Harnessing the Growth Mindset

Classroom Applications


10 AM: Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset: Introduction and Importance

-Distinctions between growth and fixed mindsets

-Recognizing mindsets in students

-Debunking the perceived correlation between innate ability and success

10:15 AM: How we can use mindset to foster learning

-How to re-orient student goals to change mindset

-Emphasizing development over short-term results

-Specific case examples

10:30 AM: How to encourage those who are risk averse/change averse

-Embracing failure and using it as an opportunity

-Formulating growth-oriented plans

-Maintaining the growth mindset

10:45 AM: Wrap-up


-Keys to integration in the classroom


Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

Growth Mindset: A mindset centered on the belief that everyone can change and grow through application and experience. 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.


Fixed Mindset: The idea that we are born with a certain amount of natural ability/intelligence. A person with a fixed mindset has a tendency to focus on the results (especially quantifiable results) rather than the processes and concepts that accompany learning.


How to develop the growth mindset

Put an emphasis on effort and diligence over tangible results

John Wooden, coach of the 10-time NCAA Men’s Basketball Champions, the UCLA Bruins, was a proponent of the growth mindset.

He didn’t expect perfect games from his players, but required full preparation and effort from each and every one of them. Growth mindset has nothing to do with coddling and excessive positive reinforcement however, as he was known to turn of the gym lights and leave practice when he noticed that his players were coasting and not putting forth full effort. (207).

John Wooden: Pyramid of Success

Denounce the concept of innate intelligence or any sort of value system predicated upon judging (of yourself or others).

It’s okay to monitor your surroundings and the results of your efforts, but it is important to sort information in a learning environment primarily for its implications in the contexts of learning and constructive action.


Encourage students to actively seek feedback

An example was given about a student who was seeking admission to graduate school

-Got rejected from her top choice, but she sought out information that would help her long term goal of success in the field

-She contacted the school and asked how she could improve her application, should she apply in the future

-Key part was that she sought out advice—it wasn’t easy but she realized that in order to grow, she had to confront her weaknesses


What is feedback? Why is it important!?

Praise and encouragement is ok in moderation, but it is important to minimize positive labels and emphasize effort and the learning process itself.

A study was conducted where hundreds of students, mostly adolescents were given IQ tests.

-Each student was given a set of ten fairly difficult problems from a nonverbal IQ test, and were praised for their ability afterwards.

-One group of students was told “wow you got [say] eight right. That’s a really good score. You must be smart at this”

-They praised the other group of students for their effort: “Wow you got [say] eight right. That’s a really good score. You must have worked really hard.”

-Both groups were exactly the same to begin with, but differed after praise.

-The group whose ability was praised pushed them into a fixed mindset, and they began to avoid challenges that could call their talent into question.

-The group that was praised for effort predominantly took on new challenging tasks they could learn from


Embrace failure as an opportunity for growth, introspection, and learning.

The book gives the example of a 9-year-old gymnast, Elizabeth, who participated in her first gymnastics meet.

-She had the traditional build of a gymnast and loved the sport

-She was very confident, and had picked out a spot in her room to hang the ribbon

Ultimately, she did very well for her first event, but did not perform well enough to place.

Her parents took a route that fosters the growth mindset, rather than giving her insincere encouragement, blaming the judges, devaluing the sport itself, or telling her she has the ability to win and that she’ll win the next one.

Her parents instead told her that she didn’t deserve to win. Obviously, there are tactful and sensitive ways of delivering this message, and that’s what her father did.

He said: “Elizabeth, I know how you feel. It’s so disappointing to have your hopes up and to perform your best, but not win. But you know, you haven’t really earned it yet. There were many girls there who’ve been in gymnastics longer than you and have worked a lot harder than you. If this is something you really want, then it’s something you’ll really have to work for.”

Elizabeth spent much more time practicing, and was much more mindful of her mistakes and correcting them.


Famous Failures