Developing a Growth Mindset

Teach students to talk about themselves and their work using a growth mindset
842 teachers like this strategy

About This Strategy

When students understand the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset, they can shift their approach to challenges to reflect a belief that their abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. This strategy will help students understand the basics of growth mindset so that they can change the language they use with their peers and with themselves to reflect a growth mindset. Embracing a growth mindset will help students persevere through challenges because when students believe they can get smarter, they put in extra time and effort that lead to higher achievement.

Implementation Steps

20 minutes
  1. Teach students about the ideas and research behind a growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset.

    • For older students, consider having them read an excerpt from Carol Dweck's book "Mindset," or watching her TED Talk, "The Power of Believing that You Can Improve" or the TED Talk by Eduardo Briceño, the CEO of Mindset Works, "The Power of Belief," which are all linked in the resource section below.

    • For younger students, consider reading an age-appropriate book about the way the brain develops such as "Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It" by JoAnn Deak or watching an age-appropriate video like "Brain Jump with Ned the Neuron: Challenges Grow Your Brain" or "The Power of Yet," which are all included in the resource section below.

    • ClassDojo has a great series of videos, discussion guides, and activities to teach students about growth mindset, which are linked in the resource section below.

    • Khan Academy also has a great lesson plan about growth mindset (which is included in the resource section below)  that introduces students to the concept that intelligence can be developed.

  2. Engage students in a discussion about times when they have had a fixed or growth mindset. It might be helpful to begin by sharing a personal anecdote about when you have shown a fixed mindset.

    • Encourage students to discuss the impact of working hard and finding the right strategy when facing a challenge.

    • If students are stuck, as them to share a story about a struggle they had when they were learning. How did it make them feel? How did they overcome it, and what did it teach them?

  3. Ask students to brainstorm things they might say - either aloud or in their heads - when they were engaging in a fixed mindset (i.e., "I'm no good at this" or, "This is too hard").

    • Write student responses down on the left-hand side of a T-chart or anchor chart.

  4. As a whole class or in student pairs, have students brainstorm alternative phrases that they could say when faced with a challenge that would reflect more of a growth mindset (i.e., "What other strategies can I try?" or, "It may take some time to figure this out").

    • Write student responses down on the right-hand side of a T-chart or anchor chart.

  5. Display visible reminders of growth-mindset language using posters and bulletin boards.

    • The anchor charts or t-charts  from the activity listed above make great classroom visual reminders.

    • Additionally, see the resources section below for a variety of great posters and charts that have examples of growth mindset-oriented phrases.

  6. Give students regular feedback on their language. When you hear students expressing a fixed mindset, encourage them to shift their language - or have a peer help them do so - to embrace a growth mindset.

    • To learn more about supporting students to talk about themselves and their work using a growth mindset, explore the Strengths-Based Instructional Practices strategy in the BetterLesson Lab.

Special Education Modification

Nedra Massenburg
Special Education Specialist

Teaching students the principles behind having a growth mindset is a foundational tool teachers can use to better support all students with disabilities to become more engaged participants in their learning.  In order to plan effectively to support students with disabilities in developing a growth mindset, consider the following modifications:

Modifications:

  1. Before deciding on a specific lesson plan for teaching growth mindset, teachers should consult with special education department administrators or specialized teachers that can give extra guidance on the best types of lesson plans given the disability types in a classroom. See the following resources in the resource section below: "Adapting the Growth Mindset: How Educators Can Guide All Learners," "Inclusion Classrooms: Cultivate a Growth Mindset," and "5 Powerful Ways To Teach Growth Mindset To Children With Special Needs."
  2. If multiple teachers are present, careful thought should be put into co-teaching models and how they integrate into a differentiated lesson plan to teach growth mindset. See the "How to Choose a Co-Teaching Model" and "Differentiation Within the Inclusion Classroom Model" resources in the resource section below.

EL Modification

Shannon Coyle
English Learner Specialist

This strategy provides important opportunities for English learners to reflect on their learning in a strength-based way. English learners may experience stressors related to the immense challenge of adjusting to a new language, culture, and place which leaves them vulnerable to deficit-based thoughts and frustration. Developing growth mindset techniques is a valuable tool in an English learner’s toolbox.

English learners may be required to use all four domains of language while engaging in growth mindset activities.  In order to support English Learners consider the following modifications:

Modifications:

  1. Explicitly pre-teach growth and fixed mindset related vocabulary. Consider the most important words that will be used to discuss and distinguish between growth and fixed mindset and present them in advance. Have English learners keep vocabulary sheets available when discussing growth mindset. Consider posting this vocabulary in the classroom. See the "Vocabulary Graphic Organizers" in the resource section below for more information.
  2. Provide growth mindset sentence frames. In addition to whole class based anchor charts, provide English learners personal copies of strengths-based language they can use and refer to it often. Consider practicing this language chorally as a whole class. 

  3. Recognize and specifically support challenges. English learners may face obstacles specific to their status as children of, or themselves immigrants, migrants, and/or refugees including chronic stressors like trauma, violence, and discrimination, as well as academic trials related to learning a new language alongside new content. Partner with learners’ language specialist to best understand English learners’ holistic selves and to develop strategies of support. See the "Helping Long-Term English Learners Get "Unstuck" and "Using a Strengths-Based Approach with ELs: Supporting Students Living with Trauma, Violence and Chronic Stress" articles in the resource section below for more information.

Tech Tools

ClassDojo

  • ClassDojo is a multi-faceted classroom management tool focused on reinforcing classroom expectations and communicating those expectations out with the individual student, class, and families.

  • ClassDojo can support this strategy by providing teachers with videos and lesson plans on big ideas such as developing a growth mindset. From these activities can also stem new categories for points in ClassDojo aligned with the key ideas of a growth mindset.

Related Lessons

Explore the "Mindset" lesson by 6th grade BetterLesson Math Master Teacher Andrea Palmer included in the resources below to see how she introduces the concepts of growth and fixed mindsets.