A Growth Mindset tells you “I can grow”. It doesn’t tell you how to grow!

As educators, many of us are interested in developing a Growth Mindset in our students because we want to help improve their results. The problem is that a Growth Mindset doesn’t do that – on its own. Let me explain.

Carol Dweck has repeatedly demonstrated that students with a Growth Mindset tend to improve more than those with a Fixed Mindset. Similarly, students who change their mindset to become more Growth Oriented, tend to improve their grades . So how can I say that a Growth Mindset doesn’t improve student results?

A Growth Mindset is the understanding that even your most basic abilities are capable of growth. It is an invitation to grow. But it’s not the growth itself. In order to grow we must still engage in the deliberate practice and hard work that leads to improvement and growth.

In each of the experiments mentioned above, students were not only taught (or had the prior understanding) that they could grow, but they were also taught how to grow – they were taught study skills or offered other learning opportunities. Students with a Fixed Mindset tended not to effectively enter into this process by turning down learning opportunities, or giving up easily, or by ignoring feedback etc that would have helped them grow.

Recognising that developing a Growth Mindset is only half the job is a key to seeing real results with this work. If all we do is help students develop a more Growth Oriented Mindset and then fail to show them how to achieve that growth, then we will have failed them.

To improve student-learning outcomes, this work has to be coupled with pedagogies that improve students’ ability to learn. We must develop students Habits of Mind, teach them thinking skills and focus not only on improving their grades, but also on improving their own learning processes. We must teach them not only that they can become more intelligent, but also how to behave more intelligently.

A growth Mindset is not growth. It’s just an invitation to grow.



James Anderson is a speaker, author and educator who is passionate about helping fellow educators develop students as better learners. James’ work combines Growth Mindset with Habits of Mind and Practice to create Learning Agility. He puts the growth back into Growth Mindset. And through creating and describing the Mindset Continuum, he provides the cornerstone for effective Growth Mindset interventions.

James is a Certified Speaking Professional and speaks regularly at conferences around the world. He has published several books including Succeeding with Habits of Mind, The Agile Learner, The Mindset Continuum and The Learning Landscape.

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