How to Help Students Develop a Growth-Mindset
“I can’t do this.” “This is too hard.” Or, the worst, “I give up.” Every educator has heard students say these phrases in their classroom. They are verbalizations of a fixed-mindset – the belief that no amount of effort will make us stronger, more well-rounded learners. This is a dangerous way to think, as it discourages students from taking on challenges and working toward goals. There are ways, though, to encourage students to adopt a growth-mindset inside, and outside, the classroom. With this in mind, we’ve collected several of the most effective strategies teachers use to encourage a growth mindset in their students.
Self-assessment and Reflection
Self-assessment is a powerful tool for the development of a growth mindset. It makes students (and educators) stop and consciously think about the work that they are producing. The most important key to self-assessment is the “why.” The reflection process should be focused on understanding our behaviors and not on self-criticism. Examples of powerful self-assessment questions are:
- Did I try my best? If not, why? Was I tired, uninterested, or distracted?
- Would I be proud to show my work to the world? Why, or why not?
- What is a mistake I made today that I can learn from?
- Did I make progress toward one of my learning goals today? Why, or why not?
Praise Students for Their Effort
It can be easy to get into the habit of praising students for impressive work and good grades. Unfortunately, this leaves a large number of students left without praise. Instead of recognizing ability in the classroom, make it a priority to praise students for their effort and the way that they approached the work. This gives students a blueprint for how to improve in the future, rather than sending the message that they will only receive praise in proportion to their performance.
Read Books with Characters that Demonstrate a Growth-Mindset
Students need to be provided with examples of others overcoming obstacles. Providing these examples through reading is a great way to show students how a growth-mindset will benefit them. Refer to these characters and stories throughout the school year, so that students are constantly reminded of the power of pushing through challenges. Students will benefit from learning about the obstacles other students have overcome and will realize that if they put in the work, they too, can accomplish their goals.
Teach Positive Self-Talk
We’ve already mentioned some of the most frustrating phrases we hear students say in the classroom. To remove this negativity from your students’ vocabularies, you need to provide them with positive phrases that represent a growth-mindset. For example, encourage students to replace “this is too hard” with “this might take some time and effort.” You can take this a step further and have students keep a log of their self-talk, and note whether most of it was negative or positive. If it was negative, talk with students about how to improve their thinking and why it is important to be kind to yourself.
Having a growth mindset is critical to not only being a student but being a life-long learner. This is why it is so important to help students develop their positive thinking early on. While we didn’t mention it above, modeling a growth-mindset is important when helping students develop their own. You can even use the strategies above to strengthen your mindset and share what you learned with your students. Learning is challenging, and it can be difficult for students to work through the challenges when they meet them. Thankfully, with the approaches we have provided you, it is possible to help students dig deep, develop grit, and realize their potential.