Developing a Growth Mindset

Have you ever thought about the difference between why some students crumble to criticism and failure and some students take that criticism and create something even better?  Dr. Carol Dweck has developed a theory that people have two separate and distinct mindsets – fixed and growth.  The fixed mindset is the belief “that your qualities are carved in stone,” you have a certain amount of intelligence, personality, and moral character.  The growth mindset is pretty much the opposite.  The growth mindset “is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.”  (Dweck, 2006).

People are not forced to live life with one mindset or the other.  In fact, when I took the mindset quiz here, I have a split mindset.  I answered 4 fixed and 4 growth.  My mindset shifts depending on the situation and setting.  Cultivating a growth mindset for our students will help them succeed.  But it must start by example.  Dweck has 4 steps to help people achieve the growth mindset.

Dweck’s 4 Steps:

  1. Learn to hear your fixed mindset voice.
  2. Recognize that you have a choice.
  3. Talk back to it with a growth mindset.
  4. Take the growth mindset action.

My take on the 4 steps:

  1. Most learners “hear” the fixed mindset voice when they fail, but it is important to “hear” it when you succeed as well. When a fixed mindset person fails, he/she might hear things like “you’re a failure” or “I’m completely disappointed in you.
  2. When you do succeed, don’t stop! You think you’re at the top of your game and you’re the best.  That’s when the fixed mindset takes over.  When you’ve accomplished something great, think about how you can do it even better, stretch what you’ve learned.
  3. Talk to yourself! Argue with yourself!  Accept the criticism and apply it to what you are learning.  Michael Jordan didn’t start at the top of the NBA.  Thomas Edison “failed” over 1,000 times with the creation of the light bulb.  These two celebrities are proof of the growth mindset.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3. Hear the fixed mindset voice, realize I have a choice, and respond with a growth mindset reaction.

The biggest way to promote the 4 steps so that the growth mindset becomes innate is to enable “yet” into all of my doubts and my students’ doubts.  When a student says “I can’t do that…,” the response that I give them should be “You can’t do that YET!”  When I say that “I don’t know how to do that…,” I should be saying “I don’t know how to do that YET!”  Modeling “yet” for my students is the best way to communicate a growth mindset.

Since I am an elective teacher and only see each class once a week, promoting and instilling the growth mindset might prove to be a difficult task.  I will use the class management system Class Dojo along with the classroom teachers as a way to praise student’s efforts and encourage focus and perseverance.  Another great resource is the internet.  One I’ve already discovered from Google is a board of Pinterest that is FILLED with activities to promote and change to a growth mindset.

The goal of developing a growth mindset for myself and my students is to use the 4 steps presented by Dweck and by harnessing the power of “yet.”  By practicing the growth mindset in and out of my class and every day of the week, I can learn to make it a part of my personality and how I learn.  Practice doesn’t make perfect; practice makes permanent.

How does this relate to creating a significant learning environment?

Students need an environment where they can grow, develop, and learn that is encouraging, engaging, and exciting.  In my first post about significant learning environments, I reviewed “A New Culture of Learning” and how play should be integrated into the classroom.  In the next post, I developed a personal learning theory and tied it to my teaching theory.  In the next two posts, I looked at two different ways to develop plans: Fink’s 3 column table and Understanding by Design.  All of these concepts, including Dweck’s theory on mindsets, help create an environment that creates successful learners.


Dweck, Carol. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Retrieved from

Dweck, Carol. (2006-2010). How can you change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset?  Retrieved from



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