Ways to Foster a Growth Mindset

Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

Individuals who function out of a fixed mindset believe that intelligence is unchangeable. You're either born smart, or you're not. Those with a growth mindset understand that intelligence is not innate; one can achieve success through hard work and perseverance. Carol Dweck, a leading researcher in this field, and her team from Columbia University have conducted numerous studies on growth mindset. What they've found is that teaching children about the growth mindset, or even just changing the language that we use with children, has a profound impact on their motivation and achievement. Dweck writes, "The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it's not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives" (7). It's our job as teachers and parents to teach children that the harder they "work out" their minds, the stronger their brain gets!

Picture Books that Teach Young Children How to Respond to Failure

Consider changing your praise from "You're so smart" to "I noticed you worked really hard. You must be proud of yourself"

Parents who praise their children for their intelligence, as well-intentioned as that praise may be, send a fixed-mindset message to children that they are being judged. In fact, some studies have shown that by the age of 12, students believe that receiving praise from a teacher is a sign of inability. Rather than perceiving the praise as a positive motivator, they view it is a sign from the teacher that their lack of ability calls for extra encouragement (Bronson and Merryman). Praising brains and talent is ineffective in the long term. While such praise might give children a temporary boost in confidence, that confidence will be quickly deflated at the first sign of failure. Dweck suggests, "If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning" (176-177). Praising children's efforts rather than their talent and brains will help them to develop a growth mindset.

Resources for Additional Reading

Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset The New Psychology of Success: How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential. New York: Ballantine Books.


Bronson, P., & Merryman, A. (2011, March/April). The Praise Paradox. Retrieved May 04, 2016, from http://www.nea.org/home/42298.htm