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First outlined by Carol Dweck, the 'theory of two mindsets' details twos two distinct outlooks on ability: 'growth mindset' and 'fixed mindset'. 


People with a fixed mindset are said to see talent and ability as unchangeable - you are either good at something or you are not. 


Those with a growth mindset, however, are said to see people's talents and abilities as changeable: anyone can achieve anything, as long as they are willing to try hard enough. 


Dweck explained that all people lay somewhere on a continuum between the two mindsets. 


It is argued that these mindsets can have a powerful impact on children. Those with a growth mindset are more likely to persist in the face of failure, take pleasure in other's successes and be responsive to encouragement. Whereas, people with a fixed mindset are said to be easily discouraged and are less likely to enjoy taking on challenging activities. 

Dweck argued that we should seek to foster 'growth mindsets' in children, so that they will be more likely to see failures as challenges to be overcome. 


What can we do in the classroom to foster growth mindsets?

  • