What is a Growth Mindset?

What is a growth mindset?  It was developed by psychologist Carol Dweck who explains mindset as a self-perception or “self-theory” that people hold about themselves.  For example, it is believing that you are smart or not smart, good athlete or bad athlete, good at knitting or stink at knitting.  This type of mindset can have a profound effect on learning achievement and skill acquisition.

Carol Dweck explains mindset further comparing a fixed  mindset to a growth mindset.  According to Dweck, “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.”   In comparison, Dweck explains that “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”

Overall, her research revealed that when students learned through a structured program that they could “grow their brains” and increase their intellectual abilities, they did better. In addition, having children focus on the process that leads to learning (like hard work or trying new strategies) fosters a growth mindset and its benefits.

The way we respond to students learning effects how they learn.  One of the examples Dweck provides is instead of simply responding “Good effort” when a child is trying to learn something new but struggling, try responding “The point isn’t to get it all right away, the point is to grow your understanding step by step.  What can you try next?”

A growth mindset is not just about effort.  Students need to apply effort of course, but they also need to discover new strategies and ask for help when needed.   This helps students to face challenges head on and understand that setbacks occur on the path of learning.


Dweck, C. Carol Dweck Revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’. Education Week. Retrieved from the web on 4/20/17 at http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/09/23/carol-dweck-revisits-the-growth-mindset.html

Hidden curriculum (2014, August 26). In S. Abbott (Ed.), The glossary of education reform. Retrieved from http://edglossary.org/hidden-curriculum.

Growth Mindset Curriculum: This Growth Mindset curriculum, created by Thia Triggs, school based Occupational Therapist, includes 5 units that will help you to support your children in developing a Growth Mindset  FIND OUT MORE.

Check out these FREE Growth Mindset Coloring Pages here.