Developing and Maintaining a Growth Mindset


Almost 2 years ago, my family and I moved from a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota to a rural part of western Wisconsin. After some training, practice, and several mistakes, I learned how to use a snowblower and a lawn tractor (allowing me to do my part of maintaining the acres of land we now owned). Before then, I never thought about learning how to operate those machines - I didn’t think I needed to, and I was too intimidated to try.

Stepping outside of my comfort zone to learn new skills took me to a deeper level of understanding of what it means to develop and maintain a growth mindset. So often I hear people use their age as an excuse to stop learning and growing, preventing them from living a rich life. On the other hand, my grandma (a former teacher) learned how to use a computer when she was in her early 90s. She is still alive, well, and continues learning every day at the age of 105. (I featured her in a blog article last summer, 3 Teaching Practices of the 1930s Reimagined: Using Technology in the Classroom.)

I’ve found that many of the resources and activities created for students focused on developing a growth mindset can be generalized to our own lives as adults to maintain and strengthen our own mindsets. Provided below are a few resources I have found especially valuable:

This infographic provides a snapshot of the differences between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. Which behaviors do you tend toward? Which behaviors do your students tend toward?

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Carol Dweck, professor and researcher at Stanford University, stated, “We were born to learn.” But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to continue to work on maintaining and retraining our brains with positive thoughts and attitudes. A growth mindset is like a muscle - it needs to be exercised to maintain strength and resiliency. In this 10-minute TED talk, Dweck shares fascinating and promising research focused on “the idea that we can grow our brain’s capacity to learn and to solve problems.”

Because learning can be intimidating, consider how you frame and approach new concepts and skills. Mindset Works provides this document with suggested phrases to use for communicating learning goals and high expectations. Here are a few examples to be used with your students or as part of your own self-talk:

  • Today your brain will get stronger.
  • We’re in the learning zone today. Mistakes are our friends!
  • Our classroom is a place for everyone to learn challenging material. I am here to help you meet that goal.
  • I have seen you stretch and succeed in the past. Let’s do it again.

Finally, the educator in this 7-minute video, Stephanie, provides a concise and understandable explanation (with visuals) of how thoughts shape our brains. She also offers suggestions on how to help develop a growth mindset with the use of gratitude journals, visualization, and power thoughts/mantras.

Learning how to operate a snowblower and a lawn tractor filled me with the confidence to embrace challenges and the motivation to keep learning and growing as an adult. It was also a valuable reminder of how learning feels for students.

Interested in learning more about your own mindset and how to foster a growth mindset in your classroom? Register for our course The Growth Mindset and Appreciative Inquiry: Getting the Best from Your Students and Getting them to Believe in Themselves.

Here are a few classes related to this topic:

Jill Rockwell
Jill has over 13 years of experience as a licensed teacher in the areas of Special Education, Reading Education, and Health Education. She embraces diversity and has worked with students in grades K-12 in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California. Jill completed her Master of Science degree at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls while teaching full time. She fully understands the soaring demands of today’s teachers. Her courses are designed to maximize the time of all educators by providing engaging, meaningful, and applicable activities which can be used to enhance teaching practices. She focuses on research-based best practices and technology integration throughout her own instructional practices. Together with her husband and two young boys, Jill enjoys traveling, biking and the changing seasons of the great outdoors in Wisconsin. 

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