19 Fostering a Growth Mindset

In Carol Dweck’s influential book Mindset, she argues that students are more likely to advance toward mastery if they adopt a growth mindset. A growth mindset is when students believe that they have the ability to improve their performance and increase their intelligence. They believe that effort leads to achievement. This helps motivate students to succeed because they believe that perseverance and all of their hard work will pay off in the end. 

Unfortunately, not all students are taught to believe that they can improve. If you have ever heard a student say “I can’t write” or “I’m no good at math,” then you have heard someone speak from the position of a fixed mindset. Students with fixed mindsets don’t believe they have the capability or capacity to improve. 


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In our courses, it is absolutely essential that students foster a growth mindset. One of the biggest determiners of whether or not a student adopts a growth mindset vs a fixed mindset is the feedback that they receive from their instructors. So, as we design our courses, and as we speak with our students, we should think carefully about how to build their confidence so that they believe in their self-efficacy.

Instead of saying… Say…
You are so smart. You work really hard.
This is perfect. Have you considered improving by…
I admire your talent. I admire your perseverance.
You are a natural! You keep improving. Keep it up!
You aren’t good at this. You need to keep practicing. You haven’t mastered this yet.
Most of you probably won’t pass this assignment. Most of you will really need to devote extra time and effort to this assignment.
What is wrong with you? How did you prepare? What could you do differently?

Watch this short video to learn more about the difference between a fixed and growth mindset:

Video: “Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset” by Sprouts can be found online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUWn_TJTrnU


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