be done about it. Others of us take a “growth” approach when it comes to our abilities. We tend to think that we can always change and find possibilities for cultivating our skills.
Take the following simple quiz designed to determine whether you have a “fixed” or “growth” mindset:
Which description (#1-4) most accurately describes your attitude toward ministerial formation?
1. You are a certain kind of minister and there is not much that can be done to really change that.
2. You can do some things differently in ministry, but the important parts of what you are as a minister can’t really be changed.
3. You can always change the kind of minister you are.
4. No matter what kind of minister you are, you can change substantially.
(You can try substituting “intelligence,” “artistic ability,” or “athletic prowess” for “ministerial formation,” because we may adopt a fixed mindset toward certain of our abilities and a growth mindset toward others. The point is that our mindset will shape the way we approach the giving and receiving of praise and feedback.)
Now try to gauge what kind of “mindset” your intern has. How will this change the kind of feedback you provide? Will praise likely support or hinder them?
Summary: For more of the theory on praise vs. feedback, see Carol Dweck’s research. Whether or not you ultimately subscribe to the idea that praise can be detrimental to your intern, we hope you will approach supervision with this in mind: Your intern is always in the process of becoming. You do not yet know with absolute certainty just what kind of minister she or he will be, but you do know that your role as supervisor will be important to their becoming whatever kind of minister they become. Many supervisors have found that it helps to have taken a stance of openness and curiosity with regard to their interns’ qualities and abilities, for interns have often surprised them!