Start the Year by Fostering Your Students’ Growth Mindset

Help students transition to the new year by teaching and fostering their growth mindset.

Grades K-12 8 min Resource by:
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Each new school year brings excitement, energy, and anticipation for our students. The first days of school can also leave students feeling a bit nervous, uncertain, and anxious. These feelings are sure to be heightened this year, as students reunite virtually and/or physically with their school, teachers, and peers.

Social and Emotional Needs

Our students are also wondering what their education experience will be like this fall and school year. What will their classes be like as they return to school, in person and/or online with their new teacher(s)? Have their social groups been impacted, and how will they reestablish those relationships? For ideas on how to support your students with these key questions, see our article, Build Classroom Community to Support Your Students’ Social and Emotional Needs.

Academic Needs

Our students may also be wondering if they will be academically successful in the next level of learning, given the unique learning they experienced in the spring. As the school year starts, they are likely to experience gaps in their learning and feel concerned or frustrated in their ability to complete coursework. For strategies to support your students, see our article, Address Academic Gaps.

Growth-Mindset Needs

As educators, another way that we can support our students’ social and academic needs is by creating a learning environment that develops and fosters a growth mindset. Dr. Carol Dweck coined this phrase to describe the belief that talents and abilities can be developed through hard work and education. During the first days of school, it will be beneficial to teach students about growth mindset and how they can develop and use their growth mindset in your classroom.

3 Steps to Foster and Develop Your Students’ Growth Mindset

1. Teach Your Students About Growth Mindset

Like any other skill that we want our students to develop, students must receive instruction about the concept and skills related to growth mindset. The following are some suggestions about how to teach the concept of growth mindset:

  • Define growth mindset: As a class, develop a working definition of growth mindset to display digitally and/or physically in your classroom.
  • Display a growth-mindset formula: As a class, have students create and share a visual representation of growth mindset, such as Effective practice and study + Grit and effort = Growth and improvement.
  • Utilize age-appropriate examples and picture books to discuss the growth that we experience when we stretch ourselves, without support, to reach slightly beyond our current level of comfort. To learn more, review these related articles:
  • Create Anchor Charts, T-Charts, or Y-Charts with your students to help clarify how growth mindset looks, sounds, and feels. Display the charts in your digital and/or physical classroom space.
  • Generate a list of examples and non-examples with your students. Have students practice sorting examples using an online tool, like Flippity’s Matching Game (Tips).
  • Post and share personal examples of growth mindset using collaborative online tools, such as Flip (Tips), Padlet (Tips), and/or the discussion boards on your class’ learning management system (LMS).
  • List common triggers and reactions that Carol Dweck identifies in her research and have students develop and share strategies for overcoming these triggers:
    • Facing challenge: anxious
    • Struggling: frustrated and worried
    • Experiencing setbacks: discouraged and defensive
    • Being criticized: angry, defensive, and ashamed
    • Seeing someone more skilled than you at something: threatened and discouraged
  • Incorporate mindfulness practices into your classroom to help alleviate students’ stress and anxiety. See links below for resources to learn more about mindfulness practices and tools:

2. Practice and Reinforce Growth Mindset

Included below are suggestions for how you can help students develop and practice their growth-mindset skills as they learn in your classroom:

  • Maintain rigor and high expectations in your classroom. Students will then be able to practice growth mindset during rigorous learning. Refer back to your growth-mindset lessons as students experience challenges in their learning.
  • Develop your students’ stamina for learning challenges. Start new learning with more scaffolding and teacher directions, and then work toward more student-directed learning as students gain confidence and skills. Start with smaller, frequent learning challenges, and then extend to more lengthy and complicated learning tasks. Success breeds success.
  • Expect students to be more independent learners. Teach students to use a strategy like “3 Before Teacher” that encourages them to use resources available to them, such as Google, YouTube, and peers, before seeking support or answers from you.
  • Empower students by giving them voice and choice in their learning. If students have a voice in their learning, they will be more motivated to persevere through the learning challenge. To learn more, review our Reimagine Summative Assessments for Increased Student Agency in Remote Learning collection.
  • Guide students in setting their own SMART learning goals that are broken into attainable and specific action steps (see template). Breaking down the larger learning goal into smaller goals will help students experience more frequent success and gain confidence along the journey toward achieving the more challenging main goal.
  • Establish opportunities for students to receive timely feedback, so they can monitor their own progress toward their learning goals. To learn more, review our Establish a Feedback System to Keep Everyone Informed collection.
  • Emphasize learning as a process by providing opportunities for students to reflect on their learning journey. Review our Facilitate Effective Student Reflection During Remote Learning collection.
  • Recognize students’ effective efforts and accomplishments as they experience success and growth in their learning. For strategy and tool ideas, see our Recognize Students and Celebrate Together article.

3. Model Growth Mindset

As you teach, model your own growth mindset. Your actions will speak louder than your words. Show your passion for learning and maintain positivity as you experience challenges in front of your students. Be vulnerable and let them see you giving yourself grace. It can be helpful to call out your mistakes as they occur and verbalize your problem-solving process. Your students will learn from your perseverance, resilience, and positive self-talk. Your actions will also help establish trust and foster a culture for taking the risks necessary to grow as learners.