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The University of Texas at Austin Division of Student Affairs

Texas Well-being

Growth Mindset

Growth mindset, or the belief that intelligence is not a fixed trait but one that can improve, is shown to be positively correlated with student achievement scores (Bostwick, Collie, Martin, & Durksen, 2017; Dweck, 2006). Students’ mindsets can influence how they react to stressful situations, failures and challenges. Having a growth mindset is associated with more adaptive coping and learning strategies after failure. Alternately, a fixed mindset leads students to disengage from their challenges and feel helpless (Dweck & Leggett, 1988). Fortunately, a student’s mindset is malleable. Here are some strategies to help your students change the way they see themselves in relation to challenging coursework.

  • Teach students how to use mistakes/failures to their advantage.
  • Let students see you make mistakes, then show them how you use those mistakes to learn.
  • Struggle with concepts in front of students and allow them to help you work through the process.
  • Explicitly talk with students about learning and deliberate practice.
  • Discuss and model self-regulation strategies for learning and applying content. (See sidebar.)
  • Focus less on competition and performance and more on learning and mastery. Examples include:
    • Not grading exams or other assignments based on a normal distribution.
    • Allowing students to retake exams or parts of exams to learn from mistakes.
    • Allowing students to rewrite papers or redo projects based on feedback provided.
    • Having students take exams both individually and in groups.
    • Giving students choices in how they demonstrate knowledge and mastery of content.
  • Build in different ways for students to demonstrate learning and mastery of content. Examples include:
    • Using a variety of assignment types—exams, papers, presentations, videos, etc.
    • Letting students choose how they demonstrate their learning within individual assignments (e.g., creating a video, writing a paper, giving a presentation).
    • Allowing students to choose whether they work on assignments individually, in groups or with partners.
    • Allow for students to fix mistakes and work through problems they’ve encountered so they can see the progress being made.
    • Let students know you don’t want perfection. Do this by using words like “learning” and “growing,” rather than “achievement” or “performance.”

Instructor using the Mindset book to teach students about mastery versus performance goals

Strategies to Model

  • Setting goals and monitoring progress toward those goals.
  • Using self-talk effectively to motivate and support active learning.
  • Creating time management plans to accomplish goals.
  • Thinking about your approach, identifying misconceptions, and doing something to fix those misconceptions.
  • Becoming aware of your emotions, such as anxiety and using techniques to address them.

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Mistakes are very important to encourage creativity and exploration when students can learn. Gladly, I make numerous mistakes during my lectures and frequently my students catch them. I prefer a class style where we are all trying to figure out interesting things together.
—Alex Dimakis
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

The whole student