What Is Growth Mindset Really?

Success doesn’t come and find you, you have to go out and get it

What is Growth Mindset?

Everybody talks about it, but do we really understand the concept of growth mindset as deeply as we should? Growth mindset in education is a lot more than just adding the word “yet” to the end of phrases like  “I don’t understand?” or “I can’t do multiplication. 

Growth mindset is…

  • Knowing ALL students can learn at high levels
  • Believing your students that have never been proficient, can become proficient if and when the right supports are in place
  • Understanding that you, an educator, can learn a new skill, strategy, or tool
  • Trusting that although you can’t or don’t know how to do something now, it’s not the end of the story
  • Welcoming persistent effort and practice leads to improvement
  • Embracing mistakes and using them as feedback for how to do better next time
  • Knowing that you have the power to do anything; there are no limits

Talking to staff about growth mindset in education

Growth mindset is a constant work-in-progress. As a staff, we read Mary Cay Ricci’s book geared towards educators, Mindsets in the Classroom. In fact, the work we did around Ricci’s book was featured in her follow-up, Ready-to-Use Resources for Mindsets in the Classroom.

Growth mindset vs fixed mindset

My experience as a runner has helped me wrap my head around the differences between a growth and a fixed mindset. I think of myself as a runner. I run half-marathons and I can run them at about an eight-minute mile pace. That wasn’t always my story, however. As a high schooler, I did not like running and I did not want to run simply for the sake of running. Two-miles was my limit. But things changed. The more I ran, the more I wanted to run. 2 miles stretched to 7, and 7 stretched to 13.1. The same type of thing was happening to my pace. The more I ran, the faster I got. The better I got, the more I enjoyed running. The more I enjoyed running, the more I wanted to run.

Challenge yourself

Think of an area of your life where you clearly exhibit a growth mindset, and one where you do not. What’s the difference? Chances are the area for your growth mindset is something that you enjoy; typically, we don’t often like the things that are a struggle for us. It’s probably also something that you are relatively good at, but I’m guessing that you weren’t always this good. It’s also likely that because you enjoy it, it is something you regularly engage in. And because you do it regularly, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that you’ve improved over time.

When we think of mindset, Carol Dweck, justifiably, is probably one of the first to come to mind. When we become aware of our different and fluid mindsets, it becomes more likely that we’ll regularly choose a growth instead of a fixed mindset. When we more regularly adopt a growth mindset, the possibilities for what we can accomplish are amplified. And when our possibilities are amplified that same thing happens for the staff and students that we serve.


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