How to Help Your Student Develop a Growth Mindset

by Head of Middle School Marisa Schnirman

How our students grow and develop academically, socially, and emotionally has a lot to do with their mindset.  Do they believe that they are naturally good at something or do they believe that they can achieve great things through obtaining knowledge and skill?  Do we, as parents and teachers feel like we have anything to do with the way our children learn?

What are your thoughts about intelligence?  Athletic ability? Artistic ability?

There is a growing body of research that indicates that mindset has a great deal to do with how we perceive our children and how our children perceive themselves as learners. These thoughts impact how they learn and how they face challenges.

Carol Dweck, and many after her, have done extensive research on what is termed Mindset.  In the research two types of mindsets are defined the fixed and growth mindsets.

Fixed Mindset

The belief that we are born with a fixed amount of intelligence and ability.  People operating mainly in the fixed mindset are prone to avoiding challenges and failures.

Growth Mindset

The belief that with practice, perseverance, and effort, people have limitless potential to learn and grow.  People operating mainly in the growth mindset tackle challenges with aplomb, unconcerned with making mistakes or being embarrassed, focusing instead on the process of growth.

Why bother with this? In Dweck’s book, she states that as we learn about the two mindsets, we will begin to see, “how a belief that your qualities are carved in stone leads to a host of thoughts and actions, and how a belief that your qualities can be cultivated leads to a host of different thoughts and actions.”  Based on Dweck’s research and observation, she concludes- people operating in the growth mindset experience different, arguably better, outcomes than those who operate in the fixed mindset.

As we all know, we are still uncovering the great mysteries of the brain and this information provides us with an opportunity to urge our children to shift their thinking in a way that is proven to get positive results.  

We also know from the research that students who can face a challenge and see mistakes and failures as a part of their journey have greater opportunities for feeling successful and having a high quality of life and building positive relationships.

Thinking about how we learn and what qualities make us successful and content adults are qualities and positive habits we are beginning to develop now.

If you want to know more about this check out Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset.  An interesting way to get started retooling our perception of learning is to take the brief quiz and see which mindset you are leaning toward.   Also, try helping your child shift their thoughts by using the sentences below to open up their perception of learning.


When we say this                                                                      Try this

My friend is better at this than I am                                  I will learn from them

I give up                                                                            I will use a different strategy

This is too hard                                                                 This may take some time

I just can’t do this                                                              I am going to train my brain

It’s good enough                                                               Is this really my best work?

  1. There are just some things I’ll never be good at.
  2. When I make a mistake, I try to learn from it.
  3. When others do better than me, I feel threatened.
  4. I enjoy getting out of my comfort zone.
  5. When I show others I am smart or talented, I feel successful.
  6. I feel inspired by the success of others.
  7. I feel good when I can do something that others cannot.
  8. It’s possible to change how intelligent you are.
  9. You shouldn’t have to try to be smart- you just are or you aren’t.
  10. I enjoy taking on a new challenge or task with which I am unfamiliar.

The odd numbered statements (1, 3, 5, 7, 9) indicate more of a fixed mindset.  The even numbered statements (2, 4, 6, 8, 10) indicate more of a growth mindset.

The quiz is from The Growth Mindset Coach by Annie Brock and Heather Hundley

The Pike School is an independent, coed, day school for Pre-K through ninth grade in Andover, Massachusetts. Visit to learn more about Pike – and visit our blog for more thought leadership. To learn more about admission to The Pike School, visit our Admission page

Join us for our Open House on November 5, 2017 from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.


on “How to Help Your Student Develop a Growth Mindset
2 Comments on “How to Help Your Student Develop a Growth Mindset
  1. Thanks Marisa! I think the most important part of your message is to reinforce with our kids that making mistakes is a vital part of the learning process.

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