Many people view intelligence and ability as characteristics that are mostly fixed from birth and that don’t change much over the course of a lifetime. However, the way that young people think about their own intelligence affects the amount of effort they exert in school and in life, according to groundbreaking research on growth mindset by Stanford University’s Carol Dweck.

Here are 10 growth mindset “do’s” and “don’ts” that will help you be more intentional about how you respond to youth when they set goals, face challenges, make mistakes, and solve problems.

Do . . .
Don’t . . .
Emphasize learning goals, which focus on what young people will be able to do or understand as the result of completing a task. Focus only on performance goals, such as getting a certain score on a test or a certain grade in a class. Some performance goals can be healthy, but they should not be the focus.
Praise young people for effort, for challenging themselves, and for the methods they use to complete tasks and overcome obstacles. Praise young people for getting the right answer without trying, or for completing a task quickly and without much effort (such as: “Wow! You did that quickly and you didn’t even break a sweat. That’s great!”).
Attribute success to working hard and using good strategies to accomplish goals and solve problems. Describe certain youth as “smart.” Although innate ability matters, many people overestimate its importance, either in specific subjects or in general.
Embrace mistakes. Mistakes are necessary to improve in anything. Sometimes students who get the right answers or get the skills quickly become even more afraid to make mistakes. Reinforce young peoples’ self-criticism when they make errors; rather, recognize them for “sticking their neck out” to take a risk.
Model learning from mistakes. Step back and highlight the mistake without alarm or embarrassment. Think out loud about the problem or ask the young person to help you figure it out. Maintain a fixed mindset about your own expertise. When adults do not see themselves as having the potential to grow and learn, it undermines growth mindsets in young people.

Positive Classroom Tools
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