The importance of whether students believe in their ability to become smarter (i.e., “mindsets”) in helping students to realize their learning potential is increasingly gaining mainstream attention. But what does it mean to have a certain kind of mindset, how does it develop, and how can it be changed? I discuss a new way of thinking about the nature of mindsets that emphasizes the contextualized nature of mindsets, and that changes the way that we can answer these questions.
Psychological traits such as self-esteem explain how people differ from each other, but what explains the psychological traits and their development? Psychologists tend to explain individual differences and developmental trajectories of traits based on variables that are separate from the traits themselves. I argue that individual differences and developmental changes can also be explained by looking at the changes in the observable traits, looking within the trait and not outside of the trait.