How to overcome a fixed mindset – tips and techniques

When a student exhibits a fixed mindset, it can be incredibly frustrating.

As a teacher, you want to close the achievement gap, and improve the performance of all your students. Therefore when pupils see challenges and new material as obstacles to learning, you could be faced with difficulties.

As an alternative learning system that has come to prominence over the past twenty years, growth mindset thinking places an emphasis on overcoming challenges as part of learning. Countless studies have been conducted, and thousands of articles on education have been written, and together these merit the growth mindset with being the best way to help students succeed. So how can you help pupils with a fixed mindset overcome this, and change their way of thinking?

overcome the obstacles of your life, hurdle design

Conduct tests to determine the mindset of your pupils

Firstly, you can test the mindset of your class to see which students exhibit a growth mindset, which show signs of a fixed mindset, and how many have a combination of the two. You can ask questions such as the following, and ask students to give their responses on a scale of 1-5, 1 meaning they are strongly not in agreement, and 5 being very much in agreement:

  • You are either born smart, or you are not
  • You can learn new things, no matter how old you are
  • If you are not good at something now, you will probably never be good at it
  • When I am given homework that is hard, I know I will not do well on it
  • If I get a bad mark, it is because I am not good at that subject, and failed to do well enough for a good mark

This will help you uncover which students require more help with their mindset.

Carry out growth mindset activities in the classroom

If you are thinking about how to improve students performance overall, incorporating activities that reinforce the growth mindset is one key way to do this.

Activities could include doing projects on a favourite athlete or celebrity that exhibits a growth mindset, creating flow charts documenting the cycle of effort, or even word clouds with important phrases or ideology.

Get the students to research a famous and successful person such as Einstein, Darwin, Edison, Dyson or Michael Jordan. Then have to highlight the characteristics that helped these people success and their setbacks, effort and resilience.

Present proof of the positives a growth mindset presents

In addition to growth mindset activities, you can also present students with stories of successful individuals that had a growth mindset. For example, you may wish to share the “story” of inventor Thomas Edison, presenting it with growth mindset methodology in mind:

  • Person: Thomas Edison
  • Challenge: Was told he was “too stupid to learn anything,” and was fired from employment numerous times.
  • Mindset: When developing the light bulb, Edison went through 1,000 unsuccessful versions. He viewed these as 1,000 ways it didn’t work, bringing him closer to the one way that did, thus viewing the failure as a stepping-stone to success.

By using real-life examples, you can drive home that the growth mindset works, and encourage students to adopt this way of thinking themselves.