Build a Growth Mindset in Students

January 2, 2018

Developing a growth mindset in students is a common topic among today’s educators. Our research has found work by several scholars, including Dr. Mau Kapur and Dr. Carol Dweck, on which much discussion about growth mindsets is based.

Some of the key concepts related to a growth mindset in students include:

  • Failure is to be expected sometimes and should not discourage students from continuing to try.
  • Effort, not just a final product, is to be valued.
  • When problems or assignments are difficult, students should be given time to work through them.

Research for This Tool

The New York City Department of Education recently partnered with Eskolta School Research and Design to pilot a four-step program to build students’ growth mindsets. The report on this project is entitled Building Student Persistence by Challenging Student Mindsets: Lessons from the 2013-14 New York City Academic and Personal Behaviors Pilot and is available by clicking this link:

The steps mentioned in this report are actions that other districts and schools can take to increase students’ willingness to stick with difficult situations, believe in their own effort as a key factor in success, and increase student persistence. While research remains to be done in this area, information like that provided in the report can be used to replicate specific actions and initiatives. Here are the four steps that were used in the pilot with four middle schools and six high schools:

  • First, educators began by teaching explicit lessons on how the brain develops through effort.
  • Next, educators provided feedback using specific growth mindset phrases like those shown in this photo. Replace the old thinking with the new!
  • The third step was creating more opportunities in classrooms to highlight growth through effort.
  • Finally, the team focused on strategies or value for students who do not know how to use strategies or do not see the value of school.

Build a Growth Mindset in Students
While these steps represent big changes in communication, the teachers also used many practical tools that are already familiar to other educators. Using some of these tools to help students reflect and to use productive strategies can make a big difference. Consider trying some of these tools:

  • Self-assessment rubrics
  • Goal-setting worksheets
  • Exit tickets
  • Diagrams
  • Challenge questions

Surveys taken before and after the pilot indicated significant changes in students’ perceptions of their own power in the learning environment and their willingness to persist when situations were difficult.

I Want to KnowWe are providing a quick and easy tool that encourages students to challenge themselves. The tool, called I Want to Know, is a card system available to any student.

How to Use This Tool

As a student becomes curious about a topic, wants more information, and/or decides to investigate further, he or she can complete an I Want to Know form. The teacher can point the student in the direction of information and allow any other student to search out more information as well. When the students have gone above and beyond and found the answer to their questions, they can report back to the entire class.

This tool could not be easier for great teachers to use while building a growth mindset in students!

Reference for This Tool

From Proven Strategies That Work for Teaching Gifted & Advanced Learners (p. 25), by K.M. Fad and G. R. Ryser, 2015, Waco, TX: Prufrock Press. Copyright 2015 by Prufrock Press. Reprinted online with permission.

If you are interested in the product that this form is re-printed from, here is the link:


I Want to Know (.pdf)