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7 Ways to Help Students Develop a Growth Mindset

How can teachers help our students learn better? This is a question that teachers will struggle with for their entire career, as educators before them did and generations after them will do. There are many ways to encourage students to reach their potential, but fostering a growth mindset has been among the most popular in recent years.

When individuals believe they can develop their talent through hard work, feedback from others, and the implementation of good strategies, it is said that they have a growth mindset. These students believe that their performance is a product of something they control, such as effort and attitude. Students with fixed mindsets believe that success is based on innate ability (how smart we believe we are, or how good at math we are). 

Students with a growth mindset show an improved ability to persevere in the face of challenging problems, collaborate with others, and have a greater willingness to take risks in their learning. While some students enter your classroom already believing they can grow, others come to you with a fixed mindset.

Let's explore seven ways to help your students trade in their fixed mindset for a growth mindset, better preparing them for a lifetime of learning.

1. Explicitly Teach Growth Mindset

We can not expect students to learn or practice things we or someone else did not teach them. Dedicate a few lessons to explicitly teaching the concept of a growth mindset versus fixed mindset. Discuss the benefits of a growth mindset and the challenges that adopting a fixed mindset can bring students.

Have your students create bulletin boards, posters, short videos, etc., to serve as daily reminders. Directly teaching students what their brain needs to succeed is the first step in creating self-awareness. This self-awareness will serve them well in their educational career.

2. Choose Language Wisely

  • "You're so smart!"
  • "You got a great grade on this!"
  • "It's your lucky day⁠—a perfect score!"

These are all sayings that roll off the tongues of teachers, seemingly providing encouragement and praise as their students work. However, these phrases inadvertently tell your students that we value things they have no control over⁠—such as innate intelligence.

Grades are good, but what is important is learning the content and skills taught in the classroom and working toward mastery. Praising luck reinforces the idea that success is not based on effort, preparation, and hard work, i.e., the very qualities that you want your students to develop. 

Focus on effort over intelligence, and encourage different perspectives or approaches to problems. Try some of the phrases below:

  • "Your effort shined in your latest _____."
  • "I notice you're thinking deeply about _____. That kind of thinking will help you improve your overall understanding of _____."
  • "That's a productive approach."

Use the word "yet" to signal to students that there is room to grow and reach their goals. Correct fixed mindset phrases your students use by repeating the phrase but adding "yet" at the end. This small act tells them you believe they can get there. Then, be sure to offer strategies and skills they can use to improve, such as explicit study skills strategies, or offering small group/individual feedback. 

3. Model Making Mistakes and Responding to Challenges

Nobody likes making mistakes. However, as adults, we have learned that mistakes are the best way to grow. Students who have yet to realize this often shy away from taking risks that may result in mistakes. They may only answer questions they are sure they know the answer to or participate less in classroom discussions to avoid making a mistake. 

However, if your students are not taking risks they are missing out on valuable learning opportunities. Model making mistakes in the classroom. Normalize the challenges that learning creates and emphasize the benefits of working together to solve problems. Project-based learning is a great way to explore different facets of learning around a single challenge, such as "opening a restaurant."

4. Encourage Corrections

Offer students opportunities to edit their work, retake tests and quizzes and improve their assignments. Opportunities to correct go a long way in showing students that they can improve learning by sustaining effort and making changes.

Praising corrections encourages students to make the extra effort. This also helps them feel more comfortable taking risks because they know they can work to correct themselves if they make a mistake.

5. Help Students Make Goals

Encourage your students to set goals and bonus points if they are SMART goals. These goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. Start small and short term. Setting meaningful goals is not something most students know how to do on their own.

Helping them create realistic and attainable goals allows them to see success as they reach them. This helps them learn that strategies and skills for improvement lead to positive results, which encourages them to continue to use them and set newer, higher goals.

You can build goal-setting into your school year, with natural benchmark times such as mid-year or the end-of-year for your students' medium and long-term goals. For short-term goals, start as small as one week and build up from there.

6. Celebrate the Wins!

As your students set goals and meet them, celebrate them. Even if it is a short-term goal and a student improves that goal, shout it out!

Emphasize positive attributes in your classroom and encourage all students to show them. No matter how small a win is, take the time to celebrate it. Doing this now will help your students learn that progress is something to be proud of. It can also help them sustain effort and focus through more challenging tasks or problems to gain positive reinforcement.

7. Challenge Your Students

Your students can't grow if you don't provide them opportunities to push themselves. Create group challenges where students work together to solve a problem. Intentionally group students with ones who are quick to give up, paired with students with strong growth mindsets. This pairing should help to push the fixed mindset individual towards a growth mindset. 


Spending time teaching growth mindset may offer valuable support to the skills that help students be successful in the classroom. Use these strategies to start today!


Written by Jacqueline Underwood

Education World Contributor

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