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Use Consistent, Encouraging Language to Foster Growth Mindset


Social-Emotional Learning All Ages Strategy


Flexible Thinking

Use Consistent, Encouraging Language to Foster Growth Mindset

All students

How To Apply It!

  1. Teachers and parents play a key role in fostering growth mindset by using clear and consistent language that is supportive of mistakes and focuses on effort over outcomes.
  2. What Do You Think? Before offering your feedback on the student's work, let students give their perspectives. This provides a clear starting point of where they need guidance and encouragement.
  3. Yes You Can. Truly believing in a student's capability to succeed will foster self-confidence and a willingness to try harder. However, use these words only with sincerity otherwise you are setting unrealistic expectations that can foster self-doubt.
  4. Use Your Strengths. Over time, students will have the most self-confidence and success when they focus on how to use their strengths rather than dwell on skills where they struggle. Help your student understand her strengths and make the most of them.
  5. Mistakes Are Expected. This message needs to resonate with adults' actions, not just words. Every student needs to experience challenges, make mistakes, try again, and learn how to succeed over time. This can be especially important if you are working with a perfectionist.
  6. Specific Strategies to Respond to Mistakes. "It's good to make mistakes," or "Don't worry, everyone makes mistakes," might not be believable. After a student tries hard and is unsuccessful, it is important not only to be supportive but also to be specific about what they can change: "That was a good try, but let's go back and try to do it this way instead."
  7. Avoid phrases like, "This is easy," or "You know this." If the student doesn't find it easy, they will be more afraid to speak up. Instead, reinforce and encourage questions by saying, "Good question," or "I'm so glad you asked."

Reinforce Positive Student Word Choice

  1. Ask students to re-state their concern in a more positive frame if they use any of the following phrase: "I can't", "This is too hard for me",
  2. "I'm not good at...", "I give up!", "She's just better than I am"
  3. Rather than re-framing or correcting the student's phrase, consider prompting the student with his or her original phrase plus a preposition.
  4. For example, "She better than I am, because...?" and letting the student finish the sentence.
  5. Authenticity is always important. Do not simply tell a student, "Yes you are, you're great at..." Part of effective growth mindset development is self-awareness of areas for improvement provided that students have strategies and pathways so they know how to work to improve.
  6. Be sure to help students distinguish between a skill that needs extra effort for improvement and mistakes that are a natural part of everyone's learning process.

Be Deliberate In Your Word Choice

  1. Remind yourself to praise effort as well as outcome. While it is okay to enjoy a student's success, make a conscious effort to emphasize the effort that led to the success not just that they were successful. Otherwise students can begin to tie self-worth to success and strive for success at all costs.
  2. Emphasize the importance of the work to the student, not to you. Rather than "I'm so proud of you" rephrase to "You should feel really proud of yourself." The goal is for the student to develop intrinsic motivation to do well rather than be focused on pleasing others.
  3. Be specific with your words. Why should the student be proud of himself? It might be obvious to you but it might not be obvious to them.
  4. Help them see why you think the effort is praiseworthy.
  5. Encourage discussion to develop self-awareness. Rather than, "You were successful because you put in great effort" consider starting with "Why do you think you were so successful?"

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

Students are most likely to develop self-confidence and a willingness to take risks if they receive supportive and consistent feedback from trusted adults. Students who feel that they will be punished, embarrassed or even subtly criticized if they do not succeed can develop an aversion to taking risks, which ultimately can interfere with them reaching their full potential. This is well-documented in the growth vs. fixed mindset research of Carol Dweck.