Growth Mindset: what my students taught me. #ResourcesThatGive

"I'm hopeless at Maths!"

How many times have you heard that expression?

Growth mindset is the new buzz word amongst educators and was developed by psychologist Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

According to Dweck, everybody has a self-perception - that is an idea of how they view themselves; good at sport/bad at sport, good at maths/bad at maths, good employee/bad employee. Some people are aware of their mindsets but often young students do not have a positive self-perception or they have a "fixed" perception.

In a fixed mindset, people perceive their failures or inabilities as character flaws or as a lack of intelligence.What we try to teach students is that they must develop the growth mindset to break this habit and try new things. Work hard and you can achieve anything - is the message we need to teach children.

In my own classroom, my front row is (as are many front rows in any classroom) filled with the lowest achievers. The students that struggle to engage, can't focus on instruction and often miss the basic concepts taught at the start of each lesson. I noticed these students had the lowest self-esteem of all my students and the most rigid mindset. I frequently heard "I can't do it!" or "I dunno what to do!" from their row. I also noticed that these students were frequently the kids who struggled to make friends or accept rejection when friendships went wrong.

I wanted to work on their mindset without drawing more attention to them, so I designed these Growth Mindset posters and strategically placed them in areas at eye level with their desk (front of the room under the board, near windows etc..) anywhere I felt they often went for a long hard 'gaze' while feeling it was too hard for them.

I didn't tell them what they were for, nor did I give any explicit instruction (although next year I will set 10 minutes aside each week to discuss the message in one of these posters). The posters are bright and colourful enough to be eye catching, yet generic enough to apply to any child in the class.

Did I notice an immediate improvement in their growth mindset? No. Not at first. However, what surprised me was what happened to the rest of the class. Those students who had, what I believed, a developing growth mindset, began to take the messages on board. This positive attitude to work and friendship problems (success or failure) began to filter down to those students in the front row. They didn't suddenly become high achievers, but it did plant the seed that 'perhaps I can achieve if I try?'.

One student in particular, struggled all year with his writing until the last assessment piece, He suddenly knuckled down and achieved a B! In his journal he was asked to write something he was proud of and he wrote 'Being told I got a B for English'. Did you notice he wrote 'being told' rather than 'getting a'. Positive affirmation is what this boy was looking for not necessarily high achievement. He was starting to develop his growth mindset.

Another student refused to write frequently. Myself and specialists had worked all year to get him to get his thoughts onto paper but with no real success. Tests were undertaken but there was no learning impediment, just a 'fear of failure'. English was over and reluctantly I gave him an E. After assessments I began working on a new 'fun' ICT project and suddenly I found him typing away on the computer, creating his PowerPoint with all the research he had undertaken. After the project was finished I spent some time discussing how well he was doing and I used it as a teaching point for growth mindset. I felt I had, perhaps, broken through a chink in his 'fear of failure' and started to work on his growth mindset.

Do you have a growth mindset story from the classroom? If so, share in the comments below.



  1. Teaching kids about growth mindset is so important especially in math! So many students come in with the idea that they are not good at math and don't want to try. I like to help my kids focus on what they can do in math first and then build on that to show them they ARE good at math!