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Fostering Growth Mindset

Fostering a Growth Mindset: In Your Students & Yourself


Much has been written about the concept of a Growth Mindset, based on the seminal work of Dr. Carol Dweck at Stanford. The research is clear. Individuals with a growth mindset – that is, who believe that intelligence and talent can be developed – do better than those who think that talent is innate and that intelligence doesn’t change much. The concept is deceptively simple and doesn’t provide everything we need to change our own mindsets and foster a Growth Mindset in our students and children and within our organizations.

This webinar explores how to model a Growth Mindset; how to foster a Growth Mindset with students, children and others; strategies for increasing intelligence; and what it really means to praise the effort and not the outcome.

Mindset isn’t just about what we say.  It is how we process feedback and how we interact with our students.  If asked in general, we all might say that we have a growth mindset – after all, it’s critical for teachers and parents and in every professional field we know of.  But, how we really behave and what we say and what we believe at a nonconscious level can be different.

Understanding and developing a growth mindset is not a linear path.  It involves three mental dimensions:

Cognition:  How we think
Metacognition:  Thinking about how we think
Mindset:  How we think about change

While the concept of mindset sounds like a dichotomy, it is really more of a continuum.  None of us has a pure fixed mindset or a pure growth mindset. Moreover, we may have one kind of mindset in a particular context and a different mindset in another context.

The assumption of someone with a fixed mindset is that intelligence is predetermined and there isn’t much they can do about it.

  • If they feel they aren’t very smart, they take for granted that they can’t get any smarter.
  • For those who think they’re pretty smart (or have been told they are), they may start to think everything should come easily and to expect not to have to try very hard.

In both cases, those with a growth mindset typically start to avoid whatever situation led to the feelings of failure.

A growth mindset uses or implies one of the most powerful words in the English language (and every human language has its equivalent) … the word YET.

YET contains within it the promise of accomplishments we can’t yet imagine.  It contains within it a vision of our future selves doing exactly what we have just failed at … and doing it successfully.  And it gives appropriate value to a mistake and a learning experience.

One of the most important and often misunderstood aspects of a growth mindset is that it doesn’t simply require  “grit” or “persistence” …. It is about grit with a plan and persistence with a strategy.  What will I try next that can change the outcome?  How is it that a loss can become learning.

How we model a growth mindset and how we talk about mistakes and failure has a big impact on whether our children and students develop a mindset that is more growth-oriented or more fixed.

Ways to Discourage a Growth Mindset

Here are some statements that tend to reinforce a fixed mindset.

Wow, you’re so smart.  You aced that test and barely studied for it.

  • The implication here is that if you’re smart, you don’t have to study.  And therefore, if you have to study, you aren’t really very smart.  Thinking this way discourages someone from even trying if something is hard, because it can only prove that they’re not really as smart as they’ve been told.

That’s OK.  Spelling isn’t that important.

  • Minimizing the importance of something that is difficult leads to avoidance of learning opportunities that are challenging.  Pretty soon, just about everything can become unimportant.

That teacher of yours sure picked some hard spelling words this week.

  • Blaming failure on someone else means that you don’t have to think about what you could have done differently to be more successful.  The essence of a growth mindset is figuring out a different approach to a task, adjusting a strategy, thinking about how to change.

Don’t get down on yourself.  You’ll get it if you just keep trying.

  • This type of message is similar to telling someone they just grit, that it is about repeating the same thing in the same way and expecting a different result.  The key to a growth mindset is to ask what we can do to get a different results the next time.

Ways to Nurture a Growth Mindset

  • Present skills as learnable.
  • Convey that you value learning and understand what it takes to develop abilities.
  • Convey that it doesn’t all depend on innate talent.
  • Give feedback that promotes learning and trying new strategies and approaches.
  • Make it clear that you (and other adults and peers) are resources for learning. We will all help each other learn.
  • Model your own growth mindset (I wonder what I can learn from that mistake/experience.)
  • Teach about how the brain learns.


If you have questions or need additional information on anything we discussed in this webinar, please email After you have watched this webinar, you can request a certificate of participation.

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