What is a growth mindset oriented teaching?

By Blanca Tacer

The Nature of Brains and Intelligence

Introducing students how our brain works, how we learn, fixed and growth mindset.

Teaching students about brain plasticity

Mindset interventions may be more influential if they integrate the evolving nature of science and information about brain plasticity in adulthood.

Gathering students’ experience about how mindset in being developed

How their own experiences and observations affected their mindset beliefs (e.g., their own academic experiences, observing peers’ experiences). How authority figures (e.g., parents and teachers) talk about intelligence is influential.

Growth Mindset Language

Demonstrating the connection between learning and result

Emphasizing effort, mistakes, brain growth, reflection about learning, high expectations, growth-oriented feedbacks. 

You can encourage students to think deeply and communicate to them that they can achieve at a high level, but it takes persistence and character. It requires an understanding that even if success does not come immediately, they must keep trying (Duckworth 2016; Tough 2012).

Keep the conversation about the growth mindset alive

Provide examples of growth mindset

Praise effort not talent

It is necessary to change these messages from ones that praise intelligence to ones that praise effort and tell students they can achieve; it may just take more time and practice, and it won’t happen overnight (Boaler 2016; Dweck 2006; Kohn 2015; Pink 2009). This means that instead of saying “you are so smart,” you can say, “I loved how you solved that problem. You really thought outside the box.”

Promoting positive self-talk

Explicitly teaching students how to use positive self-talk helps them develop essential skills and the confidence necessary to be successful in learning.

High expectations for all students

Wagner (2012) emphasizes that the message we send to our students by having high expectations is that they are capable. When trying to reach high expectations, students see failures as a result of those high expectations versus lack of potential, and by contrast, low expectations will cause students to question their intellectual ability.

Growth Mindset Tasks

Deliberate practice, mistakes and challenges

Very often, students do not need to complete 100 problems in order to demonstrate understanding; sometimes they only need to complete one very challenging problem that extends on the concepts taught in class. Repetitive exercises that require a lot of time to complete can be counterproductive (Rosario et al. 2019). After finishing the one problem, they feel a much greater sense of accomplishment. There are fields of study, however, where exposure to multiple tasks is essential (e.g. English tenses). When this is the case, it is essential for the students to see purpose and meaning in the tasks. Integration of the tasks with real life problems is thus essential. It is also beneficial if the students can develop real life skills in problems they are faced with.

This mastery of a challenging skill also boosts their self-efficacy (Bandura and Schunk 1981). When they go over that problem as a class, have students lead the discussion (Abdulrahim and Orosco 2020). Encourage deliberate and reflective practice. Deliberate practice is the act of isolating what is not working and mastering the challenging area before moving on, allowing the new information to become encoded in memory (Mulligan, 1998).

Desirable difficulty

Create opportunities for desirable difficulty. Working through problems is how we learn: It is better to let students spend some time trying to fix their problems than it is to just give them the answer and go on.

Providing opportunities for mistakes without punishment. Normalize mistakes and failures.

Recognizing mistakes not as an enemy to be vanquished but as a friend with much to teach us.

Multiple exposure

Multiple exposures provide students with multiple opportunities to encounter, engage with, and elaborate on new knowledge and skills.

Adherence to learning goals rather than performance goals

Tendency in students to pursue goals aiming at increasing their ability, according importance to learning (academic importance belief), rather than proving their ability to others.


Scaffold learning via specific steps/activities, scaffold a final goal into the smaller goals showing a connection between effort and result.


Give students choice on assignments. Motivation increases when students are given more control, and this increased motivation can, in turn, promote a growth mindset (Howard and Whitaker 2011). Students vary in the way they communicate what they learn. On big projects, give them the opportunity to present their work in different ways; for example, a blog, a video presentation, or a booklet.

Growth Mindset Assessment

Give the students opportunities to test themselves, rather than just study or practice the new material. Students sometimes possess intrinsic motivation in which they receive pleasure from the learning process itself without the need for a reward (Gottfried 1985). They possess pride in their accomplishment of a difficult task. You can also create tasks that stimulate their thinking. Students enjoy the challenge of creating their own tests.

Work with students to eliminate the fear of guessing and help them become comfortable starting again if their process is not progressing (Duckworth 2016). You need to determine when to use extrinsic rewards, such as giving a prize or extra points on a test. Rewards and punishments can induce negative thinking or give rise to cheating.

Growth Mindset Reflection

Discussion about students’ past experience with overcoming a struggle:

  • Ask them to reflect on past times when they have learned or overcome a struggle, reminding them that they are capable of doing so observing their peers deal with struggle or noting differences among their peers and reporting in groups.
  • Spend time on the first day of class discussing what it means to have tenacity, be persistent, and possess resilience. Share personal experiences when you have had or have not had grit. Let students share.
  • Personal reflection and storytelling are used to identify mindsets in practice.
  • Small-group discussions to showcase meaningful stories, explore connections between student experiences and mindset concepts, and allow students to share how their thinking about learning has evolved.
  • A reflection assignment helps students consolidate their learning.

Growth Mindset questions

Questioning, by using questions to engage students, to monitor their progress and stimulate their thinking, and also by valuing questions from students as a form of feedback and an opportunity for clarification/extension of learning.