The Importance of a Growth Mindset

Elizabeth Orscheln

Conference Agenda


10:00-10:15-- What is a Growth Mindset?

  • Growth mindset vs. fixed mindset
  • Failure and effort
  • What type of mindset are you?

10:15-10:45-- How to Develop A Growth Mindset in Children

  • Set goals
  • Praising the process
  • Risk taking
  • The value of mistakes
  • Confidence

10:45-11-- Small group discussion, further reading

11-11:30-- Q&A and wrap up

What is a growth mindset?

Before we begin on the imporatance of a growth mindset and how to help students achieve this mindset, it first is important to understand what the growth mindset is. A growth mindset is the belief that "your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts" (Dweck 7). The growth mindset encourages individuals to challenge themselves and stick with these challenges, even when it may be difficult. In doing this, the individual is able to grow and change. The growth mindset is based off the backbone principle that intelligence can be developed. This underlying principle leads to a desire to learn, which allows individuals to learn from criticism, welcome challenges, endure setbacks, understand th value of effort, and find inspiration in the success of others. Ultimately, as a result of these aspirations, individuals achieve higher levels of achievment. (Dweck 245) A fixed mindset, on the other hand, is "the belief that your qualities are carved in stone" (Dweck 6). People with a fixed mindset tend to believe that individuals only have a certain amount of capability and intelligence. There are a few things to consider and remember when learning about each respective mindset. First, while the growth mindset emphasises stretching oneself, failure is still a painful experience. (Dweck 33) Secondly, it is important to note effort. In the fixed mindset, effort is for those people who do not have ability. In the growth mindset, everyone must work hard to be successful and achieve their potential. (Dweck 39) Now, think: what mindset are you? A few questions to ask yourself to help determine which mindset fits you are do you worry about being wrong or making a mistake? Do you think you can change your level of intelligence? (Dweck 13) Many people feel as though that they are a mix between the fixed vs. growth minset or have different mindsets in different scenarios. (Dweck 47)

How to Develop a Growth Mindset in Children

Luckily, you can change your mindset. Changing one's mindset provides a new way to think, act, and feel. Here are five ways to help a child develop a growth mindset:

1. Setting goals

  • When setting goals, children become aware of their current condition and the condition which they aspire to achieve. These goals give children incentives and increase their efforts, as having a goal makes a child less likely to give up until they have achieved that goal. (Woolfolk 452)

2. Praising their Process

  • Children must learn how to grow their intelligence. However, children do not do so by being praised at all times. While it is good to positively encourage children, doing so boosts their confidence only for a moment; in the long run, children will lose confidence when something is difficult and quit easily. Instead of praising children and saying that they are the next Mozart, focus on the effort they put into their work. Ask them questions about the strategies they used and their process. source:

3. Encourage Risk Taking

  • Failure is a part of learning; as Michael Jordan said, "I've missed more than nine thousand shots. I've lost almost two hundred games. Twenty-six times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot, and missed" (Dweck 100). The only way to fail is to take risks. Encourage children to try out for a team or to answer a question they are not completely certain about.

4. Value Mistakes

  • As stated above, failure is a critical part of learning. However, you must learn from your mistakes and failures. Mistakes are how you develop character and learn to cope with setbacks, act in your best interest, and creates good strategies. (Dweck 93) Having a fixed mindset can make it very difficult to see the positive in a mistake, but it is important for students to realize that change and growth are highly possible after mistakes so that in the end your failure does not define you. (Dweck 39)

5. Be confident

  • Confidence allows one to feel more optimistic about achieving goals, ask for help when needed, and allows one to be more resilient. While students with fixed mindsets often want to protect their confidence, it is important not to let failure lower one's confidence. Instead, encourage students to focus on the positives from an experience and use those to boost their confidence for next time. For example, a four square tournament at recess. If a second grader often wins playing against kindergartners, first, and second graders, the child will be very confident. Encourage the child to play with the older second and third graders. The child should take with them the confidence that they have the skills to play well, yet are going to further develop their skills playing with the older children. (Dweck 52) source: