5 Proven Ways to Cultivate a Growth Mindset in the Classroom
February 15, 2022
7 min read
There are no limits to human intelligence. The human mind is not immutable. It grows and expands through continual improvement.
The concept of growth mindset, ideated by the renowned psychologist Carol Dweck, builds on this notion of the mind’s ability to develop through constant efforts for improvement. It considers an individual’s outlook towards their capacity to grow as a key deciding factor for the life they lead.
Premised on the belief that you can constantly work on becoming better, a growth mindset encourages positive thinking about maximizing your potential. As opposed to a fixed mindset, people with a growth mindset believe that they can achieve greater success through hard work, dedicated efforts, and perseverance.
Recent years have witnessed a massive surge in the use of the term growth mindset. From corporate bigwigs to celebrities, everyone is advocating this idea to accomplish better results in life. To delve deeper into the concept, let’s understand it vis-à-vis the fixed mindset.
In her trailblazing research several years ago, Dweck concluded that people’s idea of themselves has a profound correlation with what they go on to achieve. In substantiating this claim, she created the dichotomy of fixed and growth mindsets.
The core difference between the two ideas is their stance on intelligence. While the fixed mindset advocates that intelligence is static, the growth mindset believes in the ability to develop greater intelligence. It is this fundamental difference that creates wide-ranging differences in the way these two mindsets perceive different situations.
People with a fixed mindset focus on looking smart rather than expanding their knowledge and strengthening their aptitude in reality. They tend to steer clear of challenging situations and give up easily even when they find themselves in one. Their deterministic worldview creates a myopic idea of success, one that creates vulnerability because of others’ growth. Subsequently, they either look for shortcuts or ultimately surrender.
In stark contrast, individuals with a growth mindset focus on their innate desire to learn and grow through all the deterrents they face. Their goal is to steepen the learning curve while seeking motivation from others’ success. A relentless belief in the ability to achieve more through smart and hard work forms the foundation of their achievements.
"Growth mindset" is more than just a buzzword in the field of education.
The concept empowers both teachers and learners to amplify their productivity and proficiency by nurturing this outlook in their daily learning experiences. At the very least, this model of learning instills a high level of confidence, thereby, raising the bar for what one can achieve.
This concept aims to bring a shift in the students’ psyche about their own capacity to accomplish better things. It focuses on taking the leap from “I can’t” to “I will” through a psychological switch from a fixed to a growth mindset. Students can benefit in multiple ways by inculcating this outlook, one of which is improved efficiency in their learning process. Additionally, it helps in raising their self-esteem while enhancing their zeal and curiosity to learn more.
Most importantly, the idea of a growth mindset eliminates the fear of failure that ails most learners. By accepting failures as opportunities to try different approaches, this concept empowers the very core of a student’s competence.
At the same time, the idea of a growth mindset holds the promise of completely revamping the present teaching methodology into a more enabling process. In shaping the students’ perspective towards their intelligence and ability, teachers can reinforce this notion into their lives as well. The whole process of cultivating a growth mindset in the classroom equips the teachers with a more mindful and optimistic perception.
A classroom presents a wonderful avenue for teachers and students to collectively nurture a growth mindset and enrich the overall learning atmosphere. In addition to motivating learners to push their limits, a growth mindset also eliminates the toxic ideas of performance and results. Your intelligence is not limited to a set of scores or a rank. It is boundless.
Discussed below are a few potential ways to infuse these ideas in the classroom and create an unbridled learning environment.
Most children are socially conditioned with insurmountable amounts of pressure to succeed. Be it scoring big in exams or cracking an interview, there is simply too much stress to get a positive outcome. In the race to climb this ladder of success, we often overlook the impracticality of condensing an individual’s entire intellectual potential into a percentage or a GPA.
One of the core principles for cultivating a growth mindset is to counter this conventional idea of success and create an affirmative understanding of failure.
Instead of imposing unrealistic notions of success on the students, teachers should focus on bringing a pivotal shift in the learners' outlook, presenting failures as roadblocks rather than the end of the road.
What’s more important is to focus on the journey rather than the destination. Students must learn to look at their progress in the form of learning outcomes in the process instead of looking at just the outcome. It is the hard work and the struggle that really matters on the path to success.
At the end of the day, life is about consistent effort. The key to cultivating a growth mindset is to accept and embrace a constant struggle for improvement rather than seeking superficial metrics of success.
