Developing a Growth Mindset

The HOW TO: on improving your students mindsets

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9:00 AM What is a Fixed and a Growth Mindset

  • Mindsets: Fixed Vs. Growth (Video)
  • How do you detect who has a fixed and a growth mindset? What are the signs?
  • How to encourage a growth mindset
Growth vs Fixed Mindset


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Definition: The belief that your basic qualities are carved in stone. At birth you only have a 'fixed' amount of intelligence, personality, and moral character - therefore you either are good at something or not good at something. It is not possible to develop these traits, because they are fixed traits, and therefore it is important to prove yourself over and over again. The key to a fixed mindset is to look intelligent all the time, and to not fail, therefore people with a fixed mindset do not delve into tasks they know that they cannot do the first time around (Dweck, 5-6). In a fixed mindset, success is about proving yourself (Dweck, 15). Success and failure are determined by the fixed intelligence that you have, and therefore your grade on a test depicts how smart or dumb you are (Dweck, 61).

An example in the text of a fixed mindset is shown on page 174, and regards the messages that kids hear and how this influences their mindsets. Below is the example from the text.
"You learned that so quickly! You're so smart!" / "Look at that drawing. Martha, is he the next Picasso or what?" / "You're so brilliant, you got an A without even studying!" (Dweck, 174). These statements sound like self-esteeming, positive messages - but if you truly think about them, these statements are what influence a fixed mindset. Kids hear these statements and start to think: "If I don't learn something quickly, I'm not smart." / "I shouldn't try drawing anything hard or they'll see I'm no Picasso." / "I'd better quit studying or they won't think I'm brilliant." (Dweck, 174).

Questions Asked by People with Fixed Mindset (Dweck, 6)
  • Will I succeed or fail?
  • Will I look smart or dumb?
  • Will I be accepted or rejected?
  • Will I feel like a winner or a loser?

Signs of a Fixed Mindset
  • Avoiding Challenges
  • Giving up quickly
  • Don't ask questions
  • Say "I can't"
  • Have negative self talk


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Definition: The belief that your basic qualities can keep developing through the effort you put in, and the experience you gain. Therefore people with growth mindsets embrace the challenges, and believe that true potential is unknown, and you can keep growing in your knowledge and intelligence as long as you work at it (Dweck, 7). In a growth mindset, success is about developing yourself and learning new things (Dweck, 15). Success and failure do not determine how smart you are, but instead pushes you to work harder and bounce back. It allows you to recognize how much effort you put in, and good grades are based off the effort you put in, not how intelligent you are (Dweck, 58-61).

An example of a growth mindset in the text is on page 194. Dweck refers to a teacher named Marva Collins. Collins became a teacher at a school in Chicago, and the students were students who had been rejected and pushed to the side. They were taught their whole lives to have a fixed mindset, and that they were failures, because they had not learned much in school. Collins believed that this was not true, and taught these kids that they were not failures. She reassured them that she would teach them how to read and write, and they will learn as long as they put in the effort. She taught them that if they do not put in the effort and hard work to learn, then they should not expect to learn anything. She taught them that success does not just come, but instead you have to go to it (Dweck, 194).

Signs of a Growth Mindset
  • Embrace Challenges
  • Having a positive internal dialogue
  • Take risks
  • Learn from criticism

9:45 AM How To Develop A Growth Mindset in Children

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Five Recommendations for Developing a Growth Mindset In Children

  • As a teacher, you need to start asking yourself the questions: How can I teach them? and How will they learn best? instead of: Can I teach them? and Can they learn? (Dweck, 63). How you teach, influences how the children view learning and themselves. Therefore in order to develop a growth mindset in the children, you have to love learning and develop a growth mindset within your teaching philosophy.

  • You need to watch what you say to your students, because what you say influences how the students think. If you hear a student say: "I can't," answer them with the response of "YET." Teach your children how to think, and what to say to themselves when something becomes a challenge (Dweck, 25).

  • Haim Ginott stated: "Praise should deal, not with the child's personality attributes, but with his efforts and achievements" (Dweck, 178). This quote essentially means: communicate with your students in a growth mindset. Let them know that effort and hard work is what creates success and teach them for improvement. Treat all the kids the same, and know that grades only determine where the student is at the moment, they do not determine where the child could end up (Dweck, 66). When you want to congratulate a student on their work, praise them for their effort instead of their intelligence. Therefore the student realizes that they are being praised for their hard work and doing what it takes to succeed, other than praising how smart they are. (Dweck, 71). This will teach kids how to have a growth mindset, because whenever they are faced with challenges - if you praise them for their effort - they will think that the challenge is telling them to try harder and keep working at it so they can succeed. The people who are praised for their intelligence, however; will think that they are failures and their confidence and motivation is more fragile (Dweck, 71, 211). Therefore it is important to watch how you communicate with your students.

  • "Just because some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn't mean that others can't do it (and sometimes do it even better) with training" (Dweck, 70). Some children learn differently than others. Figure out what the children do not understand, how they learn, and show them that you believe they can do it. Lowering your standards for your students does not raise a child's self esteem, and raising your standards for your students but not teaching them the proper tools to reach them does not raise it either (Dweck, 211). As a teacher you need to develop a growth mindset within the children by teaching them different learning strategies, and therefore it is possible to set high standards and have the children reach them.

  • Develop a growth mindset in children by providing feedback that is constructive. Teach them how to fix their problem in their learning strategies and to help build something that allows them to understand it (Dweck, 182.) Also, it is important to focus the feedback that you give on the process of learning and not the person who you are giving feedback to. Focus on what they did well, and then tell them how they can improve. Let them know that mistakes and failures are going to happen, and that learning is a process.
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