Do You Teach Your Students About Having a Fixed Vs Growth Mindset?

In one of the courses that I am taking for my Master’s of Education, I came across a topic that really struck a chord with me. I am taking two courses at the moment ( my March “Break” has been pivotal in maintaining my sanity with this 2 courses at once, business). In my Differentiated Instruction course, the idea of a “Fixed Mindset” versus a “Growth Mindset” came up. To put it simply, some people (kids included) believe that we are born with a certain amount of intelligence – it’s “fixed”. In comparison, hose with a “Growth Mindset” understand that putting in effort to learn new things expands our minds, and that effort is what makes us successful and “smarter”.

I don’t know about you, but I have certain students, who constantly question themselves and do not give their full effort! Like, ever! Oh wait, unless it’s a really simple task. It is extremely frustrating, as the teacher, to sit back and see that if s/he just TRIED they would achieve the success that they wish for. What I have learned is that people with a “fixed mindset” see effort and “having to try” as threatening to their intelligence. This exertion of effort actually makes them feel stupid because they feel like they should already know the material. They think that others just “get it” while they do not. Kids with a “fixed mindset” don’t realize that other students are actually working harder than they are (exerting effort to do well) and it is the effort of these other students that causes them to gain more academic success, not intelligence that they were born with.

I teach grade 7 and I think that junior high students could really benefit from being informed about “fixed” and “growth” mindsets. Recognizing the type of mindset that they have and looking at how they can make simple changes to actually “grow their brains” and make themselves smarter? I would have to think that idea would be appealing to kids!

I found an interactive quiz to share with your kiddos if this is something that you’re interested in. Below the quiz are two videos – a Ted Talk by Carol Dweck who has researched this phenomenon, and a second video about how the brain works that would be suitable for middle school and up. I also found another quick video comparing “fixed” and “growth” mindset.

Carol Dweck’s book is titled, “Mindset” if this is a topic that interests you.

I also dug around and found “Mindsets in the Classroom” which I am adding to my Amazon wishlist. It looks fantastic and very user-friendly!


I think that the main thing that I got from the articles that I have read for my MSED on mindset, is that kids need to know that they have the power to “make themselves smarter”. Their effort is what matters – they haven’t been born with a certain amount of intelligence. Exerting effort to learn something new makes the neurons in their brain fire and can actually cause their brain to grow (whereby making them smarter than if they hadn’t exerted effort). Even sharing or reminding kids of that fact, and pulling the topic in when kids with “fixed mindsets” balk at challenges would be helpful with motivating and inspiring all kids to achieve.

I am excited to get back to class and share some of the things I have learned about mindset with my kiddos (the ones with clearly “fixed mindsets” especially). I would love to hear your opinions on this topic! Are you familiar with Dweck’s work? I have spoken to my kids on the topic of effort, but never in the terms of mindset and intelligence and I can’t wait to hear what they think!

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About krystalmills

I am a Grade 7 teacher in Prince Edward Island. Lessons From The Middle shares lessons from the classroom, and occasionally from my life as a mom of two young boys. The goal of this Canadian teacher blog is to share middle school lessons, activities and ideas from my classroom and to collaborate with the wonderful online community of teachers out there as well! Thanks for stopping by!   Find me on Facebook Twitter Pinterest Browse my TPT Store Browse my TN Store

Posted on March 18, 2015, in Differentiated instruction, Education, Empowerment, General Teaching, Master's of Education, Middle School, Professional Reading, YouTube Videos and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Allison Armstrong

    My students at University of Phoenix just completed an assignment about “Growth vs Fixed Mindset” They had to watch 4 videos of Carol Dweck and then I had them write a “fake” blog post about it. They had to include a book or a video and at least one illustration. Your real blog post is a perfect example of this assignment. I shared your post with my class who are getting their masters and their teaching credential. Wow! I loved your post by the way and totally agree with what you said about 7th graders needing this topic.

    • Oh thanks so much for you comment, Allison! And what a coincidence about your assignment and my post! I have, like, zero time to blog these days. But, I just needed to share that information with potential readers! Good luck to you, and your students on the completion of their degrees!


  2. I teach a 7/8 classroom. I see kids come and go with “fixed mind sets” and couldn’t figure out how to help them see their true abilities. I am currently working with other teachers on finding out ways to change this to a “growth mindset” specifically in math. We don’t have the answers yet, but I have started with the book Mindsets in the classroom, and Carol Dweck’s work. I look forward to finding out more about this topic, and sharing it with others.

    • Please come back to this post and comment to share! I also love guest bloggers! If you do find “some answers” that work for you and your kiddos – we’d love to hear about it! You’d be welcome to share your insights in a guest blog post 🙂

  3. Thanks so much for your resources and ideas on Fixed vs. Growth Mindsets! I also teach 7th grade but find that it can be difficult to incorporate these types of lessons as often as they need to be in order for students to truly grasp the concepts (I teach math). Do you have any ideas for some long term plans I could do with students to get them invested in growth mindsets?

  4. Growth vs. Fixed Mindset is a topic I always teach the first week of school with my 6th grade students. It is amazing (and unfortunate) how many of them have already identified themselves as, ”smart” or “dumb” before starting the school year. Either side of the fixed mindset belief (smart or not), is equally the same amount of trouble to shift. When students enter the room believing they have nothing to learn (too smart) it is just as hard a mindset to break as the belief they have nothing to learn because they lack intelligence. I am glad there are plenty of resources out there about growth mindset to aid in the shift of thinking. Here is one of the videos I use
    Thank you for sharing this post, I’ve never seen the, Mindsets in the Classrooms book or the interactive quiz. I will definitely incorporate it. Thanks!

  5. Many students will worry about how smart they appear to others and often select tasks that reinforce how smart they are, avoiding any tasks that would say otherwise, which is a fixed mindset If the problem is a little bit challenging the student will shut down, wait for help, and will become so unfocused instead of trying often causing a disturbance in the classroom. After many observations, I made note that one female with a fixed mindset worked well in groups and often enjoyed it, She was more concerned with the social aspect, did not care if she knew what they were doing and did not have much motivation. In order to differentiate the lesson for her and other students I started incorporating boxes in the practice worksheets where they had to justify each step. Not only did they have to show work but explain how and why their answer was correct. My efforts provided her with motivation, and appropriate challenge allowing the student to see that things do no always come easy that you have to work for your success.