How to Foster a Growth Mindset in Students

Fostering a growth mindset in students is one of the most important things educators can do. But, a lot of people do not know how to foster a growth mindset in students. A growth mindset is the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through effort, learning, and persistence. It creates motivation and productivity in students.

On the other hand, a fixed mindset is the belief that abilities are static and unchangeable. Students with fixed mindsets are more likely to give up when facing challenges, as they believe they simply don’t have the innate aptitude.

As an educator, your words and actions shape your students’ mindsets. By promoting a growth mindset, you empower students to reach their full potential. Here’s how to foster a growth mindset in your classroom.

What is a Growth Mindset?

How to Foster a Growth Mindset in Students

Psychologist Carol Dweck coined the terms “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset” in her research on achievement and success. Her decades of research showed that mindset plays a key role in motivation and achievement.

Students with a fixed mindset believe their abilities are predetermined and unchangeable. They are more likely to:

  • Avoid challenges
  • Give up easily when facing setbacks
  • See effort as fruitless
  • Ignore feedback on how to improve

Students with a growth mindset believe they can develop their abilities through practice, effort, learning, and persistence. They are more likely to:

  • Embrace challenges
  • Persist through setbacks
  • See effort as the path to mastery
  • Learn from feedback on how to improve

The great news is that mindsets are not fixed – they can be developed. As an educator, you have the power to shape your students’ mindsets.

Why Growth Mindset Matters

Promoting a growth mindset in your students provides immense benefits, including:

1. Greater Motivation & Achievement

Students who believe they can get smarter and develop new skills are more motivated to put in the effort needed to learn difficult concepts and persist through challenges. This leads to greater achievement and attainment over time.

2. Improved Resilience

Growth mindset helps students bounce back from failures and setbacks. They don’t take failure personally or as a permanent deficiency, but as an opportunity to improve. This fosters grit and resilience.

3. Higher Self-Esteem

When students believe their abilities can be developed, they are less likely to label themselves as smart or dumb, good or bad at a subject. This removes a major threat to self-esteem.

4. Reduced Stress & Anxiety

The fixed mindset view that abilities are innate and static naturally creates anxiety around performance and looking talented. The growth mindset removes this pressure and stress.

5. Greater Risk-Taking

Growth mindset students are more willing to take on challenges and risks, knowing these will help develop new skills. This supports educational creativity and innovation.

Clearly, a growth mindset provides immense benefits for student motivation, achievement, and mental health. As an educator, fostering this mindset in your classroom is immensely valuable.

Signs of Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

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Before exploring strategies for change, it’s helpful to understand how to spot fixed and growth mindsets in your students. Some differences include:

Fixed Mindset

  • Avoids challenge
  • Gives up easily
  • Ignores useful negative feedback
  • Feels threatened by others’ success
  • Says “I’m not good at this”

Growth Mindset

  • Embraces challenge
  • Persists through obstacles
  • Learns from criticism
  • Finds lessons and inspiration in others’ success
  • Says “I couldn’t do this before, but I can’t yet”

Pay attention to the language students use around learning. Phrases like “I’ll never be good at math” or “I’m terrible at spelling” reveal a fixed mindset. Growth mindset language includes “What am I missing?” and “I’m going to train my brain in this.”

Also notice signs of avoidance or giving up when work gets hard. Or perfectionism, where students won’t try what they can’t immediately excel at. These are fixed mindset behaviors.

While observing your students, identify who displays more of a fixed vs. growth mindset. This will allow you to target interventions appropriately.

How Teachers Can Cultivate a Growth Mindset

Teachers play an enormously influential role in shaping students’ mindsets. Here are powerful strategies for cultivating a growth mindset across your classroom:

1. Use Growth Praise

  • Praise the process – e.g. effort, strategies, focus, persistence.
  • Avoid praising intelligence and talent, as this implies fixedness.
  • Model growth mindset in your own learning.

2. Teach Students About Their Brains

  • Explain how brains develop and get smarter when learning.
  • Share the concept of neuroplasticity – brains are malleable.

3. Highlight Growth Mindset Role Models

  • Point to famous creators, athletes, and scientists who cultivated skills over time.
  • Show how genius requires effort. Share stories like Michael Jordan being cut from his school basketball team. Or Tom Brady being drafted 199th.

4. Allow Mistakes

  • Let students know mistakes help brains grow smarter.
  • Model making mistakes and learning from them.
  • Encourage a positive response to setbacks.

5. Offer Growth Feedback

  • Give feedback that focuses on effort, strategies, and progress.
  • Avoid labelling students – instead focus feedback on particular work.

6. Provide Challenges

  • Set assignments, tests, and tasks just beyond current capability.
  • Stretch students while ensuring they have the tools to reach the goals.

7. Differentiate Learning Experiences

  • Provide choices of assignment topics and methods to tap into student interests.
  • Vary materials and resources to account for diverse learner needs.

Implementing these strategies systematically nurtures growth mindsets. But changing mindsets takes time and consistency. Be patient, and promote the same growth values throughout the school year.

Now let’s explore some key questions educators have about fostering growth mindset.


Fostering a growth mindset in students provides immense benefits for motivation, achievement, resilience, and wellbeing. As an educator, you have tremendous power to shape your students’ mindsets through your words, actions, and teaching practices.

Aim to consistently promote growth values – praising effort, using growth feedback, allowing mistakes, highlighting diverse role models, and more. Work to provide an optimal balance of challenge and support.

While school-wide implementation maximizes impact, individual educators can make a profound difference. By cultivating a growth mindset, you empower students to reach their full learning potential. Your influence helps shape their lifelong trajectories.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I convince parents about the benefits of growth mindset?

Many parents think praising effort sounds like soft praise compared to praising intelligence. To bring them on board:

  • Explain the research showing greater motivation and resilience.
  • Share stories of students who blossomed thanks to a growth mindset.
  • Suggest parents praise process at home and avoid labeling language.
  • Invite parents to a mindset workshop. Address misconceptions.
  • Ask parents to encourage children to persist through learning challenges.

If praise should focus on effort, does that reward laziness or poor work?

Effective growth praise is specific – it praises particular strategies, focus, persistence, or improvement. Generic praise of all effort is not as useful.

The key is to develop your students’ ability to self-evaluate their learning process. Teach them to consider what worked, what didn’t, and how they stretched themselves.

Some students seem naturally gifted. Doesn’t that support the fixed mindset?

Students differ in aptitudes, but all can grow their abilities. Praise gifted students for strategies used rather than being “naturally smart.” Emphasize they have room to grow too.

Point to eminent creators and leaders who combined early gifts with intense effort to achieve mastery. This inspires all students to fulfill their potential.

How can I convince struggling students that growth mindset applies to them?

Students who persistently struggle may doubt the growth mindset. To help them:

  • Take more time to build trusting relationships and address wellbeing gaps impeding their learning.
  • Set very small wins and scaffolded tasks they can achieve through effort. Praise these wins.
  • Share inspirational stories of other struggling students who progressed through diligence.
  • Pair them with growth mindset mentors – peers or adults who can encourage them.

If my whole school doesn’t enforce growth mindset, will my efforts be pointless?

Consistency across a school maximizes growth mindset impact. But don’t underestimate your influence as an individual teacher. Establishing growth values in your classroom is better than nothing.

Lead by example. Document student progress fostered by your growth practices. Share this with colleagues. Push for school-wide training. But start with your classroom.

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