Carol Dweck coined the term “growth mindset” in 2006 when she wrote her seminal work, “Mindset“. Since then, thousands of educators, schools, and districts have adopted the terminology of a growth mindset to describe the concept that intelligence is malleable. Children are learning that they can get smarter and stronger brains with effort, practice, and trying new things.
But a growth mindset is more than the terminology, or just the ideas. It’s the foundation for how humans can be successful, grow, and realize their dreams. It’s the bridge for teachers that leads to teaching students how to think about their learning and how their brains work.
We’re teaching the how-to-think, solve problems, reflect on their own learning, make mistakes, and correct those mistakes. We are using reading, writing, math, science, and social studies to do those things. But a growth mindset is the foundation for everything.
The term has become more than a mindset—it’s the way for human beings to succeed at life, at learning, and at growing. It’s the future of education.
An authentic growth mindset classroom has a culture of respect for mistakes, a common language, patience, and above all else, diverse learners. Teachers meet students where they are, push them, scaffold, and expect the very best. Students use language like “I’m in the pit” or “I don’t know it, yet.”
So doesn’t it make sense that it takes more than a few posters and a beginning of the year speech to make this happen?
An authentic growth mindset classroom requires 3 shifts:: 1) teachers who understand a growth mindset, 2) teachers who embrace a growth mindset in themselves, and 3) a growth mindset culture in the classroom.
1. Understand a growth mindset. More than a mindset, it’s knowledge about how the human brain works. With each new learning, practice, and mistake, new neural connections are formed—this should be acknowledged and celebrated. Teachers need to know this and so do students. Pictures and posters of neurons connecting help you and students know what the process looks like.
2. Embrace a growth mindset yourself. Teachers need to have patience with themselves with any new learning. We need to be okay with making mistakes, especially in front of students. Learn something new, challenge yourself, and practice what you want to learn.
3. Create the growth mindset culture in your classroom. A culture is simply “shared, learned beliefs”. As teachers we can create a growth mindset classroom by using a common language (growth mindset, learning pit, malleable, neurons, neuroplasticity, mistakes, constructive feedback), BELIEVING in the same ideas of growth, and practicing it.
Everything we talk about needs to connect back to students growing their brains and becoming resilient, no matter the content, no matter their performance. An authentic growth mindset classroom fosters a safe place for young minds to be who they are meant to be—the best version of who they are.