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Growth Mindset

What is a Growth Mindset?


        Carol Dweck (2006) believes there are two mindsets that a person can develop; one is a fixed mindset and the other is a growth mindset. The science behind brain development is that the brain needs challenges in order to build the synapse required for growth. How a person responds to a challenge is a great indicator of their mindset. Do they quit after failing the first time or do they try again? Do they let that failing define them as a failure or do they persist with the challenge and not let it define them?

        The fixed mindset is when a person believes that their intelligence is set, you are either good at a subject or not and there is little you can do to change it. People with this mindset believe a person has to be good at art to be a good artist as if you are born with certain talents. How many times have you heard someone say, "I'm just not a math person" or "I'm not an artsy person"? This is a form of the fixed mindset. They believe that they are either good at something or not, they are the people that allow themselves to be defined by their abilities. These people fear to fail and believe that it makes them look like a failure.


        The growth mindset is when a person believes that their intelligence is capable of improving or growing; that with hard work or effort a person can learn to do most anything. These people relish a challenge because they know they will learn from it. They believe in the power of "yet". They might not be good at drawing yet, but they can practice and get better. They are the people that don't quit when something gets hard. 


        Think of Rudy... a small in stature young man that dreamed of being on the Notre Dame football team. Through hard work and persistence, he made the practice squad and one day was able to play in a game. He never quit! Now, this may be more of an example of grit or tenacity, but the mindset is the same. He rose to the challenge and did not let other people define him.


        However, it is hard to keep the growth mindset from becoming the simple idea that if I work hard enough I can do anything. Playing lip service to the growth mindset can do harm also; you know, the "everyone gets a trophy" movement that spawned the entitled youth epidemic. This is why it is so important to pair the growth mindset with sound pedagogy and well-written, quality curriculum. Educators must teach their learners about how the brain grows as the introduction to the growth mindset. Teaching about how challenges cause the synapses in the brain to make more connections thus making them smarter and how challenges in the classroom promote this growth. If work is too easy for the learners, then they won't make as many connections.


        If the growth mindset is incorporated correctly, then your students will crave formative feedback so they can improve and grow; they will want to know how they can improve. It may even curb cheating since a student may see their own challenge as a chance to learn from the student they might have copied from. It can open up the students to collaborating with their classmates when a task is too much of a challenge on their own. 


        Standardized tests and grades can make it a challenge to fully devote yourself to the growth mindset in the classroom. Students have been trained to work for a grade or test score instead of learning for learning sake. I would love to switch from the traditional A-F grade scale to Exceeds, Mastered, or Not Yet. This would take the students focus off of "what's the minimum to pass", to "what do I need to know to master this concept". Then the focus may shift back to learning and off grades. But that is a whole change to make to our traditional school system. 


        Three ways a teacher can promote the growth mindset within their classroom:

  • Praise Wisely

  • Reward the use of Yet

  • Change their own mindset


        Below you will find my plan for sharing the growth mindset with my district.

Sites that will help with sharing the Growth Mindset:

  • Larry Ferlazzo wrote a blog depicting his experience teaching a unit on growth mindset.

  • Class Dojo has videos that teachers can show their students to help explain the growth mindset to students.

  • Edutopia has many resources on the growth mindset, from how to promote it to recognizing it and addressing it.



Briceño, Eduardo. (2015, November 15). Growth Mindset: Clearing up Some Common Confusions, Retrieved from


Dweck, Carol S. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Ballantine Books.


Dweck, Carol. (2006-2010). How can you change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset? Retrieved from 


Dweck, Carol S. (2014, October 9) Developing a Growth Mindset. Retrieved from YouTube 


Ferlazzo, Larry. (2016, April 21). We Did A Great ‘Growth Mindset’ Lesson With Our ELLs This Week – Here’s The Lesson Plan. Retrieved from


Gerstein, J. (2015). Is “Have a Growth Mindset” the New “Just Say No”. Retrieved from 


Popova, Maria (2014, January 29). Fixed vs Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets that Shape our Lives. Retrieved from 


Sesame Street. (2014, September 10). Sesame Street: Janelle Monae - Power of Yet. Retrieved from YouTUbe

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Gerstein, J. (2015). Is “Have a Growth Mindset” the New “Just Say No”. Retrieved from  

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