Teaching A Growth Mindset

  • July 31, 2016, 4:36 p.m.

A mindset is a belief we have about our own ability to succeed in a given situation. People with a growth mindset believe that they can accomplish their goals through perseverance. They set goals and make action plans. They like feedback that helps them move forward. They are optimistic about their learning and aren't afraid of productive struggle. Their brains are constantly growing.

Some people believe that they are just not "smart" enough to read or solve problems. They believe that effort is useless, because talent is more important. Many develop "learned helplessness" from experiences in which they initially attempted to reach a goal, but met with a negative outcome and received little or no feedback about what to do differently to change the outcome. 

All of us have both growth and fixed mindsets. It is important to be aware of our mindsets and the impact it is having on our goals.

We must teach positive academic behaviors, including growth mindset throughout the year. Here are some simple ways you can teach your students to have positive academic behaviors.

How Do We Teach Growth Mindset?

One of the best ways to incorporate teaching of growth mindset is through purposefu class discussions, such as morning meeting. Start off the day by discussing academic behaviors that will help students succeed throughout the day. You might even think of this as "core" or "tier 1" behavior instruction. This is a time to teach behavioral norms.

I have used Art Costa's "Habits of Mind" as a springboard for discussion. 

Using children's literature or novel studies, we can help students identify with characters who demonstrate examples or non-examples of positive academic behaviors. Below are a few books you can read and discuss during the first weeks of school.

Those Darn Squirrels

Mr. Fookwire has a goal, but the squirrels are a little too persistent. Habits: Persisting, gathering data through all senses, listening with understanding and empathy, creating, imagining, innovating, and thinking flexibly.


Wolf is hungry, but the other animals are too busy reading to pay him any attention. He sets micro-goals and persists until he gets what he needs. Habits: Persisting, thinking and communicating with clarity and precision, managing impulsivity.

The Dot

Vashti just needs a little feedback to get started and keep going. Soon, she is paying it forward. Habits: Creating, Imagining, Innovating, and thinking flexibly.