Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are hthe language of god pdf worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. Carl Sagan What’s the difference between science and pseudoscience? David Didau: The Learning Spy » Is growth mindset pseudoscience? What’s the difference between science and pseudoscience?
The basis of all reputable science is prediction and falsification: a claim has to be made which we can then attempt to disprove. If we can’t disprove it, the claim holds and we accept the theory as science. If the claim doesn’t hold, we’ve learned something, we move one, we make progress. Pseudoscience doesn’t work like that.
It makes claims, sure, but they’re so slippery you can’t disprove any of them. We all know about phrenology, astrology, homeopathy and learning styles, but sometimes junk science is harder to spot. My friends at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, for example, tell me they use both Newtonian mechanics and Einstein’s relativity theory in computing highly accurate spacecraft trajectories to the planets. If Newton and Einstein are wrong, I inquired of EU proponent Wallace Thornhill, can you generate spacecraft flight paths that are more accurate than those based on gravitational theory? GPS satellites in orbit around Earth are also dependent on relativity theory, so I asked the conference host David Talbott if EU theory offers anything like the practical applications that theoretical physics has given us. Then what does EU theory add? A deeper understanding of nature, I was told.
No claims you could disprove: no falsifiable predictions. What has this got to do with Carol Dweck’s wildly popular theory of growth mindsets? Haven’t we all agreed that this is based on hard, testable science? There’s certainly nothing wrong with her studies, all of which have been scrutinised by far more qualified and sceptical minds than mine. But there are reasons for doubt.
Obviously that’s nowhere near enough to dismiss growth mindsets as a theory but it should give us pause for thought. Dweck’s studies, and those of her colleagues, provide impressive data. You’ll have to forgive me but this is just a quick, off-the-cuff post and I can’t be bothered to dig up any statistics for us to pour over here. Suffice it to say that if you want to find evidence to prove any of those claims, there’s a lot of it out there. But, and it’s a big but, when schools try a growth mindset intervention without support from Dweck or her colleagues, sometimes it doesn’t work.
Of course I understand the point about confidence levels, but I don’t try because I don’t really think there’s much point. We move one, i am happy to provide further details about LQ if you are interested. And it’s a big but, david Didau: The Learning Spy » Is growth mindset pseudoscience? Which I’m sure is not your intention, teaching someone about a growth mindset might give someone the sense of the idea but it probably would not change beliefs that already exist. Self reporting is riddled with problem not least subjectivity.
Maybe you’ve tried telling kids about growth mindsets and how this can turn them into academic superheroes? June and thought at the time that it explained away some of the difficulties I have with her theories. Basically, if you don’t get the benefits of a growth mindset it’s because you haven’t really got a growth mindset. In fact, you’re probably just pretending to have a growth mindset because having a fixed mindset means you’re a bad person.
The problem with a theory that explains away all the objections is that it becomes unfalsifiable. There are no conditions in which the claim could not be true. God created the fossils to make the world look older than it actually is in order to fox us and make Himself appear even more fabulous and omnipotent. Isn’t this a similar trick to the one Dweck is trying to pull off?