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Teaching Strategies to Foster a Growth Mindset

Janelle Cox

It wasn’t until the past few years that teaching strategies to bring about a growth mindset has really become a priority. Many students enter the classroom unsure of their abilities, and believe that they are either good in a specific subject or they’re not. They believe that their abilities can’t be changed because this is something that they’ve inherited. This way of thinking is called a fixed mindset. This is why many students give up in school. They figure, why bother try when it can’t be changed? What most students don’t realize is that their brains do indeed have the ability to change. This is called a growth mindset. Just like you’d exercise any muscle in your body to make it stronger, you can also exercise your brain to do the same. Through training, practice, and repetition, students can foster a growth mindset that will help them to reach their full potential. Here are a few teaching strategies to do that.

Teaching Strategies to Help Students Understand the Value of Effort

The first way to instill a growth mindset in students is to help them to understand the value of effort and having persistence. Convincing your students that hard work pays off can be a difficult hurdle to jump. Many students often wonder why they need to learn a particular subject or why they should work hard. This is mostly because the answer is the always get is “You’ll need this in the future” or “Because you need to.” When it comes to promoting persistence, it all comes down to having the mindset. If a student has a fixed mindset, then they’ll always believe that they’re only good as they are today.

The goal is to instill a growth mindset to help students believe that trying to get better at something is worth it. You can start by having students recall a time in their life when they succeeded because they didn’t give up. Then you can move on to showing students examples of Olympians that worked hard and persevered. Another way to convince students that putting forth effort is worth their time is to challenge them to keep track of their effort in relation to their success. They can use a rubric to keep track of their effort (on a quiz, test, homework, etc.) in comparison to how well they scored. This will help students understand that effort actually does pay off.

Use Differentiated Teaching Strategies

Another way to instill a growth mindset in students is to use diverse teaching strategies to ensure that you’re reaching all learners. You can differentiate what students learn, how they learn, how they demonstrate their learning, or even their learning environment. By doing so, teachers can ensure they are promoting a growth mindset versus a false growth mindset. When you don’t use differentiated teaching strategies in the classroom, and instead teach to the masses, students can be praised for performing with little effort which doesn’t promote any growth in students. However, using differentiation is a simple approach to help foster a growth mindset in students.

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Teach Students to Change Their Language

The words that we choose to speak about ourselves will determine our mindset. Fixed-minded students often use language when speaking to themselves or others that put their abilities down. For example, a fixed-minded student may say, “I’m not good at math.” A growth-minded student may say, “I’m not good at math yet.” Fixed-minded students need to view their struggle as a chance to improve. Using self-talk language like “There’s room to improve” and “This is just another opportunity to learn” can help build a growth mindset in students.

Build a Growth Mindset Through Goal Setting

Having students set goals is another great way to encourage students to build a growth mindset. For example, a fixed-minded student who is struggling in math may set the goal to earn a specific grade on their next math quiz. To accomplish this goal, you can help the student make a list of the steps they are going to take to make their goal happen. Step one might be to study their facts every night, and step two is play a math app, etc. It’s important to note that students’ goals must be achievable and realistic. Once they reach their goal, they will see that their abilities and skills are not fixed, and with a little effort they can achieve their goals.

Model a Growth Mindset

One of the best ways to help students build a growth mindset is to model one. Let students see how you respond to setbacks. Tell them when you are nervous to try a new lesson or teaching strategy. When they see that you can rebound from your own mistakes, it will help them understand that it’s a natural part of life. They’ll also see that with a growth mindset, you can train your brain to be resilient over time.

Having a growth mindset means that you can essentially train your brain to get smarter. By helping to students understand this concept, you are helping them to cultivate their abilities both inside and outside of the classroom.

How to do instill a growth mindset in your students? Do you have any teaching strategies that you like to use? Please feel free to share them in the comment section below, we’d love to hear what works in your classroom.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.