99 little bugs in the code, 99 little bugs. Take one down, patch it around 117 little bugs in the code.  


What a growth mindset is and isn’t. 

Carol Dweck states that a person engaging in a growth mindset believes that their ability and understanding can change if they work hard at improving. (Dweck, 2006). John Hattie wrote an article discussing a meeting with Dweck, where they reminisced about the misinterpretations and misuse of their work in education. I found this entire article fascinating and highly recommend it. In this article, he clarifies that a growth mindset is not a specific standard but a response to a challenge, which may only apply in some cases. The link between a growth mindset and educational outcomes has been murky, with Hattie’s work showing “grit,” a related idea to a growth mindset, having an effect size of 0.25 (Hattie, n.d.). He also shares that “It is thus perhaps not surprising that the meta-analyses of growth mindset studies show very low effects – too often the interventions are generalized rah-rah attempts to develop a language of growth vs. fixed with little to no attention to the conditions that optimally invoke the strategies of growth; too often the low effects reinforce just how hard it is to change long developed coping strategies to failure, error, and challenge.” (Hattie, 2021). Teachers can evaluate their students’ mindsets using surveys, interviews, and completing questionnaires about their performance in class. Through these tools, it is possible to quantify a student’s tendencies to see themselves as able to change their understanding and become more capable through practice. (Spark)

Based on this new understanding of a growth mindset being a coping strategy best suited to specific challenges, such as: when we do not know an answer, when we make an error, when we experience failure, or when we are anxious (Hattie, 2021), it becomes clear that certain classes or tasks will allow students to develop their growth mindset. 

Computer Science and a Growth Mindset

Intro computer science courses begin by grounding students in the specific syntax of the language used and often start with more direct lessons and assignments that don’t require creativity (College Board. 2020). As students progress in a course, or indeed along the CS degree program, they are challenged with more open-ended questions or prompts. These more open-ended challenges provide a more reasonable connection to a growth mindset. Another foundational skill of computer science that can be seen throughout a student’s progression through courses is debugging. Debugging naturally involves accepting failure as an opportunity to improve. Finally, computational thinking (ISTE, 2016) and using an iterative process whereby changes are made to improve often, is a foundational skill for C.S. students.

Growth mindset as a way to improve Computer Science? Or vice versa?

In 2020 a paper was published, with Carol Dweck herself as a co-author, who asked this question precisely. The results were fascinating: while growth mindset interventions improved interest in computer science, they did not enhance academic achievement  (Burnette et al., 2019).

Additionally, a study out of Italy investigated whether participation in a CS course increased a student’s growth mindset scores. “We see these results neither as surprising nor as negative, since they are in line with educational research, stating that transfer is difficult between distant domains and does not happen automatically [2]. Our results support warnings about enthusiastic claims around CS fostering GM” (Lodi, 2019). They went on to state, “We still think some characteristics of CS can help to develop a GM, but only if teaching interventions are explicitly designed to do so (and if they leverage, for example, on the creative and iterative nature of CS, as we have successfully shown in a preliminary study [20]). CSEd research should also focus on the opposite implication: CS is a challenging subject, therefore a growth mindset can be particularly important to succeed in it [18, 22].” (Lodi, 2019).



A combination of directly teaching growth mindset as a strategy for receiving criticism and reacting to failure, and providing tasks well suited to using growth mindset skills such as open-ended problems or tasks with multiple correct solutions, could be useful for computer science teachers. While the direct impact of a growth mindset on computer science is still under debate, certainly the ability to attack a problem with a computational thinking approach, which uses iteration, a skill closely aligned with successfully demonstrating a growth mindset, is an important quality in successful computer science students.


Burnette, J. L., Hoyt, C. L., Russell, V. M., Lawson, B., Dweck, C. S., & Finkel, E. (2019). A growth mind-set intervention improves interest but not academic performance in the field of Computer Science. Social Psychological and Personality Science11(1), 107–116. https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550619841631

College Board. (2020). AP Computer Science A. AP Computer Science A Course – AP Central | College Board. Retrieved February 25, 2023, from https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/courses/ap-computer-science-a

Dweck, C. S. (2007). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. United States: Random House Publishing Group.

Hattie, J. (2021, July 9). Misinterpreting the growth mindset: Why we’re doing students a disservice (opinion). Education Week. Retrieved February 25, 2023, from https://www.edweek.org/education/opinion-misinterpreting-the-growth-mindset-why-were-doing-students-a-disservice/2017/06

Hattie, J. (n.d.). Hattie Effect Size List – 256 influences related to achievement . VISIBLE LEARNING. Retrieved February 25, 2023, from https://visible-learning.org/hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement/

[@imosquera], 2020, September 4, IT WORKED!! IT WORKED!!!” my son screamed with joy from his room. I’m teaching him to code python and left… [Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/imosquera/status/1302062355031797760?lang=en

International Society for Technology in Education. (2016). ISTE standards: Students. ISTE. https://www.iste.org/standards/iste-standards-for-students

Lodi, M. (2019, July). Does Studying CS Automatically Foster a Growth Mindset?. ITiCSE 2019 – 24th ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education. pp.147-153, ff10.1145/3304221.3319750ff. ffhal-02379130f

@Sertig, “99 little bugs…”, Reddit, 2014, April 10, https://www.reddit.com/r/Jokes/comments/22qv5b/99_little_bugs_in_the_code_99_little_bugs_in_the/

Stanford Department of Psychology. (n.d.). Growth Mindset Scale. SPARQtools. Retrieved February 25, 2023, from https://sparqtools.org/mobility-measure/growth-mindset-scale/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *