Published on March 7, 2014
Succeed through your F ailures Learning to fail productively Steve Lee, PhD Graduate Diversity Officer for STEM Disciplines March 7, 2014
What can we learn about failure from: psychologist Carol Dweck? Your response to failure reveals your mindset a sociological study? Scientists often hide our failures an artist’s TED talk? Embrace your limitations to succeed Steve Lee - UC Davis 2
How would you respond? One day, you go to class that is really important to you and that you like a lot. The professor returns midterm tests, and you got a C+. You’re very disappointed. On your way home, you get a parking ticket. Being really frustrated, you call your best friend to share your day, but are sort of brushed off. Steve Lee - UC Davis 3
How do you respond to challenges? Dweck proposes 2 different responses: stay in bed I’d look at what was wrong and resolve to do better. get drunk I’m a total failure I wouldn’t bother trying hard next time Fixed mindset I’d start thinking about studying in a different way. Growth mindset Steve Lee - UC Davis 4
Types of responses to failure Losing equals death You get better when you lose Steve Lee - UC Davis 6
Carol Dweck’s Mindset Fixed vs Growth ability is static avoids challenges gives up easily sees effort as fruitless ignores useful criticism threatened by others ability is developed embraces challenges persists in obstacles sees effort as necessary learns from criticism inspired by others’ success Steve Lee - UC Davis
What are the consequences of the different mindsets? Steve Lee - UC Davis
What are the consequences of the different mindsets? Those who were praised for their: to reinforce a: intelligence effort chose to work on: fixed mindset easier problems. growth mindset more challenging problems. Steve Lee - UC Davis
What are the benefits of a growth mindset? Those with a growth mindset: achieved higher grades in a General Chemistry course had a more accurate sense of their strengths and weaknesses had lower levels of depression Steve Lee - UC Davis
What can sociologists tell us about scientists? “Doctoring Uncertainty” Delamont and Atkinson Social Studies of Science, 2001, 87. as undergrads, they were accustomed to smaller projects with a high chance of success many new grad students face greater difficulties with bigger projects when scientists present or publish research, we marginalize our failures Steve Lee - UC Davis 10
How do scientists approach mistakes and failures? “The importance of stupidity in scientific research” Martin Schwartz, J. Cell Science, 2008, 1771. Let’s read and discuss Steve Lee - UC Davis 11
What can an artist teach us about our limitations? Phil Hansen’s TED talk Steve Lee - UC Davis 12
What can an artist teach us about our limitations? Hansen proposes: embracing your limitations can drive more creative approaches don’t be driven by a single approach Steve Lee - UC Davis 13
What can we learn from failures? psychologist Carol Dweck Growth requires putting in effort Professor Martin Schwartz Accept that research makes us feel stupid artist Phil Hansen Embrace your limitations to succeed Steve Lee - UC Davis 14
Self-reflection Questions What’s been a recent failure for you? Describe the events, possible causes, people involved, etc. How did you respond? Was your response more consistent with a fixed mindset or a growth mindset? Consider similar experiences of failures, obstacles, and limitations. Was your behavior more consistent with a fixed or growth mindset? Do you believe you need to adjust your response to failures? If so, what aspects of your behavior do you believe you need to adjust? Steve Lee - UC Davis 15
Further Reading This workshop’s materials are in Slideshare.net Steve Lee - UC Davis 16
Are you paying attention to your failures, limitations, challenges? What are they trying to teach you? Steve Lee - UC Davis 17
Succeed through your F ailures Learning to Fail Productively Steve Lee, PhD; firstname.lastname@example.org Graduate Diversity Officer for the STEM Disciplines Office of Graduate Studies, UC Davis March 7, 2014; 1-2:30 PM Student Community Center Excerpt from “The importance of stupidity in scientific research” Martin Schwartz, J. Cell Science, 2008, 1771. A Ph.D., in which you have to do a research project, is a whole different thing. For me, it was a daunting task. How could I possibly frame the questions that would lead to significant discoveries; design and interpret an experiment so that the conclusions were absolutely convincing; foresee difficulties and see ways around them, or, failing that, solve them when they occurred? My Ph.D. project was somewhat interdisciplinary and, for a while, whenever I ran into a problem, I pestered the faculty in my department who were experts in the various disciplines that I needed. I remember the day when Henry Taube (who won the Nobel Prize two years later) told me he didn’t know how to solve the problem I was having in his area. I was a third-year graduate student and I figured that Taube knew about 1000 times more than I did (conservative estimate). If he didn’t have the answer, nobody did. That’s when it hit me: nobody did. That’s why it was a research problem. And being my research problem, it was up to me to solve. Once I faced that fact, I solved the problem in a couple of days. (It wasn’t really very hard; I just had to try a few things.) The crucial lesson was that the scope of things I didn’t know wasn’t merely vast; it was, for all practical purposes, infinite. That realization, instead of being discouraging, was liberating. If our ignorance is infinite, the only possible course of action is to muddle through as best we can. I recently saw an old friend for the first time in many years. We had been Ph.D. students at the same time, both studying science, although in different areas. She later dropped out of graduate school, went to Harvard Law School and is now a senior lawyer for a major environmental organization. At some point, the conversation turned to why she had left graduate school. To my utter astonishment, she said it was because it made her feel stupid. After a couple of years of feeling stupid every day, she was ready to do something else. I had thought of her as one of the brightest people I knew and her subsequent career supports that view. What she said bothered me. I kept thinking about it; sometime the next day, it hit me. Science makes me feel stupid too. It’s just that I’ve gotten used to it. So used to it, in fact, that I actively seek out new opportunities to feel stupid. I wouldn’t know what to do without that feeling. I even think it’s supposed to be this way. Let me explain. For almost all of us, one of the reasons that we liked science in high school and college is that we were good at it. That can’t be the only reason – fascination with understanding the physical world and an emotional need to discover new things has to enter into it too. But high-school and college science means taking courses, and doing well in courses means getting the right answers on tests. If you know those answers, you do well and get to feel smart. Questions: What does Schwartz point out as some important differences between school coursework and research? As Schwartz approaches his research, do you think he has a fixed or growth mindset? Explain your reasoning. 1
Carol Dweck’s Mindset Fixed Mindset Growth Mindset ability is static avoids challenges gives up easily sees effort as fruitless ignores useful criticism threatened by others ability is developed embraces challenges persists in obstacles sees effort as necessary learns from criticism inspired by others’ success Self-reflection questions: What has been a recent experience of failure for you? Describe the events, possible causes, people involved, etc. How did you respond to the failure? Was your response more consistent with a fixed mindset or a growth mindset? Consider similar events where you experienced failures, obstacles, and limitations. Were your patterns of behavior more consistent with a fixed or growth mindset? Do you believe you need to adjust your response to failures? If so, what aspects of your behavior do you believe you need to adjust? Further Reading: “Mindset” by Carol Dweck “Doctoring Uncertainty” Delamont and Atkinson, Social Studies of Science, 2001, 87. “The importance of stupidity in scientific research” Martin Schwartz, J. Cell Science, 2008, 1771. Phil Hansen’s TED talk: www.ted.com/talks/phil_hansen_embrace_the_shake.html “Switch: How to change things when change is hard” Chip and Dan Heath • • Thanks for coming to the workshop! I hope that it was helpful. My presentation and handout are available in my account at < www.slideshare.net >. 2
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