Growth Mindset/Grit/Mindfulness

Growth Mindset: Strengths of Will

*Having a growth mindset means understanding that intelligence can be developed.

A growth mindset is a belief that we can get smarter through hard work and practice. It is the opposite of a Fixed Mindset, where we feel like we can’t change our behaviors due to the belief that the brain is a fixed non-changing muscle, that we can’t control. This means that struggling with something difficult doesn’t mean you’re not smart—it’s a chance to grow your intelligence. Growth mindset is all about trying hard, using good strategies, and getting the help you need.

Growth mindset is a popular notion in the field of education right now, but it’s commonly misunderstood. It might seem like growth mindset implies that everyone has exactly the same potential in every domain, but that’s not quite true. Instead, growth mindset means everyone’s intellectual ability can always be further developed. Growth mindset is not about telling your students to never give up. A benefit of growth mindset is that it helps you stay motivated to stick it out when things are difficult, but telling students not to quit won’t do that alone. You have to (truthfully!) convince kids that their efforts will result in increased ability (because ability can grow!) and remind them that they’re learning when something is hard for them to do.

Creating a Growth Mindset in Our Students

Belief that you can become smarter and more talented opens the doorways to success. That’s what twenty years of research has shown Carol Dweck of Stanford University. She has identified two opposing beliefs about intelligence and talent, beliefs that strongly impact our ability to learn.

Mindset Chart

Though the fixed mindset has traditionally held sway, many recent studies show that the growth mindset better represents our abilities. Our brains are much more elastic than previously thought, constantly growing new connections. IQ and talent are not fixed, but are mutable based on experience and attitude.

In her book Mindset, Dweck outlines the dramatic effect that these opposing beliefs have on learners:

Fixed Mindset Growth Mindset
Wants to prove intelligence or talent. Wants to improve intelligence or talent.
Avoids challenges for fear of failure. Engages challenges to improve.
Gives up in the face of tough obstacles. Persists in overcoming obstacles.
Avoids hard labor. Sees labor as the path to success.
Treats criticism as an attack. Treats criticism as an opportunity.
Feels threatened by others’ success. Feels inspired by others’ success.

As you can see from this chart, the fixed mindset leads to many of the learning and discipline problems in school, while the growth mindset leads to optimal learning. Recent articles in Scientific AmericanWired Science, and the New York Times cite numerous studies that support Dweck’s conclusions.

In one such study, urban Milwaukee students who were at risk for mental retardation were entered into an intensive education program prior to first grade. After the program, a control group scored an average of 83 on the Stanford-Binet IQ test, but the students who had worked in the program had an average IQ of 110. That’s an average gain of 27 points, moving from borderline retardation to “bright” intelligence.

Alfred Binet created the IQ test for a very similar application—to raise the intelligence of Parisian schoolchildren. In Modern Ideas About Children, he wrote the following:

“Never!” What a strong word! A few modern philosophers seem to lend their moral support to these deplorable verdicts when they assert that an individual’s intelligence is a fixed quantity, a quantity which cannot be increased. We must protest and react against this brutal pessimism. We shall attempt to prove that it is without foundation.
. . . With practice, training, and above all, method, we manage to increase our attention, our memory, our judgment and literally to become more intelligent than we were before.

How Can I Create the Growth Mindset?

Clearly, if we can shift students from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, we can eliminate many learning challenges and classroom-management issues. But how can we make this mental shift?

5 Steps to Growth

Here’s an easy 5-step process to fostering a growth mindset in your classroom:

Don’t Say Do Say
I’m so stupid. What am I missing?
I’m awesome at this. I seem to be on the right track.
I just can’t do math. I’m going to train my brain in math.
This is too hard. This is going to take some time.
She’s so smart, she makes me sick. I’m going to figure out how she’s doing it.
It’s fine the way it is, and yours isn’t any better. That’s an interesting idea for improvement.

“I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”

—Thomas Edison

  1. Believe it. You can’t instill a growth mindset in students until you have it yourself. Start by recognizing your current mindset. It determines the way that you interpret experience. These mindsets manifest most clearly in the self-talk in your head. Whenever you hear a judging bit of self-talk such as “I’m just no good at this,” stop it and replace it with improvement talk: “I want to become better at this.”
    • The fixed mindset is focused on judgment. Positive experiences mean that you are smart or talented or both. Negative experiences mean that you are dumb or talentless or both.
    • The growth mindset is focused on improvement. Positive experiences mean that you are on the right track. Negative experiences mean you have a chance to make changes and grow.
  2. Teach it. Now that you are shaping your own mindset toward growth, you can teach your students to do so as well. Tell students they can improve their IQs and talents—which are not fixed. Present the evidence you find in this article and in other resources. Teach students that education is not something someone else gives to them. Education is something they must grab for themselves.
  3. Model it. Show students how to recognize judging thoughts, how to stop them, and how to replace them with growth thoughts. Make the rule that judging thoughts spoken aloud in your class will be stopped, and the student will need to rephrase the idea as a growth thought. By doing so with external dialogue, you help students recognize judging thoughts in internal dialogue. You also help students monitor each other and shift their thoughts toward growth.
  4. Nourish it. Mindsets exist within a larger classroom culture. In your classroom, shift the focus from proving to improving, from product to process. An inquiry-based approach to learning facilitates the growth mindset by embracing challenges, obstacles, and criticisms as chief drivers of learning. Failure can be a great teacher if it is approached not as judgment but as opportunity. That mental shift frees you up as well. If you take some missteps as you are trying to shift the classroom culture, don’t be embarrassed. Be empowered to improve.
  5. Assess it. A classroom that focuses on summative assessment fosters an environment for a fixed mindset—assessment is all about judgment. A classroom that focuses on formative assessment fosters an environment for the growth mindset—assessment is about learning. That’s not to say that summative assessments should be eliminated. Rather, when you focus on the formative side, the summative side becomes a rubber stamp that certifies the learning that students have been doing all along.

