Fostering a Growth Mindset: Flourishing Amidst Fixed Mindset Cues

In a world where education and other systems can unintentionally nurture fixed mindsets, it is crucial to empower college students with the skills to develop a growth mindset. From an early age, traditional educational settings may unknowingly introduce fixed mindset cues by exposing children to standardized tests, dividing students into ability level reading groups, and ranking achievements. There is an opportunity to support students throughout their educational journey to develop and increase their growth mindset through our words and actions. This blog aims to provide insights, tips, and techniques on how to help students cultivate and embrace a growth mindset.

Understand the Difference

To kickstart the journey toward a growth mindset, it’s vital to comprehend the difference between fixed and growth mindsets. A fixed mindset assumes that intelligence and abilities are innate, while a growth mindset believes that skills can be developed through effort, perseverance, and learning from setbacks. Let’s look at a reframe from a fixed mindset to growth mindset:

Fixed mindset: “I’m not good at taking notes in class. I feel so disorganized when it’s time to study.”

Growth mindset: “I’m learning how to take more effective notes that can help me feel more organized when it’s time to study for the unit tests.”

Celebrate Effort and Progress

One effective approach to assist students who default to a fixed mindset is to provide them with prompt feedback that underscores the significance of effort and progress.  By encouraging students to celebrate their effort, prompting them to evaluate areas where they can enhance, and granting them the opportunity to collaboratively create a plan for implementing these tactics, they will be able to surpass their initial grades or outcomes and strive for ongoing improvement.  Emphasize that making mistakes is an integral part of the learning process, helping them to reframe challenges as opportunities for growth.

Cultivate Positive Self-Talk

Faculty, staff, mentors, and coaches can assist students in reshaping their self-talk through proactive skill-building around self-compassion. Encouraging students to replace negative phrases like “I can’t do it” with more positive ones such as “I can’t do it yet” helps move them incrementally closer to a growth mindset. Try teaching students to view failures and setbacks as learning opportunities, to help them develop resilience, perseverance, and self-compassion. This can boost motivation, learning, and growth, and promote human connection, all which enhance the ability to thrive in challenging situations and failures (that are inevitably part of the human experience!).

Foster Growth-Friendly Spaces

Within your institution, department or classroom, leadership and individuals can commit to creating a growth-friendly campus environment. Encourage faculty to offer constructive feedback in the academic environment, focusing on effort, self-reflection, and improvement rather than simply evaluating final results. Encouraging collaboration, peer-led activities, shared learning, emphasizing personal growth over competition, and providing experiential learning opportunities will allow students to increase their growth mindset together.

Embrace Reflection and Goal Setting

Proactively equip students with the skills to build a habit of reflection and goal setting.  Along with setting goals, we need to support students in anticipating and planning to overcome obstacles. Encourage students to review their progress periodically, identifying both areas of improvement, layers of accountability and support, and celebrate the small victories. By setting realistic and actionable goals, students can channel their efforts into continuous growth, boosting their self-esteem and motivation.

While daily life and our experience in education may present fixed mindset cues, it’s crucial to empower students and provide them with tools to develop a growth mindset. By celebrating effort, cultivating positive self-talk, creating growth-friendly spaces, embracing reflection and goal setting, encouraging the acceptance of challenges, and modeling growth-oriented behavior, students can flourish in current and future spaces they will occupy. Remember, the power of a growth mindset lies within each individual, capable of transforming obstacles into opportunities while fostering a lifelong love of learning.

Contact us today to learn more about how to foster a culture of growth and resilience on your campus.

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