What is a Growth Mindset?

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The growth mindset is the belief that a person’s qualities, such as intelligence and capabilities, can be improved with experience, time, and effort. This means when a person with a growth mindset is confronted with a challenging problem, the person will always try to solve it, especially if mistakes take place and learning becomes crucial to finding the solution of the problem. In contrast, the fixed mindset is the belief that a person has limits to their qualities and that these fixed traits define this person. So if a person with a fixed mindset confronts the aforementioned challenge, this person will deem it too difficult and may not attempt to solve it.

It is thus extremely valuable to cultivate a growth mindset in students learning new languages. It allows for students to develop productive, positive habits and perspectives that help them go beyond the familiarity of their native tongue and witness the dynamism of themselves and language. With a growth mindset, students may see how limitless they can be as they evolve and learn. Here are three tips teachers can incorporate into their teaching styles that encourage a growth mindset.

Praise the Process

To instill a growth mindset in students, it’s a good idea to praise the processes that enable students to learn, move forward, and grow. For example, teachers should praise students that ask for help, find more effective methods to retain class materials, and reflect on what’s inhibiting them from learning. When confronted with a problem, students should see how it’s the process to find the solution that’s vital to success. It is the journey, not the destination, that matters.

A growth mindset means that students should not boil down their ability to learn and grow on whether they are intelligent enough or putting in enough effort. So to cultivate this mindset, it would be ideal for teachers to stay away from praising intelligence. Praising intelligence can promote it as a fixed trait and something that can’t be developed further. This is why praising the process is more beneficial: students should know they are always growing and that learning never stops.

Constructive Feedback

Beyond giving praise, teacher feedback that encourages students to evaluate themselves and how they learn can help them develop a growth mindset. Ideal constructive feedback would involve teachers asking their students questions that push students to delve into themselves and their learning processes. Questions like “what helped you remember these phrases and words” or “why do think a certain method helped you memorize and understand a class material” are examples that urge students to analyze what does and doesn’t work for them.

It is critical for students to take the time to reflect and understand themselves and how they learn because it helps them identify how to grow—to take the next steps in advancing themselves. Let’s emphasize the importance of self-reflection to students, especially as they grow older, change, and encounter even more difficult problems.

Teaching a New Language

The last two suggestions we’ve made about how teachers can cultivate a growth mindset in their students has led up to this final, encompassing point: teaching students a new language to speak to themselves. And this doesn’t mean teaching them another foreign language! The suggested language here is focused on switching simple, fixed mindset phrases to growth mindset phrases. It is meant to be a perspective shift, one that helps students see obstacles and challenges as opportunities to learn.

So if students say, “this is too hard to remember,” recommend them to say, “I’m going to figure out another way to remember this.” This is just one example! There are also many teachers that believe in the weight of the word “yet.” Remind students of how they have “yet” to solve or understand something and it can help establish to students how they are simply on their way to an answer. As we teach our students a new language, it’s important to consider how students talk to and encourage themselves to achieve their goals and assignments.

 

Let us know what you think about nurturing a growth mindset in students. Do you think it’s productive for students to have a growth mindset? How do you foster a growth mindset in your students or in yourself?

22 COMMENTS

  1. A growth mindset can always be fostered with positive feedback or praise and a well founded system of reward, such as the monkey getting a banana. Thanks for the philosophy.

    Yvette

  2. I think this is a wonderful mind set to begin each lesson. I guess the focus that I need to pair to each class is “ we are evolving “. With each student the expansion we are aiming for is around opening the mind.

  3. This is so important! I love the idea o praising the process and giving constructive feedback. The student feels growth as a process and feels supported.

  4. I agree with this article! In life, we will always be coming up against difficult things we haven’t learned, encountered or thought about before. If we take the time to explore them, wrap our minds around the concepts and dive in a little deeper, and perhaps even glean from what others have learned (research). If we do these things, instead of shut down, we will come out the other side wiser, richer and more able to tackle the next thing we don’t know. I do this for my students at VIPKid by exploring a concept further of they seem curious or unsure about it something the lesson has touched on. It’s exciting to see light bulbs come on or the students understanding grow a little as a result. The tool I use for this is my handy dandy white board! It is so useful! –Annette IM

  5. A growth mindset is fostered when the teacher gives productiv feedback. Instead of good job I may say good job, and repeat the sentence they said.

  6. I think that this kind of growth mindset is to be valued not only for learning English, but also for all other areas of life as well.

  7. Great post…. encouraging us to be encouraging. I keep smiling and I have positive expectations of my students. I like the comment about the weight of “yet.”

    Kathryn

  8. As a B&M teacher, the idea of growth mindset has been around a long time. I’ve seen through many years of experience how much students respond to positive reinforcement. But it is more than that. Even the youngest children can understand and visually see their growth over time, if a good teacher makes that visible to them.

  9. I love the idea of “praising the process!” I always tell my students how proud I am when they use their phonics skills to sound out a word, or use the process of elimination to narrow down choices for an answer!

  10. Praising the process is a very effective way of influencing the way a student learns. No one is really receptive to new information if they do not feel comfortable, or confident about what they are learning. Positive praise and reinforcement can really open doors to learning because students know that they are doing to right thing and will boldly venture forth to learn something new.

  11. Having taught for over 20 years, I can tell you that teaching a student how to learn may be more important than the content!! Teaching that is ok to not know is so important!! We need to remember that each. Hold learns differently and we can walk the journey with joy and support!!

  12. These are all very helpful and important points. I feel praising and encouraging children is extremely helpful, especially to building confidence and self-esteem. I know they are capable of learning new things, and I want them to believe that too. So much is possible!

  13. I love demonstrating the power of “yet”! I think the word is so powerful and allows students to understand that they might not be able to do something today, but they will be able to do it, someday. They just can’t, yet!

  14. We had to read the book “Mindset” by Carol S. Dweck at my brick and mortar school. Parents set the kids up for this or they don’t. We have a lot of kids who can’t tolerate making a mistake, and it is difficult to turn this around, but it makes a huge difference when you do.

  15. Having a positive attitude (I can do this) and an openness to learning are two elements that students can “catch” from their teachers.

  16. Exactly! I have lived my life in this very way. I was very fortunate to have a grandmother who lived these principles and invested the time to teach me to continue to learn and grow through my entire life. Now at 66 I am starting a new career teaching children in China to speak English… Oh that I can impart these principles to each of my students!

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