Robbins on Becoming, Dweck on Doing

This post may feel a little awkward on my professional blog.  But one of the aspects of attending Brigham Young University as opposed to a secular university is that we openly strive to blend academic learning with spiritual knowledge. So before we dive into the academic literature that might help develop a framework for blended learning, Dr. Graham wants to look at what the scriptures and prophets have said about becoming, which he feels is at the apex of learning (joined with knowing and doing).

I’ve been reading the talk that Lynn G. Robbins gave in the April 2011 General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, called “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye To Be?” Elder Robbins addresses parents in particular, though his remarks are important for all, I think. He begins by discussing the inseparability of be and do. Do without be is hypocrisy, portraying a false image to others. Be without do is void, portraying a false image to oneself. Nevertheless, he points out that Christ said that be is “weightier,” and that changing one’s heart will change one’s actions. As parents (and instructors) we must be careful not to make actions appear as identity, which can adversely influence our chidlren’s self-perception and self-worth. He quotes Carol Dweck, “Never let failure progress from an action to an identity.” (Dweck’s research has been very interestingly portrayed by Po Bronson in “How Not To Talk To Your Child: The Inverse Power of Praise,” from The New York Magazine.)

Dweck argues that focusing too much on intelligence (“You’re so smart!”) actually undermines motivation. “Smart” kids may be fearful of attempting difficult tasks, for if they fail at them, they undermine their identity as smart. On the other hand, if you praise actions (“I like how you worked hard at that task”), a child feels free to fail without calling into question their sense of worth.

How does this fit with becoming-doing-knowing? I’m not completely sure. Some of the other quotations made me think that knowing came first, then doing, then becoming. But Dweck seems to be saying that focusing too much on what kids are (“smart”) can actually hurt their willingness to do, if there is a chance they will fail.

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