How to Inspire a Growth Mindset: Part 1

If our students have a growth mindset they embrace challenges. They know that they can learn new things.  That’s a huge boost to motivation and engagement.  It’s really a freeing experience to look forward to a challenge.

Students with a fixed mindset feel that their learning ability is fixed.  They think that they do not have the talent to succeed and excel in some subjects or tasks.  They might say things like:

  1. “I’m not good at Math”
  2. “I’m not an athlete.”
  3. “I can’t write.”

As parents, teachers and coaches we can change and develop mindsets.  One of the first things to think about is how we dole out praise.  Here is a link to some videos that  illustrate the point.

One of the best ways that Carol Dweck suggests we can influence a growth mindset, is to focus on the process used to learn rather than the finished product or result.

For example highlight strategies, effort or choices:

  1. “You put a lot of effort into that.”
  2. “I like the choices you made.”
  3. “That extra practice really helped you improve!”
  4. “How did you do that”?
  5. “How many times did you try it before it turned out the way you wanted it?”

Check on yourself.

  1. Which brain illustration represents a fixed mindset, blue or green?
  2. Which brain illustration represents a growth mindset, blue or green?

Mindset Static or Developed

answer:  blue = fixed, green =growth





What Mindsets Do We Need to Have and Encourage

Mindsets Book ImageCarol Dweck from Stanford has done some very interesting research on our attitudes and basic beliefs about our learning abilities.  In her research she identified  two categories:  fixed mindset and growth mindset.  If you have a fixed mindset you most likely believe that your intelligence is fixed and determines your abilities.   For example, I am just not good at Math is a belief about your ability to do well in Math.  That would be a fixed mindset about Math.  If you have a growth mindset, you believe that you can learn new things through dedication and effort.  Most of us have attitudes about our ability to learn and accept challenges that fall in both mindsets.

Students with growth mindsets, those who believe that they can learn new things by perseverance and effort do better in school.  The good news is that Dr. Dweck has shown that we can teach students, teachers and everyone to have a growth mindset.  Mindsets are learned and can be changed.  Teachers, parents, coaches and anyone who teaches someone something new can influence their students’ mindsets through effective feedback.

A growth mindset helps you do better in situations where you are challenged. You look at obstacles as walls put there to climb over not to stop you.  Even though it may be difficult , you don’t give up easily when things get hard.   If you have a fixed mindset you may be discouraged or derailed because you just don’t think you have the ability to meet the challenge. Perhaps someone told you that you just didn’t have the talent to succeed at that sort of challenge.


  • Fixed Mindset: Belief that one’s qualities are static. Creates a need to prove oneself over and over.
  • Growth Mindset: Belief that your basic qualities are things that can be developed and cultivated through effort. Initial talents and aptitudes can grow through perseverance and experience.

Dr. Dweck has a great website,  with lots of interesting videos and ideas for how to influence mindsets.  Another great resource has been developed by the Kahn Academy, You Can Learn Anything.  Visit it here.  Visit this blog again for more on how to use this important research to help your students grow.