When I first started teaching, I remember having a student, let’s call him Alex, who was a bright kiddo, but would always give up at the first sign of difficulty. He was convinced he just “wasn’t good at learning.” That’s when I realized Alex had a fixed-mindset. He needed to learn about the power of cultivating a growth mindset to enhance student confidence.
Today, we’re talking about strategies that can transform your students’ mindset from fixed to growth-oriented, encouraging them to see their abilities as something they can develop and change. Not only can cultivating a growth mindset enhance their confidence, it can have lasting effects on their academic and life outcomes.
Cultivating a Growth Mindset: Praise Effort, Not Just Results
Start focusing your praise on your students’ efforts rather than their inherent abilities. Cultivating a growth mindset involves focusing your praise on effort rather than innate ability. Instead of saying things like “You’re so smart,” try “You’ve worked really hard on this.” This subtle shift in praise promotes a growth mindset by valuing the journey and the effort rather than the result.
While this strategy helps us determine what we should focus on, the next one is all about how we should communicate praise.
Cultivating a Growth Mindset through Growth-Oriented Language
Language shapes how students view their abilities. A growth-oriented approach might replace phrases like “This is too hard for you” with “This may take some more time and effort.” Below, I’ve included a list of common fixed-mindset phrases alongside their growth mindset alternatives:
- Instead of “You tried your best,” try “What’s another strategy you could try?”
- Instead of “You either have it or you don’t,” try “Everyone learns at their own pace.”
- Check out the image for more!
Also, don’t forget to demonstrate a growth mindset in your own behavior. Share your own goals, explain how you overcome obstacles, talk about what you’re currently reading and learning, and don’t shy away from discussing your mistakes and what you learned from them.
Teaching Goal Setting in the Context of a Growth Mindset
Introduce your students to the concept of SMART goals versus mere hopes and wishes. Encourage them to set personal learning goals. To get started, check out my FREE Goal Setting Lesson, which provides a comprehensive lesson on creating personal learning goals for students. Access this resource by signing up for my weekly newsletter HERE.
Equally as important, teach your students about the brain and its amazing capacity to learn and grow throughout their lives. Introduce lessons about brain plasticity (like this one) and explain how learning creates new connections in the brain.
Using lessons on brain plasticity, like the one pictured, plays a crucial role in teaching goal setting within the context of a growth mindset. By introducing students to the concept of brain plasticity, they come to understand that effort and practice can lead to progress and improvement.
With the combination of teaching SMART goals and exploring brain plasticity, students gain a deeper appreciation for their own potential for growth and development, reinforcing the idea that continuous progress is always possible.
Boosting Resilience and Risk-Taking with the Surprise Box
Transform your classroom into a safe space for trial and error by reframing failure as a stepping stone toward success. One of the most effective ways to do this is with my Surprise Box.
When students show resilience or perseverance, reward them with a ticket. At the end of the day, draw three tickets. The lucky winners pick a draw from the Surprise Box to reveal a surprise – or sometimes a whammy!
This friendly competition injects fun into learning, motivates students, and helps create a positive association with effort and resilience.
Differentiating Instruction with Choice Boards for Growth Mindset
Differentiated instruction fosters a growth mindset by enabling students to learn at their own pace. The easiest way to do this is to select activities based on a variety of multiple intelligences and offer it in a choice board. I’ve made this super easy with my Editable Choice Boards.
You can customize instruction to suit each student’s needs within the boundaries of a learning standard, ensuring that all students feel challenged but never overwhelmed.
Utilizing Student Surveys to Understand Mindset
My self-perception surveys provide insight into how your students perceive themselves, giving you a glimpse into their confidence levels. This tool can help you identify areas where they might need additional support to develop a growth mindset.
I love using these because we are able to track their confidence throughout the year. I give them a self-perception survey once per quarter. The digital components make it an easy way to track their mental growth too!
In summary, cultivating a growth mindset can powerfully enhance student confidence, setting them up for academic and life success. These strategies:
- praising effort
- modeling and using growth-oriented language
- teaching about goal setting and the brain
- encouraging risk-taking and resilience
- differentiating instruction
- utilizing student surveys
are all active steps to cultivating this mindset in your classroom.
For more insights on differentiating instruction, don’t forget to check out this related post, “The Power of Student Choice.” If you found this post helpful, please share it with your teacher pals!