Mindsets and Learning

Mindsets are such a tricky thing.  Dr. Carol Dweck has done amazing research on the two different mindsets that all people can have.  When children are in their fixed mindset, they want to succeed, for the sake of being the best and the brightest.  They feed off hearing that they are the “smartest”.  Children that are in their growth mindset find success in “stretching themselves” (Dweck, 2003, p.17).  These are the children that enjoy being challenged and growing their skills, even if failure occurs.  Over the years, I have had both types of students and the differences in the way that I approach learning with them are tremendous.  It is so important for children to be in their growth mindset because that is where they “grow their brains”, making neural connections that didn’t previously exist.  If we only have children in their fixed mindset, they will crumble when they aren’t the brightest or best at something.  They won’t know how to make themselves better learners or how to strengthen their skills.

Dweck has four steps to changing our mindsets (Dweck, n.d.).  They are:

  1. Learn to hear your fixed mindset voice.
  2. Recognize that you have a choice.
  3. Talk back with a growth mindset voice.
  4. Take the growth mindset action.

How can I use these in my classroom to affect my students and their mindsets?  The easiest way with the little ones that I work with is by setting an example.  When I feel myself slipping into my fixed mindset, I have to jump at the opportunity to use it as a teachable moment.  Going through the steps out loud, with my thoughts where the children can hear them, will be my most powerful tool.  When my students hear me “thinking through” problems, they are more attuned to the steps that I am taking to remedy the situation.

I have also already started to use the power of “yet” in my classroom.  In Kindergarten, I hear a lot of “I can’t do it”.  I have begun making my students rephrase that to “I can’t do it, yet!”  Their little eyes light up when I tell them that there are things that I can’t do but I hope I will be able to do in the future.  It gives them a sense of hope and I feel like I am using my most powerful weapon, the weapon of being a good example.  Children learn by watching the adults in their lives, and I plan on taking my 7 hours with them to show them how to learn about the power of yet.

There are so many resources out there.  I typed in growth mindset in Pinterest and came up with an entire board full of books, videos, posters, and teachers pay teachers products that I can purchase.  Here is the link to my board https://www.pinterest.com/shelwillis/growth-mindset/.  The number of resources out there is mind boggling to say the least.  Many of the books I already own in my personal library and I am fortunate enough to be able to print at no cost in color.  So getting materials ready for my classroom should be an inexpensive and easy feat.

I hope to promote the growth mindset organically in my classroom, meaning whenever the opportunity presents itself.  I feel like my Kindergarteners learn better when I use the moment to do my best teaching.  I will try to keep in mind what Alfie Kohn says about attending to “deeper differences between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.” (Kohn, 2015).  I want my students to become intrinsically motivated to push themselves further, not by what I say, but by their own inner voices.  This is the greatest challenge I will have but I am up for it.

If you have enjoyed reading about my thoughts on Carole Dweck’s Mindsets, please read my previous blogs.

In my posts I discussed learning in a broad sense here, and my personal philosophy on learning here.  Then I experimented with backwards design with Fink’s three column model here.  Finally, I explored backwards design with the UBD model here.  Please let me know what you think of my ideas on learning.  Thanks!


Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.

Dweck, C. (n.d.). MINDSET. Retrieved March 31, 2016, from http://mindsetonline.com/changeyourmindset/firststeps/index.html

Kohn, A. (2015, August 16). The “Mindset” Mindset – Alfie Kohn. Retrieved March 31, 2016, from http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/mindset/

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Posted in ELDL 5313 - Creating Significant Learning Environments
One comment on “Mindsets and Learning
  1. […] time.  I really enjoyed all the looking at learning that we did in this class, and the Carol Dweck Mindset theories were my favorite.  I have always used some of her strategies with my own children and it was nice […]


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