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Growth Mindset in the Classroom

Growth Mindset

Introduction Growth-Fixed Mindset

In 2006, Carol Dweck, the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, published a book called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. In this chronicle of over 30 years of research into how people succeed, Dweck details her simple but powerful theory on two mindsets she discovered in her subjects, which she named the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.

FIXED MINDSET: The belief that we’re born with a fixed amount of intelligence and ability. People operating in the fixed mindset are prone to avoiding challenges and failures, thereby robbing themselves of a life rich in experience and learning.

GROWTH MINDSET: The belief that with practice, perseverance, and effort, people have limitless potential to learn and grow. People operating in the growth mindset tackle challenges with aplomb, unconcerned with making mistakes or being embarrassed, focusing instead on the process of growth.

This is intended as a guide for teachers who are interested in creating a growth-oriented environment in their classrooms. Transitioning a classroom from the traditional method of instruction and assessment to the growth-mindset way takes a lot of work. Using the growth mindset in teaching is a work in progress and there will be setback and mistakes along the way, but each stumbling block is an opportunity to refine and review what is wrong and improve your methods!

Features of a Growth-Fixed Mindset Oriented Classroom

1. We should not just tell students about the growth mindset on one lesson and then leave it behind. Teachers can incorporate this into the daily routine of the classroom. The culture of growth mindset can underlie the entire curriculum and so too, the physical space of your classroom. We can make some meaningful changes to the classroom environment that are conducive to growth-oriented learning. It is possible to convey growth-mindset messages through thoughtful choices in the display and arrangement of your classroom. Here are some ideas:

Student-Teacher Relationship Strategies & Goal Setting

1. In this section, we are focused on strategies that can be used to improve relationships with your students. Students’ belief in your care and respect for them is a critical ingredient in the recipe for a growth-oriented classroom. If students don’t like you, they aren’t going to learn from you.

In order for students to get down to learning, with all its mistakes, failures, pitfalls and setbacks, it must be done in a nurturing environment.

The following is what a nurturing environment looks like:

2. The responsive teacher is one who provides appropriate challenges and responds to student needs. Your students’ growth mindsets will have the most room to flourish in the nurtured classroom, where they are given big challenges and room to make mistakes as they conquer them.

Students in the fixed mindset are fearful of and anxious about appearing stupid in front of teachers and classmates. They want everyone to know how smart they are at all times, which is why they tend to avoid challenges at which they may fail. Stepping out of the fixed mindset and into the growth mindset brings about an exhibition of vulnerability on the part of the students and it is likely they won’t be willing to show that kind of vulnerability to just anyone. But for a teacher who trusts and respects them, wants the best for them, and wont judge them when they make mistakes, they just may be willing to take the step.

3. Building strong relationships with your students is therefore key to letting them know that they are valued. The following are five cornerstones of the approach to effective relationship building with students:

  • Students know that the teacher has faith in their ability to achieve.

  • Students respect and like their teacher as a person.

  • Students seek and embrace the teacher’s feedback.

  • Students know that grades are less important than growth.

  • Students feel safe with their teacher.

4. Now that you are familiar with the fixed and growth mindset, and looked back on your teachers when you were a student to consider the characteristics of fixed and growth mindset teachers, it is time to prepare an action plan by using a SMART goal related to developing your growth mindset and fostering it in others. The following is a growth mindset SMART goal for teachers:

  • Specific: Write a specific description of your growth-mindset goal

  • Measurable – Write how you plan to track progress toward the goal

  • Actionable – Write steps you can take towards achieving your goal

  • Realistic – Write what resources and support you need to achieve the goal

  • Time – Write your deadline for achieving your goal

Example: By the second week of the new term of school, I will be able to know my students’ personal interests outside school. To achieve my goal, I will make a point to have students fill out an interest/hobby list. I will keep track of this information on my phone and get to the and understand my students better by being able to relate to what they like.

A Better way to praise: Person/Process –Praise/Critique

1. There is a difference between a person praise and a process praise. A person praise focuses on a student’s personal traits and qualities, like intelligence. “You are smart” is a commonly heard example of person praise. The problem with this kind of praise is that it sends the message that students succeeded because of some inherent, inborn quality they possess, and not the effort they put into their tasks.

2. Process praise, which acknowledge effort, strategies, or actions that contributed to the success of a task, sounds more like this: “You worked really hard at that”, sending the message that the amount of effort put into the task led to success. The following are examples of Person/Process –Praise/Critique:

Involvement of parents in the Growth Mindset game and building positive relationships with parents

1. One of the most effective ways to nurture growth mindset in your classroom is to involve parents in your quest. You can give a briefing or send information to parents on what you are embarking on, or write a letter or newsletter to parents. Doing this early in the year will help parents understand that you are a teacher that places a premium on the growth and improvement of your class.

2. Example of a sample letter to parents:

Dear Parents

I am a firm believer in the power of the growth mindset, and approach each year with the belief that all my students are capable of learning and growth. What is growth mindset? It is the emphasis that intelligence and ability are not fixed traits or that we are born with only so much of them. Rather, with effort and perseverance all students are capable to academic achievement.

Your child will be immersed in the growth mindset in my classroom. My students will be praised not for their mental ability or natural intelligence but for approaching the process of learning with grit and determination. And they will grow in ways they never thought possible.

But, this cannot work as well without your help. How can you help? You can value your child’s growth and improvement at home. Yes, test and exams scores are valuable data for tracking progress, but the important thing is that we see students grow independently. For example, if a student goes from scoring 60 to 72, we can either look at it as an unimpressive 72 or we can celebrate sizeable increase in the subject or topic. In my view, continual improvement, however incremental, is to be valued.

Here are some things you can do to help:

  • Encourage your child to take on challenges in their studies.

  • Praise your child not for the ease with which he or she learns but for the amount of effort put into learning it.

  • Communicate with me if the material is too easy for your child, so we can offer him or her sufficiently difficult learning challenges.

  • Emphasise perseverance and effort in things that they do at home or outside school.

I hope you be committed to this growth mindset journey. Please contact me if you have any questions or queries.


Your Child’s Teacher

3. Not every parent may be jumping on this journey, but you may be surprised how many parents are completely unaware of the fixed mindset messages that they have been sending their child.


Whether a person is having a fixed or growth mindset may seem like a small thing, but research (Mueller and Dweck, 1998) has shown that a student that operates on a growth mindset does better in school and grows up with better decision making, career goals, relationships and parenting.


To learn more about how we can help your students cultivate and apply Growth Mindset to improve their school work please click HERE

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