Promoting a Growth Mindset in the Classroom

Promoting a Growth Mindset in the Classroom

Nurturing a growth mindset classroom will help your students believe they can grow and develop to achieve their goals, push through challenges, use different learning strategies and learn from their mistakes.

Promoting a Growth Mindset in the Classroom

What is a Growth Mindset?

Growth Mindset is a term widely used in education. But what does it mean for you and your students? 

Carol Dweck and her colleagues at Stanford University developed the term growth mindset. Her research found children with a growth mindset pushed through challenges, used different learning strategies and learned from their mistakes. 

Those with a growth mindset believe their intelligence can develop and grow, helping your students achieve their educational and personal goals. Whereas, those with a fixed mindset believe intelligence is fixed from birth and nothing they do will change it. 

Dweck’s research found that intelligence is malleable, and it is our approach to learning that determines a growth or a fixed mindset. Though in reality, we all have a mix of both mindsets.

Do you think your mindset affects your students? Take a look at the post Effective Methods of Praise to Develop a Growth Mindset to see how your mindset affects your classroom environment.

For this post, I have used Carol Dweck’s research as a framework. You can find out more about her work here:

Developing a Growth Mindset Classroom

Developing a growth mindset in your classroom is a process and not without its challenges. The more time you spend on developing a growth mindset the more you will see motivated and engaged students enjoying the learning process. What follows are areas to think about when nurturing a growth mindset classroom.

1. Mistakes are Learning Opportunities

The fear of making mistakes is very real for many children… and adults. Perfection is an unreachable goal that only brings stress and anxiety in trying to reach it. This fear prevents us from taking risks or giving things a go. We all make mistakes but there is often a feeling of shame associated with ‘failure’.

Teaching your students that mistakes are learning opportunities gives them the confidence to stretch themselves and their learning potential. We learn most when we fail and we need to encourage our students to use it as part of the learning process. 

Take a look at the post Growth Mindset Quotes for Student Discussions to find one way of discussing a growth mindset, including failure.

2. The Brain is a Muscle

Teach your students how the brain works. Knowing they can continue to improve their skills and knowledge will give them the confidence to change their learning and embracing their mistakes. Carol Dweck’s research found a student’s mindset

“played a key role in their motivation and achievement... Students who believed their intelligence could be developed (a growth mindset) outperformed those who believed their intelligence was fixed (a fixed mindset).”

Carol Dweck

While students with a growth mindset improved their academic results, the reverse was true of those with a fixed mindset. The positive is that when children with a fixed mindset understand their brains are a muscle that builds new connections through effort and practice they find the confidence to learn and positively affect their achievement and engagement.

3. Choosing Your Words Carefully

As teachers, we need to be conscious of the vocabulary of praise. Praising the process, not the results, lets them know they are doing well and shows the importance of effort and determination to the learning process. It also lets your students know when they are showing a growth mindset, encouraging them to extend themselves independently. On the other hand, praising the person limits growth and promotes a fixed mindset.

“The self-esteem movement got it wrong. Praising children’s intelligence may boost their confidence for a brief moment, but by fostering the fixed view of intelligence, it makes them afraid of challenges, it makes them lose confidence when tasks become hard, and it leads to plummeting performance in the face of difficulty.”

Carol Dweck

4. Setting High Expectations

Dweck believes having high expectations for your students is like a self-fulfilling prophecy, giving them the belief they can improve and grow. Telling children ‘never mind, we’ll try something easier next time” only promotes a fixed mindset and that a student cannot improve their learning.

In Effective Methods of Praise to Develop a Growth Mindset, I focus on how your expectations impact student achievements. This relates to your own mindset as it will come across to your students through not just your words but your nonverbal communication.

5. Participating in Groups

Group participation allows your students to discuss and improve their learning with others as inspiration and support. They will receive feedback, find alternative ways of learning and new strategies to try. Group learning gives them the opportunities to be inspired and learn by the success of their peers. 

Children who feel threatened by the success of others have a fixed mindset. We need to teach them they are in control of their learning and development, and others can inspire them.

“Students need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they’re stuck. They need this repertoire of approaches - not just sheer effort - to learn and improve.”

Carol Dweck

Taking on board feedback is a crucial aspect of having a growth mindset but can be difficult for many to accept. Receiving constructive feedback teaches your students resilience and how to cope when they next face failure.

In Conclusion...

Creating a growth mindset classroom is a process that takes time, but your students will take on board the characteristics in their own way and with your support. Think about:

  • the words you use and how you show what your expectations are
  • if you embedding it in your daily teaching and the classroom environment
  • when you set aside time to support your student’s understanding by teaching and reflecting on how they can change their mindset
  • how you help your students understand that failure is not a bad thing.

Tell me what you do in your classroom to create a growth mindset environment?

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