Developing a Growth Mindset

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset

Maybe these are terms you’ve heard of or read about, but they cover years of research from Dr. Carol Dweck. Dr. Dweck is a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and one of the world’s leading researchers on motivation and mindsets. Her work focuses on why people succeed and how it is possible to foster their success. 

Here is a summary of the two mindsets:

“Some people believe that their intelligence and abilities are unchangeable. In other words, you have a certain amount of intelligence, and you can’t do much to change it. This is called a “fixed mindset.” Think about the phrase, “I’m not a math person.” This statement indicates a fixed mindset about math because it attributes math ability to an unchangeable quality.

Others have different ideas about their intelligence and abilities. Some people believe that it is possible to grow your intelligence through effort. This is called a “growth mindset.” Think about the phrase, “Math was really confusing at first, but I’ve studied hard all year, and I understand it better now.” This indicates a growth mindset because it shows a willingness to dig deep.” (

As educators and parents, we can make small changes to the words we use with children to help them cultivate a growth mindset. For example, praising children for “being smart” promotes the belief that traits are innate and cannot be changed. In contrast, praising children for working hard promotes the belief that success can be achieved through effort. The language we use can then help children change the way they think.

Here are some examples:

Try this (growth mindset)...

Instead of this (fixed mindset)...

I see you worked so hard on this!

You are so smart!

It seems like it’s time to try a new strategy.

It’s okay. Maybe you’re just not cut out for this.

To help children think this …

Instead of this…

What am I missing?

I’m not good at this. 

This may take more time.

This is too hard.

There’s always plan B

Plan A didn’t work


Another way we can teach children to have a growth mindset is by talking about our own mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning. The struggle is a natural part of the learning process, and if we speak openly about our own mistakes and what we learned from them, our children will cultivate the resilience and perseverance needed in school and life.

When in doubt, remember this magical little phrase, “I can’t do that - YET!”

To learn more about growth and fixed mindsets, check out these resources.