Cultivating a Growth Mindset: Changing Students’ Beliefs About Learning

By Rick Ness

Rick is the TA Co-coordinator of the Writing Center at UW-Madison and a PhD Candidate in the Literary Studies program.

I’ll start this essay with some “fun” facts: Charles Darwin was an ordinary student whose father told him he wouldn’t amount to anything; John Stuart Mill was thought by his father to be of mediocre intelligence; Tolstoy was considered very dull, William James unexceptional. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team (Dweck 38). You get the point: these “mediocre” talents all turned out to be geniuses in their field. And we celebrate them for their genius. But we don’t really celebrate them for their hard work. Why? I suppose because genius is sexy and hard work isn’t sexy. Of course, we respect hard work, but we don’t glorify it. We value talent, brilliance, and genius more—whatever those terms mean. We even have a pejorative term for hard working students who achieve success through hard work rather than natural intelligence: we call them grinds.

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The Rhetoric of Composition: How We Talk When We Talk About Dissertations

WC_BlogrickNBy Rick Ness

Rick Ness is a PhD Candidate in Literary Studies at UW-Madison and a writing center tutor. Rick has led graduate writer’s groups and has co-taught the Mellon-Wisconsin Dissertation Writing Camp. His research focuses on the simultaneous emergence of British Romantic literature and biopolitical, medicalized societies.

Last January, I co-taught The Mellon-Wisconsin Dissertation Writing Camp with Nancy Lynn Karls and Neil Simpkins. During the camp I was perusing the collection of dissertation guide books in the Writing Center, and I noticed some common visual and verbal metaphors: mountains, journeys, and light bulbs (and while technically not a metaphor, a towering stack of books is a popular image). Continue reading