A growth mindset isn’t just for the business world—applications in the classroom have critical implications for success, too.
Carol Dweck’s research, summarized in her book, Mindset, shows how growth and fixed mindsets predict learning, especially in the face of challenges.
Here’s an overview of the different types of mindsets, and how educators can foster growth mindsets in the classroom and beyond.
Students with fixed mindsets believe their ability is fixed. They either have the ability to do something or they don’t (an “all or nothing” attitude). Being judged as capable defines their identity.
Accordingly, those with a fixed mindset view positive performance feedback as proof of their superiority and an indication that they are “somebody.” Negative performance feedback, to which they are hypersensitive, indicates they are “a failure.”
To those with fixed mindsets, failure is not an action. “I failed,” or “I am a failure,” is an identity. So, they quit trying.
On the other hand, students with growth mindsets believe their ability grows over time. Their mistakes are part of learning, and that effort and problem solving are key to improvement.
Those with a growth mindset view positive and negative feedback as instrumental for learning, as indications of where and how to change. They see feedback as desirable, even if not positive.
In this mindset, learning is not about immediate perfection. It’s about learning over time, confronting challenges, solving problems and making progress.
Developing Growth Mindsets
Fortunately, research shows that small steps can develop lasting growth mindsets.
For example, Lewis, Williams and Dawson (2020) find that a one-hour growth mindset training intervention given to nursing students at the beginning of the semester showed a significant improvement in their growth mindset levels several months later at the end of the semester.
An additional study published in Nature (Yeager et al., 2019) showed that a short (less than one hour) online growth mindset training improved grades among lower-achieving high-school students. It also showed an increase in overall enrollment to Advanced Math courses. Results from this study were measured one academic year from the growth mindset training intervention.
Moreover, this study confirmed prior studies (e.g., Burnette, O’Boyle, Vanepps, Pollak & Finkel, 2013) that growth mindset training is most beneficial for individuals “confronting challenges.”
Finally, a meta-analysis of growth mindset training interventions within educational settings showed intervention length and number of intervention sessions held neither increased nor decreased the long-term (usually measured after a year or semester) impact on academic achievement (Sisk, Burgoyne, Sun, Butler & Macnamara, 2018).
This same meta-analysis also found that growth mindset training interventions may not lead to significant changes in behavior for typical students and adolescents. However, growth mindset training interventions, regardless of training length and frequency, increased long-term growth mindset and academic achievement for academically high-risk students and economically disadvantaged students.
Watch the “Cultivating Growth Mindset” Webinar
Check out this recording of the Cultivating Growth Mindset in the Classroom & Beyond webinar featuring Cengage authors, Dr. Chuck Williams and Dr. Shad Morris. Dr. Williams is author of MGMT, Management and Effective Management and co-author of BUSN. Dr. Shad Morris is co-author of Managing Human Resources.
More Resources and Information
Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg: Random House Trade Paperbacks (January 7, 2014).
Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success: Ballantine Books; Reprint, Updated edition (December 26, 2007).
B.J. Fogg, Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. (December 31, 2019) Also see www.tinyhabits.com.
Dweck, “The Growth Mindset” – Carol Dweck – Talks at Google – YouTube, July 16, 2015.
Dweck, “Teaching a Growth Mindset” – Carol Dweck – YouTube, November 3, 2015.
Morris, “What is a Growth Mindset?” – YouTube, August 11, 2020.
Farnam Street, “Carol Dweck on Creating a Growth Mindset in the Workplace,” Farnam Street, accessed October 16, 2019.
MacKay, “How a Growth Mindset Keeps You Competitive in a Changing World,” RescueTime: Blog, August 14, 2018, accessed October 16, 2019.
Thackray, “10 Hacks to Create a Growth Mindset in the Workplace,” Positive Change Guru, September 8, 2018, accessed October 16, 2019.