Children’s mindset is a by-product of what they see and learn over the course of their schooling experiences. Feedback plays a pivotal role in shaping these experiences and influencing their mindsets. It is also a vital tool to build and nurture a growth mindset, as per Carol Dweck.
Constructive feedback holds massive potential to boost the learners’ confidence in their ability to do and achieve more. However, giving feedback that stimulates the students’ progress is nothing less than art that teachers must learn.
A good way to appraise students is to repeatedly reinforce the idea that the human mind is malleable and intelligence is infinite. This feedback should encourage the students to push the frontiers of their knowledge in the pursuit of the endless possibilities that lie ahead of them.
At the same time, teachers can engage in productive self-talk to nurture a growth mindset. They need to recognize and appreciate hard work over tangible results like a low score. This is possible when teachers put themselves in the shoes of the learners. This will help in shaping their understanding of how every feedback is a stepping stone in the formation of a fulfilling growth mindset.
The idea of perseverance is deeply woven into the concept of a growth mindset. It necessitates that a classroom can exude an optimistic environment to promote a can-do attitude.
The basic idea is that learners come up with different solutions to approach a problem after encountering a failure. Rather than sticking to the same methods, the principle of perseverance provides an avenue to explore and experiment, ultimately enhancing your potential in the process.
At the same time, teachers should try new and unique techniques to bring about a transition from what is to what can be. Use the think-pair-share approach to add an experiential dimension to the classes. Create varied learning stations in the class, each one devoted to a different activity like watching a video or solving a puzzle. Encourage the learners to work on open-ended projects or gamify the lectures.
The idea is to shape their classes in ways that help students realize their potential and continue their pursuit of excellence despite challenges that might hinder their growth.
Dale Carnegie perfectly encapsulated this idea when he wrote, “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed no hope at all.”
As opposed to a fixed mindset, a growth mindset encourages individuals to believe in their ability to improve. Reinforcing the idea that intelligence and skill can be improved with constant efforts helps shape this mentality among students.
Teachers must engage their learners in reflective thinking about the notion that intelligence is expandable. The human brain, just like the body, needs constant exercise to become stronger and better. Continuous efforts and work can help them achieve a higher aptitude.
At the same time, reflective thinking also helps in shaping the students’ responses to challenges and hindrances. A growth mindset empowers individuals to perceive deterrents as opportunities for maximizing their potential. Setting realistic goals, in conjunction with this reflective thought process, goes a long way in cultivating a growth mindset.
When teachers and students work collectively towards these goals, they will be able to evolve their outlook and overcome a fixed mindset.
There are many ways to stimulate reflective and realistic thinking in a classroom. A more popular practice is to ask students questions about the challenges they are facing at the end of each class. This will promote a habit of healthy discussions between the teachers and the students to mutually build a growth mindset.
Besides, teachers can also engage learners in reading a book or watching a movie, followed by a conversation reflecting upon the characters’ struggles and their attitude towards the same. This way, teachers have demonstrable figures to talk about the idea of a growth mindset.
Perhaps one of the biggest shortcomings of the present education ecosystem is its rigid academic ethos. Everyone is assigned a role. The teachers assess the students’ intelligence based on a few tests, which indicate their potential.
Paul Graham put it succinctly when he wrote, “Everyone judges students by their grades — graduate programs, employers, scholarships, even their own parents...The result is that students compete to maximize the difference between learning and getting good grades.”
The concept of growth mindset seeks to break this age-old framework of learning. Alternatively, it proposes a more interactive and holistic culture of learning where the students are not pressurized into performing well. When the goal is to develop a student’s confidence in his\her ability to improve, the learning process goes beyond the pages of the syllabus.
As extraordinary as it may sound, involving the students in the process of building a curriculum is a great way to instill a growth mindset. This approach equips learners with a degree of autonomy to decide what and how they wish to learn. At the same time, it allows them to learn at their own pace in ways that they prefer, be it visual or auditory. This ease and stress-free process facilitates the optimum development of a student’s capacity.
Apart from the curriculum, allowing students to decide the milestones for their assessment will also help in boosting their confidence. This collaborative learning environment is one of the hallmarks of a growth mindset in the class.
In the end, it is your mindset that inevitably determines the trajectory of your life. A positive outlook about your limitless potential can potentially transform the status quo in the education ecosystem.