Growth Mindset

Students approach their learning and other aspects of their lives with a growth mindset believing that with focused effort and diligent practice (i.e., repetition or exercise of an activity to acquire or polish a skill) they can: 

  • Increase their basic intellectual abilities (i.e., intelligence), including the learning and thinking skills enabling them to master new and difficult concepts;
  • Develop life skills, personal attributes, and moral virtues that enhance success in all aspects of their lives. (e.g., self-discipline, self-awareness, empathy, initiative, positivity, perseverance, resilience, integrity, responsibility); and
  • Adopt positive attitudes and reject negative emotions and mindsets.
Key Beliefs:

I will be a better student if I act on the following beliefs:

  • Intelligence and talent are not fixed; both can be improved with effort and practice.
  • The mind is a muscle that gets stronger with use.
  • I can get better at anything if I put in the effort.
  • I should seek challenges and learning, value effort, and persist effectively in the face of obstacles.
  • People who limit themselves to doing what comes easy to them are much less successful than people who force themselves to be good at things that don’t come easily.
  • Identify the things you can now do because you stuck with it and inspired your confidence that no matter how complicated or difficult a new assignment is you can handle it if you apply yourself.
  • Reflect on the process – the things you can control, like effort, persistence, and good strategies – not on your personal traits or abilities. 
  • Understand the many ways to employ effort effectively, such as seeking out challenges, setting goals and making plans, using creative strategies, and sticking with it when you are having difficulty.
  • Embrace the word “yet.” Some things take time, effort, and practice and that’s okay. It’s expected. With persistence, practice, and asking for help, you can learn what you think you aren’t good at.
  • Push through the limits of your comfort zone to achieve a goal or accomplish something challenging, as your brain forms stronger connections and your intelligence improves over time. 
  • Learning fast isn’t the same as learning well, and learning well sometimes requires allowing time for mistakes.
  • Make a new goal for every goal accomplished.
  • Acknowledge yourself as someone who possesses a growth mentality and be proud to let it guide you throughout your educational career.
  • When you are practicing hard things, your brain is forming new connections and making them smarter. Instead of feeling dumb when you struggle, you will learn to ‘feel’ those connections growing.

The growth mindset is a concept developed by Dr. Carol Dweck positing that all basic abilities, including intelligence and talents, can be developed through diligent effort. Dr. Dweck’s research shows that students who believe their intelligence and abilities are fixed and permanent (e.g., “I’m just no good in math.” “I can’t learn a foreign language.”) are much less likely to tackle challenging tasks and persist in learning efforts when they find the concepts difficult. In contrast, students who adopt the growth mindset show greater motivation, study harder, get better grades in school, and have higher scores on standardized tests because they are more likely to focus on improvement instead of worrying about how smart they are. They also demonstrate greater persistence in the face of difficulties because they have confidence that their efforts will pay off and that they will learn more and get smarter.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]


Changing a Mindset

Learning Objective: To help students understand what they can do to change their mindset from fixed to growth


  • Divide the class into groups of five.
  • Inform the groups that each will conduct a role-play of situations related to a ‘Fixed vs. a Growth Mindset.’
  • The setting for the role-play will be a School Improvement Committee meeting.
  • The individual assignment for the role-play is as follows:
    • Administrator – responsible for stating the problem
    • Alex – as a student who responds as one with a fixed mindset
    • Sophia – as a student who responds with a growth mindset
    • Community member – representing what an employer is looking for in an employee
    • Mr. Dungan – the teacher representative on the committee
  • The role-play will involve all five representatives of the School Improvement Committee and utilize the following steps from Carol Dweck:
    • The administrator identifies the issues to be discussed. With the rigor of Common Core and ever-increasing mandates, the administrator wonders what mindset the students have related to what they are able to accomplish in school. Are they focused on being smart or are they willingly putting forth the hard work, engaged in the learning process, and being recognized for effort?

Have students learn to hear their fixed mindset ‘voice.’ When students approach a challenge, there may be a voice saying, “Are you sure you can do it? Maybe you don’t have the talent.” “What if you fail – you’ll be a failure” “People will laugh at you for thinking you had talent.” “If you don’t try, you can protect yourself and keep your dignity.” Then, when they are confronted with a setback, the voice might say, “This would have been a snap if you really had talent.” “It’s not too late to back out, make excuses, and try to regain your dignity.” 

When facing criticism, they might hear themselves say, “It’s not my fault. It was something or someone else’s fault.” They might feel themselves getting angry at the person who is giving them feedback. “Who do they think they are? I’ll put them in their place.” 

The second issue is how to make students understand and recognize that they have a choice. How they interpret challenges, setbacks, and criticism is their choice. 

They can interpret them in a fixed mindset as signs that fixed talents or abilities are lacking. 

Or, they can interpret them in a growth mindset as signs that what is needed is to ramp up their strategies and effort, stretch themselves, and expand their abilities. 

Students should talk back to their shortcomings with a growth mindset voice. In approaching a challenge:

THE FIXED–MINDSET says, “Are you sure you can do it? Maybe you don’t have the talent.”

THE GROWTH–MINDSET answers, “I’m not sure I can do it now, but I think I can learn to with time and effort.”

FIXED MINDSET: “What if you fail–you’ll be a failure.”

GROWTH MINDSET: “Most successful people had failures along the way.”

FIXED MINDSET: “If you don’t try, you can protect yourself and keep your dignity.”

GROWTH MINDSET: “If I don’t try, I automatically fail. Where’s the dignity in that?”

When bumping up against a setback:

FIXED MINDSET: “This would have been a snap if you really had talent.”

GROWTH MINDSET: “That is so wrong. Basketball wasn’t easy for Michael Jordan and science wasn’t easy for Thomas Edison. They had a passion and put in tons of effort.”

Whenever they face criticism:

FIXED MINDSET: “It’s not my fault. It was something or someone else’s fault.”

GROWTH MINDSET: “If I don’t take responsibility, I can’t fix it. Let me listen–however painful it is– and learn whatever I can.”

  •  The community member will interject and identify what role the growth mindset will play in the individuals he hires for his business.
  • The teacher will lead a discussion as to what specific strategies teachers at the school could consider when working with students to instill a growth mindset.

Process and Reflection:

  • Over time, which voice students heed becomes pretty much their choice. This will be evident when students:
    • Take on the challenge wholeheartedly
    • Learn from setbacks and try again
    • Hear the criticism and act on it is now in their hands. 
  • Discuss specific ways teachers can work with students to instill a growth mindset.
  • “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop”. – Confucius
  • “Don’t tell me how talented you are. Tell me how hard you work.” – Arthur Rubenstein”
  • “There has to be this pioneer, the individual with the courage, the ambition to overcome the obstacles that always develop when one tries to do something worthwhile that is new and different.” – Alfred P. Sloan
  • “What you get by reaching your destination is not nearly as important as what you will become by reaching your destination.” – Unknown
  • “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Elliot
  • “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou
  • “Knowing what is and knowing what can be are not the same thing.” – Ellen Langer
  • “There isn’t a person anywhere who isn’t capable of doing more than he thinks he can.” – Henry Ford
  • “Test scores and measures of achievement tell you where a student is, but they don’t tell you where a student could end up”. – Carol Dweck
  • “You have to apply yourself each day to becoming a little better. By becoming a little better each and every day, over a period of time, you will become a lot better.” – John Wooden