Growth Mindset: GoBrain and Making a Splash

A recent interest of mine has been the Growth Mindset.  I have blogged and presented on this topic:

Due to my interests, Carol Reiley contacted me about her initiatives about growth mindsets.  First, from her and her team’s website, GoBrain, is the following:


Second, she wrote a children’s book, Making a Splash, and decided to crowdfund its publication through Kickstarter –

What follows is an interview with Carol about writing and disseminating Making a Splash.

How did you first get interested in the growth mindset?

I’m a PhD student in Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University. My research is studying how medical students learn to become great surgeons. After I read Carol Dweck’s mindset book, a lot of things resonated with me and changed how I viewed people and myself. It’s a topic relevant to everyone and any age.

I wanted to explore more deeply how someone develops a growth mindset or a fixed mindset . . . and what positive or negative external conditions in life affects mindset-whether it was verbal or nonverbal. It can be as small as a single sentence – for instance, calling a child smart after they did well. That response is so commonplace and carries with it great intentions.  However, it can have the opposite reaction than one had hoped. Calling a child smart can cause them have a fixed mindset and be afraid to try new things since they may fail and therefore be called dumb.  I was curious about interactions that were very subtle but very powerful. Being aware of what these interactions makes a huge difference.

More about my research and growth mindset here:

What are your personal connections to this topic?

I grew up in the “trophy” generation where every child got a trophy for anything they did. At that point, a child’s self-esteem and confidence were valued above learning. Now it’s been shown that self-esteem has very little correlation to anything (success, intelligence, alcoholism, etc). People should really focus on the process of doing things and encourage those who are challenging themselves.

I personally approach life with the attitude of wanting to experience as much of it as possible, even if I fail at times. I hope we develop a culture where that’s okay and is encouraged as long as lessons are learned. I find a lot of people holding themselves back from trying things because of what others think and have regrets later in life. I really wanted everyone to let go of that and just do what will help them become the best people they can be.

Why did you write a book for children?

A growth mindset was something I wish I was aware of earlier on. It helped me realize that I should actively strive for opportunities to grow and learn, even if they are a struggle. After I read the book, I wanted to share the concept with everyone I knew.

I wanted to write not just a book for children to see examples of the benefits of having a growth mindset, but also for anyone that interacts with a child (parents, educators, coaches). I noticed that while everyone wants children to have a growth mindset, there were not many resources that explained how you could develop one, how you should praise a child, what to do when a child is frustrated and wants to give up.

 Why did you decide on a Kickstarter fundraiser?

I never planned on being a children’s book author. After having conversations with a variety of people about mindsets, I sat down as a writing exercise and the rough draft of this children’s story came out. After I shared it with friends, I realized I had to write a supplemental guide since there needed to be a link between the science and the stories.

Instead of going the traditional publishing route, I decided to self-publish since the material was so personal to me and I wanted it done right. This included the visuals by selecting the illustrator myself (traditional publishing houses select the illustrator themselves) and the length and content of the book.

Crowdfunding is an interesting new way that enables creators to connect with people who care about your cause. I’m so glad we met our funding goal because it showed that people do care about the growth mindset and want to learn more. If we didn’t meet our goal, I wouldn’t create the book.

How do foresee parents and teachers using this book?

The first step is to bring awareness start a conversation about the mindset. Interest in the growth mindset has increased. That’s a very good thing! I want children and adults to have open discussions during story time and start being aware of their behavior and move towards a more positive learning experience.

What are in your plans as a next step after the book is produced and distributed?

I want there will be more connections between the cool work being done in research and the general public. In particular, I want to focus on helping children develop scientific thinking by asking thoughtful questions and gaining an inquisitive mind. I’d love to see math and science explained in a easy to understand and accessible manner since some people shy away from those subjects since they don’t think they’re naturally good at it. I hope they develop a growth mindset and see it as a chance to learn about exciting new things.