Growth Mindset changed my classes

Teaching growth mindset can change the culture of a class.


Last year, I was part of a team of teachers who decided to spend a week of our homeroom/advisory time teaching sixth graders about growth mindset. Our decision to teach about mindsets was made toward the end of the school year in an effort to respond to some of the negative fixed mindsets we were noticing. While I would recommend starting the year with an introduction to growth mindset with follow up throughout the year, even starting it three-quarters of the way through, we saw positive changes! All of the students in the sixth grade received the same message about challenging themselves and being more aware of their learning. If a task was particularly easy for a student, others in the class would remind them to challenge themselves. It was the beginning of a change in culture.

What is Growth Mindset?

The concept of growth mindset isn’t new. Carol Dweck 1 described the psychology behind students’ attitudes about failure in terms of fixed and growth mindset more than 30 years ago. She built off the work of Haim Ginott,2 author of several books, including Teacher and Child (1972), where Ginott described a communication approach for teachers. The science behind what all of this means for teaching and learning continues to grow.

Before getting into how to use it, let’s review Dweck’s mindsets. There are two mindsets: growth and fixed.

  • Growth Mindset: When students believe they can develop intelligence and abilities, they are motivated to make improvements, or get smarter. They understand the need to put forth effort or try. By putting in extra time, they are able to achieve more or grow more.
  • Fixed Mindset: When students do not believe they can develop intelligence or abilities, they often see no point in trying or putting forth any effort, let alone extra They tend to avoid challenges or give up easily in anticipation of failure.

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You can probably think of examples of students for both growth and fixed mindsets. The good news for working with students with fixed mindsets is that people are not stuck in their current mindset forever. A student with a fixed mindset can be moved to a growth mindset, which can lead to significant changes in achievement and motivation.

Being fixed isn’t fixed!

There have been studies to show how achievement is impacted by mindset. At Stanford University, Dweck and her colleague Kali Trzesniewski, along with Lisa Blackwell of Columbia University conducted a study with 7th graders in New York City.3 The results are startling, with three times the increase in effort and motivation for those in the growth mindset group versus those in the control group.

Understanding the different mindsets can be gray text for blog2powerful for a teacher in that it helps direct a conversation with students and influences the way a teacher talks with students. There is a key distinction to be made here too, as there are times teachers think their choice of words is best for kids, but some of the research shows the opposite is true. Giving praise is an important part of fostering mindset, but the praise should be about effort rather than intelligence. One thing to keep in mind is always having a focus on encouraging students to challenge themselves. If the task was difficult for them and they worked hard on it, they should receive praise for their effort and effective use of strategies. If the task was easy for them, they should be encouraged to find a more challenging task. They should be encouraged to seek out learning opportunities to continue to grow.

The more specific the feedback, the better. Part of fostering mindset is building trust and knowing your students. Remind a student of something he or she said last month or connect the lesson to a goal they set at the beginning of the year. Particularly for older students, who start seeing more clearly if they are struggling more than their peers, it is important to have a dialogue with students and have them reflect on their growth to keep them motivated and keep them from getting discouraged.

Regular feedback is one way to nurture a growth mindset. Following are a few easy ways to offer feedback to students using Campus Learning tools.

With an assignment score: If you are putting a score in the Grade Book for a student, you are always able to add an individual comment. Find the assignment and click the arrow to the right of the abbreviation. Doing so opens up the scoring tab and you can type comments into the box to the right of the score.

crop comment mindset1


Through the Message Center: The Message Center allows teachers to send messages to the entire class or to individuals. It also allows teachers to create templates for messages sent to groups of students. See this video for more information.

Look for Part 2 of Growth Mindset: Your Role as a Teacher


Carol Dweck has published numerous articles on Mindsets as well as a book. Dweck, Carol S. Mindset. Random House, 2006.

Ginott, Hiam. Teacher and Child. Avon Books, 1972.

  1. A brief description to the study and a link to the academic paper can be found here along with additional studies connecting growth mindset to other school-related issues.

Additional Resources:

Edutopia article 

Mindsetworks: Information on the science, changing mindsets, what teachers can do, case studies, etc. found here.

Article by Dweck in 2016 about misconceptions and distortion of Growth Mindsets.

  1. Carol Dweck has published numerous articles on Mindsets as well as a book. Dweck, Carol S. Mindset. Random House, 2006.
  2. Ginott, Hiam. Teacher and Child. Avon Books, 1972.
  3. A brief description to the study and a link to the academic paper can be found here along with additional studies connecting growth mindset to other school-related issues.

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