Growth Mindset Development: Empowering Struggling Students

Some students may have fixed mindsets about their abilities, believing intelligence is an innate trait that can’t be changed. This can lead to decreased effort, giving up easily, and avoiding challenges. However, research shows intelligence can be developed over time with the right strategies. By teaching struggling students about growth mindset, we can empower them to reach their full potential.

Understanding Fixed vs Growth Mindsets

Psychologist Carol Dweck identified two core mindsets people can have about intelligence and abilities:

  • Fixed mindset: Believing intelligence is static and can’t be changed. Leads to avoidance of challenge and decreased persistence.
  • Growth mindset: Believing intelligence is malleable and can be developed. Leads to embracing challenges, perseverance, and seeing effort as the path to mastery.

Students with fixed mindsets are more likely to give up when facing setbacks. They view having to try hard as a sign of low ability. In contrast, students with growth mindsets see challenges as opportunities to expand their abilities. They understand neural connections get stronger the more new skills are practiced.

Teaching a Growth Mindset

Here are some remedial plan for weak students:

Praise Effort Over Innate “Smarts”

  • Avoid labeling students as “smart” or “not smart.” This reinforces fixed beliefs about ability.
  • Praise effort, perseverance, and using good strategies. This conveys that progress comes through hard work.

Teach Brain Neuroplasticity

  • Explain how neural connections in the brain actually grow and get stronger when learning new things. The brain is like a muscle that gets stronger the more you use it.
  • Share examples of people who developed skills over years of practice. This shows intelligence isn’t fixed.

Set Learning Goals Over Performance Goals

  • Focus on effort-based goals like “I will practice this math strategy for 30 minutes after school.” This is more motivating than vague performance goals like “I want to get better at math.”
  • Celebrate progress and effort, not just end results. Small wins build confidence and motivation to keep trying.

Encourage a “Not Yet” Attitude

  • Frame setbacks as “not yet” achieving the skill vs. proof you can’t achieve it. Persistence is key.
  • Share stories of successful people who had setbacks but kept working until they succeeded. Hard work pays off.

Foster Growth Language

  • Phrases like “I’m just not a math person” reinforce fixed mindsets.
  • Replace this language with “I’m going to train my brain in math” or “What strategies can I use to get better at math?”

Tips for Parents and Teachers

Here are some key opportunities for parents and teachers to nurture growth mindset in struggling students:

Parents teachers meeting points: Discuss student’s mindsets and persistence. Make an effort-focused plan to motivate the student. Follow up on progress frequently.

Praise: Catch the student making effort. Be specific about strategies they’re using – not just innate skills.

Challenges: Frame setbacks as opportunities to grow skills, not proof of lack of ability. Focus on “not yet” vs. “can’t.”

Brain Science: Explain how neural connections get stronger the more you practice. The brain is like a muscle – you grow it through hard work.

Goals: Set short-term, effort-focused learning goals. Track small wins and celebrate progress, not just end results.

Language: Eliminate phrases that reinforce fixed mindsets. Encourage students to talk about training their brain.


Struggling students may develop fixed mindsets about their abilities, undermining motivation and effort. By teaching them growth mindset – that intelligence can be developed over time with practice and good strategies – we can empower them to overcome challenges. With persistence and celebration of small wins, they can achieve academic success.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some signs of a fixed mindset in students?

Some signs of a fixed mindset include avoiding challenge, giving up easily, decreased effort over time, disliking the need to exert effort, ignoring constructive feedback, feeling threatened by others’ success, and attributing results to innate “smartness” or lack thereof.

What happens when students develop growth mindsets?

Students with growth mindsets embrace challenges, see effort as the path to mastery, learn from criticism, find inspiration in others’ success, and persist through obstacles. They believe they can get smarter over time so put in the work to do so.

How can I explain growth mindset to young students?

For young students, explain the brain is like a muscle that gets stronger the more you exercise it. Share examples of people who weren’t good at something at first but practiced and got better over time. Praise effort over natural ability. Emphasize you can always improve with hard work.

Why should I care about students’ mindsets as a parent?

Research shows that student mindsets directly impact motivation, resilience, and academic achievement. By instilling growth mindset, you can help your child embrace challenges, persist through obstacles, and reach their full potential. It’s one of the most empowering things you can do as a parent.