The concept of a growth mindset – the belief that intelligence can be developed through effort – is gaining considerable attention in the education world. And for good reason.
A student’s perspective or “mindset” can have a huge impact on their academic success, motivation and future. And teachers, as primary mentors, can play a big role in nurturing that mindset.
What is a Fixed Mindset vs. a Growth Mindset?
The theory of fixed and growth mindset comes from Dr. Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University.
- Fixed Mindset – Students with a fixed mindset believe their skills, talents and overall intelligence are fixed traits. They may believe that any challenges they face are because they have a lack of natural skills and talent. Or they may think they “aren’t good enough”, so they refuse to try an assignment that seems too hard. In the classroom setting, believing you are “good at writing” or “bad at writing” is an example of a fixed mindset.
- Growth Mindset – Students with a growth mindset believe they can develop their skills and talents through effort, persistence and practice. They generally believe they are capable of learning nearly anything if they have the right focus, and they typically have a motivation to persevere after mistakes. Because they believe they can improve through hard work and trying new learning methods, they are more receptive to lessons and feedback.
It’s not hard to see why having a growth mindset is essential to a student’s lifelong success. That’s where encouragement from teachers comes in.
How Teachers Can Help
As a teacher, you want to see all of your students succeed. So how can you encourage and teach students to have a growth mindset? Is it possible to influence the outcome at all?
According to a national study of over 600 K-12 teachers conducted by Education Week Research Center, 96% of teachers believe that integrating a growth mindset will lead to improved student learning. But only 20% of study participants said they strongly believed they were good at fostering a growth mindset. 85% reported that they wanted more professional development in this area.
Practical Tips to Encourage a Growth Mindset
By making some simple changes in the classroom, you can begin to foster an environment where students are not only aware of a growth mindset, but can actively take care in creating it. Here are some simple strategies:
- Teach students to embrace their imperfections.
No one has ever learned something valuable without making mistakes. Changing your students’ perspective on mistakes is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Encourage students to view their mistakes as one of many steps toward mastery. Take time to help students reflect on both successes and failures. Remind them that everyone succeeds and fails, and that each step got us to where we are today.
- Help students see challenges as opportunities for growth.
Once you help students embrace their imperfections, you can help them view their mistakes as helpful. The red pen isn’t the enemy—not trying is. One practical way to encourage that attitude is to take the most common mistakes that the class made on a test or quiz and analyze those mistakes together. The more open everyone is about the mistakes they’ve made, the less significance any student will place on future errors.
- Adopt a “growth mindset” language.
Another valuable strategy is to replace negative words with positive phrases. For example, use the term “learning” instead of “failing.” And use the phrase “not yet.” Whenever you see students struggling with a task, just tell them they haven’t mastered it yet. Pay attention to words that may reinforce one mindset or the other. Some phrases that support a fixed mindset include: “You’re so smart”; “Wrong answer”; and “You’re a natural at this.” On the other hand, some words and phrases that support a growth mindset include: “Mistakes help you learn”; “Great use of several strategies to solve that problem”; and “You haven’t been able to solve this problem yet, but you will.”
- Acknowledge student’s effort.
When fostering a growth mindset in students, remember to acknowledge the process and effort a student is making, rather than the outcome alone. Praise them for practicing, asking for help or trying new strategies, rather than on their talent or intellect. Compliment them on how hard they have worked or how much they are progressing. Remind them that hard work always comes before obtaining skill—and that learning is a process.
Cultivating a growth mindset is just one relevant strategy to help your students succeed. For more education trends, check out our online library.