Often the messages students hear from families and teachers praise or criticize their innate abilities, and so they grow to believe they are one way or another, developing into a fixed mindset.
For example, if a student hears over and over that they are gifted in math, they will be inclined to think so. Then when they encounter a struggle at any level, they may judge themselves and/or give up easily believing that math is supposed to be easy for them.
Or on the converse side, the student doesn’t experience much success in a subject and therefore feels that math just isn’t for them.
If we want students to develop a growth mindset, how we talk to them about their learning matters. How we demonstrate our own learning process matters, too.
Make all learning about the process. We can do this by not grading work and not building competition into learning. Students need to learn the intrinsic satisfaction of growing throughout the process, which comes with growing pains. Learning will not always be easy, and students need to know that the challenge is a positive sign of stretching, not a mechanism for giving up.
De-emphasize fear in making mistakes by being transparent about mistakes you make. If we can make mistakes in front of our teams and/or our students, they will see that mistakes are a positive and necessary part of the experience. We can’t be afraid to admit our foibles; instead, we should spin it to focus on the growth from the mistake. We grow more when we mess up than when we repeatedly succeed.
Promote positive risk-taking. If we aren’t afraid to make mistakes, we are more likely to take calculated risks. These steps allow us to push forward and innovate. Being a positive deviant, a person who breaks the rules to do the right thing, promotes a belief that we are responsible for the greater good. This is our highest calling, and sometimes that requires us to make hard decisions and take big risks.