Make 2020 the year of no limits in your classroom

Welcome to the 2020 school year!

As students walk into your classroom for the first time this year, how many of them have already placed limits on their learning?

Perhaps some have decided which subjects they’re good at and which they are not.

Others may have decided how “smart” they are and already “know” what grades they can (and can’t) hope to achieve.

Sound familiar?

These are just some of the symptoms we see when students are at the low-growth end of the Mindset Continuum. Other symptoms include not taking risks, ignoring feedback and believing effort should be avoided because it’s a sign of lacking natural ability.

Where are your students on the Mindset Continuum?

Try this for a start-of-the-year activity:

Give your students a copy of the Mindset Continuum. Ask them to circle the descriptions that best match their attitudes and beliefs. You might like to get other students or teachers to add their observations to provide a more accurate 360-degree view of each student’s Mindset.

Now, ask yourself this:

Mindset Continuum

How much better would your life be if you could move all your students one step along the Mindset Continuum? How would it impact student achievement if all your students were a little more growth-oriented?

Unfortunately, experience tells us that moving students along the Mindset Continuum is not achieved by putting posters on walls, asking students to say “not yet” and telling them to have a Growth Mindset.

We need to nudge students along the Mindset Continuum

The way to move students along the Mindset Continuum is to “nudge” them. Nudges are small, consistent reminders that reinforce the idea that students aren’t limited and they can improve their abilities.

Here are two nudges to get you started for the year:

1. Group by verbs, not adjectives

When you group students, remember to label your groups by what students do, not who they are.

For example, instead of talking about the “music students”, talk about the “students studying music”. Instead of talking about “high-achieving students”, talk about “students who are achieving highly”.

Each time you do this, you remind your students (and yourself) that their abilities are a result of what they do, not who they are. They are not a “type” of student; instead, they are students doing something to create new abilities.

2. Attach time stamps to performances

This year, when you talk about a student’s best, always attach a time stamp. “Bests” improve, so a student’s best is their current best, their best to date.

Celebrate the milestone, but include the presupposition that their continued effort will produce even better results. Remember, they haven’t reached a peak, just a higher point in a longer journey.

This nudge reminds students that their best is only their best when they measure it by yesterday’s standards. By tomorrow’s standards, today’s best will be their second best.

These nudges, and many others like them, help teachers create what I call positive Mindset Movers. These Mindset Movers slowly move students along the Mindset Continuum towards a more growth-oriented Mindset.

This year, help remove the self-imposed limits students place on their learning by nudging them along the Mindset Continuum. Help them become un-limited.

Learn more about how to un-limit your students by moving them along the mindset continuum by attending a Growth Mindset workshop near you.


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.

Are you enjoying my blog?
Get my latest thinking on Mindsets, Habits of Mind and Learner Agency straight your inbox each week.

Sign up for my newslette

Are you interested in professional learning around Growth Mindsets, Learner Agency and Habits of Mind?

Click on the links below for more details on my workshops, including locations and dates.

School-based consultancy

Post a Comment

Your email is kept private. Required fields are marked *

+ two = 10