A growth mindset is the understanding that intelligence and ability can be developed. When in a growth mindset, students and teachers know mistakes are part of the learning process and persistent effort leads to learning. Research shows that a growth mindset results in increased motivation and achievement.
Why is a growth mindset important?
Students with a growth mindset won’t be discouraged if they don’t grasp a concept on the first attempt. They’ll see mistakes as part of the process and try again.
For teachers and leaders, a growth mindset means not categorizing students as those who can and those who can’t—and it means not giving up on kids who don’t master new concepts on the first try.
A growth mindset advances educational equity.
A fixed or deficit mindset—in students or in teachers—harms marginalized students disproportionately. By cultivating a growth mindset, educators take an important step in giving students of color, students with disabilities, and students experiencing poverty the opportunity to access equitable education. Growth mindsets help all children engage in productive struggle to master new concepts, rather than being left behind their more privileged peers.
How can teachers help students develop a growth mindset?
To help students move beyond a fixed mindset, teachers can praise effort instead of achievement. They can celebrate mistakes as part of the learning process. For example, rather than praising students who found the correct answer to a math problem quickly, teachers can ask, “Who got the wrong answer on the first try and then figured out where you made a mistake?”
Help students understand that a mistake doesn’t mean failing, it means learning—and it isn’t something to be ashamed of.
A growth mindset isn’t just about effort.
Carol Dweck, who coined the idea of growth and fixed mindsets, points out that effort alone isn’t the goal. “Students need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they’re stuck,” she explains.
Instead of praising effort as the endpoint, it’s important to help students find new approaches so they can continue working toward mastery. When students demonstrate a fixed mindset, teachers shouldn’t see this as a failure on the student’s part, but an opportunity to help them add new tools to those they have. Learning is ongoing, for students and for teachers—and so is mindset.