Growth mindset is all the rage in classrooms, schools, professional sports, and social media. What is it and why is it so important to classroom teachers? Simply put, a growth mindset is not a theory or belief, but a proven set of facts about how intelligence and success occur.
And those facts are these: it’s not IQ scores that determine your students’ success and it’s not their socioeconomic background. Success in every form is determined by a person’s resilience, perseverance, and grit. The more of those factors a person has, the more they can be described as having a growth mindset.
Everyone used to believe that people were either born smart, born not smart, all of us either talented or untalented. But Carol Dweck broke that false model when she coined the term growth mindset in 2006 with “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success“.
Since then, children are learning that they can grow smarter and stronger brains with effort, practice, and trying new things. They are no longer limited by the false belief that their brains are fixed assets, unable to improve and grow.
We’re teaching them how to think, solve problems, reflect on their own learning, make mistakes, and correct those mistakes. Yes—don’t miss that: we are teaching them to make mistakes.
Making mistakes is mandatory for growth. And we use mistakes in every subject (reading, writing, math, science, and social studies, for starters) with a growth mindset the foundation in everything.
So are you a new teacher (or a new learner) and you’re just starting out with a growth mindset in your classroom? I’ve created this simple, 4-step formula. Follow it and use these resource links, and you’ll be on your way.
Step 1. CHALLENGE. Show a video about famous failures. Engage the kids in a discussion about their own failures, either with partners or as a whole. Ask questions: “What did you learn from your failure? What would you aspire to do if you weren’t afraid of failing? When have you given up too easily?”
Step 2. MOTIVATE. Students need to read this kid-friendly research about a growth mindset. Telling children that they can grow their brains isn’t enough. Use the article in small group or in centers. Provide a read aloud or choral read to those who need the extra support.
Step 3. IMAGINE. Ask higher order thinking questions to accompany the text. Why do you think? How can make your brain grow? What are some things you can do this week that will grow your brain?
Step 4. REINFORCE. This step is likely the most challenging in that it requires consistency. But it is by far the most essential. You must commit to it. Every. Single. Day. There are tons of wonderful resources to help you reinforce a growth mindset all year long: posters, bell ringers, morning work, beginner’s lesson & centers.
One of my favorites of these is the “Yet” poster , which uses a subtle change in language to reinforce the growth mindset: “I don’t know. . .yet.” Look through these similar posters to find one you connect with.
Check out my free training “How to Teach a Growth Mindset” to walk you through the steps in more detail.
Teaching a growth mindset in your classroom is easy. Changing fixed mindset habits requires a growth mindset on your part. You’ll need dedication and consistency, but I know you can achieve it.