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Teaching Strategies to Turn Around a Fixed Mindset

Janelle Cox

How many times have you heard your students say, “I can’t do this!” or “I’m not good at this!”? These are phrases most teachers hear on a daily basis. They are the lies that many students say to themselves (or others) to keep them from reaching their full potential. Whether they say these things out of frustration or they truly believe them, they are words that are holding them back. How can you use teaching strategies to change a students’ fixed mindset to a growth mindset? Luckily, with a little bit of work via unique teaching strategies, you can turn their inner voice around to a more positive voice. Here’s how.

Teaching Strategies that Change the Way Students Think

Students with a fixed mindset think they are who they are, and they can’t change that. So if a student thinks they are bad at math because their mom or dad is bad at math, they think it’s just an inherited trait that they carry. What they fail to realize is that all they have to do is change the way they think about it. Here are a few steps for students to follow.

  1. Hear Your Voice -- The first thing you’ll want to do is teach the student to hear the way they talk to themselves. They may hear themselves say, “You’re not good at math” or “You can’t do this.”
  2. Make a Change -- Next, they need to make the choice to change the way they are thinking to say, “You’ll get better at math” and “Keep trying, you’re capable of anything.”
  3. Challenge Yourself -- Once students learn to hear their voice and change the way they think, they need to learn to change that fixed mindset to become more of a growth mindset. Every time they hear their inner voice being negative, they must immediately change it to a positive voice. With practice, they’ll get there.

Show Students How to Think

Many students with a fixed mindset often say, “I’m not good at X.” In order for them to change the way they’re used to thinking, they’ll need for you to give them specific examples. Their goal is to not put themselves down, but to speak of how they’ll get better with practice. Here are a few examples.

Fixed Mindset to Growth Mindset

  • “I’m awful at art” to “With practice I’ll get better at art.”
  • “I’ll never be good at math” to “I feel dissatisfied with my math grades.”
  • “I’m not good at baseball” to “I haven’t learned how to play baseball yet.”
  • “People are born to sing and I can’t” to “I haven’t learned how to sing just yet.”
  • “I can’t keep my desk organized” to “ I haven’t had much success with keeping my desk organized, but I’ll learn how to.”

Have Students Practice

The best way for students to turn around their fixed mindset is for them to practice positive growth mindset phrases. They can easily do this by writing down a few fixed phrases and reframe them by putting a positive spin on them. Another way to practice is to have students partner up, and one person would write down a fixed mindset phrase, while the other would have to change it into a growth mindset phrase. Remember, the more students practice this, the more changes they’ll see in the way they think.

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Question the Student

When you hear a student say, “I can’t do this,” then don’t just ask them “Why not?” Challenge them with follow-up questions about what they can do and what they do understand. Push them to understand that there are things they do understand. Then help them plan the steps they need to walk themselves through, in order to complete their task. The more open-ended questions that you ask, the better you will push them out of their fixed mindset.

Changing the way you think takes time. When you live with a fixed mindset, you are constantly in self-doubt. It also makes it difficult for students to see any opportunities that may come their way. However, with the right tools (the teaching strategies mentioned above) and a lot of practice, you can turn your students’ fixed mindset to a growth mindset where they feel supported and believe in themselves.

What teaching strategies do you use to change your students’ fixed mindset to a growth mindset? Please share your thoughts and ideas on this topic in the comment section below, we’d love to hear what you have to say.

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 Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at

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