All I Want for Xmas is a Growth Mindset

I’m already thinking about coming back in January, and continuing to cultivate growth mindsets throughout my school. I’ve talked about my school being a Learning Organization, and how many of us have adopted Twitter to help grow our thinking and PLN (#BVGLearns). In fact, it was a colleague, Matt Clark, who posted on Twitter (@mattclark #BVGLearns)  a TEDtalk on the Power of Yet given by Carol Dweck. This reminded me that “Language Defines Space”.

If language defines our space, our hallways, and our classrooms, we need to adopt the language and behaviours of growth mindset:

The Power of “Yet”:  using the term Not Yet implies a time in the future that the student will achieve the goal/result/understanding. It releases them from:

“The Tyranny of Now”: helping our students understand that marks they recieve, report cards, and parent-teacher interviews are snapshots in time, not indelible marks of who they are at that particular point in time, is a great strategy to promote:

“Process-oriented Learning”: In Dweck’s TEDtalk, she cites an employer who lamented that we have raised a generation that needs a reward everyday to feel valued at work. It is the burden of accomplishment that we need to steer our students away from. We need to learn to praise process, strategy, visible thinking, and not just the result. This could result in a brain that is “on fire” when faced with failure/challenge:

Image of Fixed & Growth mindset brains when faced with a challege/failure
Image of Fixed & Growth mindset brains when faced with a challege/failure


There are lots of images and resources on how to go deeper in promoting a growth mindset, such as Larry Ferlazzo’s website, and our Cohort 21 Diigo page, but if you have any key phrases or strategies that teachers can use in their classrooms, while conferencing with students, while on the stage rehearsal, in the sports arena, etc…, let’s start posting them here in the comments!


9 thoughts on “All I Want for Xmas is a Growth Mindset

  1. Awesome post, Garth! Thanks for sharing.

    I still have a lot to learn about growth mindsets – I’ve really only become more familiar with the term this year through my participation in Cohort 21. I’m so excited that there is so much talk about growth mindsets in the education world. I really believe in the power having a growth mindset.

    The question at the end of your post got me thinking about what I am currently doing to support my students in the development of a growth mindset. I realize that I need to do much more in this area, so I’m grateful that you’ve pointed to some awesome resources in your post, like Lenny Ferlazzo’s website.

    One thing that I have been really working on this year is providing effective feedback. Like Danielle Ganley said in her post, “Do I Have a Growth Mindset” (, “I want my students to hear feedback as critical but helpful and not criticism.” I have made a conscious effort this year to use phrases in my feedback like:
    “You’re on the right track…”
    “Doing / trying ____ will help you move to the next level.”
    “You can further refine / further enhance your ___ skills by___.”
    “I really like that you’ve done ___. Let’s take that one step further next time by___.”
    For all my students, regardless of their level, I identify their strengths, as well as their next steps (and I try to be as specific as possible about it)! I’m hopeful that, in time, students will be more comfortable with receiving feedback like this; that they won’t see these suggestions as something negative, but rather an opportunity to grow.

    1. Love this! So great to know that you’re becoming not only familiar with the term/concept, but also applying it! Lots of great resources out there, and I’m always learning more ways to apply it, but also more phrases that help to build it within our students and teachers!
      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Thanks for this post, Garth – very timely.

    I feel that the growth concept mindset is one of the more important concepts to emerge from educational thinking in recent years, primarily because it has the potential to revolutionize the way students think about themselves. It’s a process that really needs to begin in kindergarten, if not nursery school. Ultimately, someone who has a growth mindset is going to have an advantage over someone who doesn’t because they will be more resilient in adversity and more capable of learning from their mistakes. But the system militates against it. Many parents and students are understandably concerned with absolutes: with grades, with class averages and their child’s relative position.

    1. Too true! It is a process that must include parents as well. I think that it Growth Mindset is part of a larger discussion, or maybe even the umbrella of the dicussion around the use and purpose of grading. It’s a shifting landscape and education of parents as well as students (and even our teachers) are critical to shift with the landscape.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Thanks for sharing your Christmas wish list, Garth! Praising the process, strategy and visible thinking is definitely a good start to developing a growth mindset in the classroom. I try to provide my students with very specific feedback about their strengths and next steps throughout the learning process. This helps them to internalize a cycle of reflection and adjustment in order to maximize their learning.

    1. Thanks Danny,
      It’s an important shift in education at all levels to work on the process, not just the product or end result. There are some great resources out there around mindfullness that I know you are pursuing, so I look forward to reading about how you connect the two!

      thanks for the comment,

  4. If I were to ever get a tattoo, I think a great one would be “not yet”!

    Your post just reminded me of an activity we did at Klingenstein. We read a few report card comments from a colleague and analyzed them considering growth mindset. Do we communicate to parents the “power of yet” in how we write about the student’s learning? Are we conveying that they are an awesome student because they pick up on things quickly? Are we praising their product instead of their process? Are we really commending the learner on how well they engaged with challenge?

    Thinking about how language defines our spaces is so critical. I love how you phrased this. Exploring this in how teachers write about student learning in official documents was such valuable learning for me…I thought I’d share.

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