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How to Create a Success Mindset in Your Student

Updated: Mar 28, 2021

New research reveals that students' mindsets plays an important role in their college engagement and success. In fact, students who have a more productive mindset have higher GPA's and greater levels of college success. How can we create a growth mindset in high school students in order to prepare them to overcome challenges, take advantage of supports in place to assist them and ultimately excel in college?

Understand Your Students' Mindset

The first step to creating a growth mindset in your students is to identify their current frame of mind. Mindset encompasses individuals’ beliefs about the ways learning and intelligence work and these beliefs influence how students interpret events, the messages they tell themselves and, ultimately, their mindset affect their success. Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, describes two types of mindsets: Fixed mindset is the belief that one's abilities and skills cannot be changed, or improved. Students with a fixed mindset often respond to failure by saying "I'll never be good at math" or "I am bad at taking tests." These statement imply an inherent weakness that the student believes to be definitive and not able to be changed. Students with a fixed mindset often oppose help or problem solving suggestions because they truly believe assistance won't improve their innate skills (or weaknesses).

Students with a growth mindset believe that they can change their intelligence, and they have confidence in their ability to learn challenging material and accomplish difficult tasks. Research by the National Coalition of Community Colleges reveals “When students believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger. Therefore they put in extra time and effort, and that leads to higher achievement." Students with a growth mindset say "I don't know how do geometry yet. But I'll keep trying" and "Writing is difficult for me but if I ask a teacher for help I can learn how to improve my writing."

The growth mindset students develop in high school will be brought with them to college. Most students encounter at least one academic setback in college. Some students dig in and work through the challenge; others are completely defeated and even drop out. The difference in perspective is most likely related to whether students attribute the challenge to something they cannot change (fixed mindset) or something they can change (growth mindset). Educators and parents can inspire students to put in more effort and move past their setbacks rather than allowing them to define their college experience.

How do you inspire students to have a growth mindset? Think about these questions:

  • How do I talk to my students about success and failure?

  • How do I teach students to process failure and move toward success?

  • Do I share examples of my own mistakes with my students?

  • Do I model a growth mindset with my students after I experience mistakes?

Identifying your student's academic mindset is an opportunity to positively affect it and offer your students tools that will assist them when they face challenges in college and in life.

Here are a few videos and resources that can help students move toward a growth mindset:

  • Research indicates that fixed mindsets in students tend to cluster in two areas: testing and math. "Student self-reporting indicates that in general they believe they can learn new things, but their responses consistently indicate a less productive mindset when responding to survey items specifically about test-taking and math". Good resource: 'Not a math person: How to Remove Obstacles to Learning Math"

  • Teach students the research behind growth mindset in all courses

  • When a student experiences a setback, such as a poor test grade, frame the conversation around strategies for improvement rather than the student’s abilities or attributes.

  • Provide students with detailed feedback on projects and give them opportunities to revise their work.

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