View a minilesson for creating a growth mindset. 

Making Yourself Brilliant

In “Learning to Read,” Malcolm X tells how, as a young man in prison, he started to acquire “some kind of homemade education.” He got a dictionary and copied every word on the first page, down to the punctuation. It took a day. On the next morning, though, he was proud of all the words he’d learned. So he copied the next page. And the next. And eventually, the whole dictionary. That dogged act helped Malcolm X to train his brain and to become one of the most literate and articulate people of the 20th century.

How many Malcolm Xs are you teaching? Help them see their potential. Make it clear to your students that they are responsible for their own intelligence and talent. They are even responsible for the mindset that helps them develop both. Help them to stop the thoughts that are stopping them, and to open their minds to a wide-open future.

Examples of Changing a Fixed Mindset message of self talk to a Growth Mindset positive self talk in the classroom and at home:

Growth Mindset - Talk It Out. Anchor chart to help students create a positive mindset.

Remember that when we fail, it actually is our:

  • First  Attempt In Learning…….whether we are children in 2nd, 5th or 8th grade, in our 39th year of teaching, or parents.  In the words of Carol Dweck, a school psychologist who wrote the book called, Mindset, “Becoming is better than being.” We can always strive to develop and deepen our knowledge. We can always work to be better than the day before. We can always grow. These are the mindset messages we can teach our children of the 21st century……..

“As educators and parents, we have the awesome opportunity to help our children to recognize and foster growth mindset.”  —-Di Shepp


Why do some children fail, and others succeed? What separates student’s who excel at their c;lasses from students who struggle to pass their classes? Is is a high IQ that pushes students to excel in their classes, or is there something else?

A psychologist and former teacher, Angela Lee Duckworth, has an answer to these questions. After several studies conducted in the military, spelling bees, classrooms, and companies, Angela determined what causes children and adults to excel and succeed; Angela says the one trait that appeared consistent, even from high and low IQ students was: GRIT! She defines grit as “passion and perseverance for very long term goals.”

Study after study, shows that schools should depend more on how children learn, and less on their IQ’s. These studies also revealed that children who have passion, perseverance, stamina, and are guided by future goals have that one unique ability to succeed.

Contrary to popular belief, grit has more significant correlation to high school graduation rates than things like family income and social status. do. So now you know you do not need to be some inherently intelligent individual to succeed in life, yet how does one form grit?

Though at this point, there are not a lot of studies done yet that may show what actually builds grit,  yet we do know that one does not need to a talented individual. Angela has observed cases where high talent could be inversely related to grit—in other words, the more talent one posses, they less grit they may posses.

Additionally, Angela offers some hope from a study called “growth mindset” performed by Stanford’s Dr. Carol Dweck. Angela say the concept of growth mindset is, “the belief that the ability to learn is not  fixed, and it can change with your effort.” This means that if you failed to show grit in the past, you still have time to develop it.


We know mindfulness is good for us. Mindfulness allows us to be present in our parenting, choosing the skillful response instead of succumbing to our visceral reactions.

Mindfulness is also good for our kids. There is an emerging body of research that indicates that mindfulness can help our children improve their abilities to pay attention, to calm down when they are upset, and to make better decisions. In short, it helps with emotional regulation and cognitive focus. Do I even need to ask if you want that for your kids? 🙂

So where do we start? How can we teach mindfulness to kids?

  • Establish our own Mindfulness practice
  • Make Mindfulness a positive experience, and not a punishment.
  • Develop their awareness of their inner and outer experiences, to recognize their thoughts as “just thoughts,” to understand how emotions manifest in their bodies, to recognize when their attention has wandered, and to provide tools for impulse control.
  • Let it be a natural experience. If your kids aren’t interested in your lesson or activity, drop it. This is a good time for you to practice non-attachment to outcomes!
  • Keep it simple. Mindfulness is noticing our thoughts, what our body feels like, what our ears are hearing, and anything else that is around us and happening right now.
  • Practice mindful eating. The exercise of mindfully eating a raisin or a piece of chocolate is a staple of mindfulness education, and is a great activity for kids. You can find a script for a 7-minute mindful eating exercise for children here. This is a fun way to teach children to pay attention to and savor their food, and by extension, the present moment.
  • Take some peaceful mindful walks in nature, and learn how appreciating taking care of their environment is so valuable for their future.
  • Establish a gratitude practice. I believe gratitude is a fundamental component of mindfulness, teaching our children to appreciate the abundance in their lives, as opposed to focusing on all the toys and goodies that they crave.  Each night at dinner, share one thing you are thankful for. It may be one of the more enriching parts of their day.
  • Create a mindful bedtime ritual. Bedtime is a great time to introduce mindfulness to kids, and to prepare for restful sleep.
  • Practice deep breathing to calm their mind.
  • Above all, remember to have fun and keep it simple. You can provide your children with many opportunities to add helpful practices to their toolkit — some of them will work for them and some won’t. But it’s fun to experiment!Teach mindfulness to your kids — it can help them develop emotional regulation and cognitive focus.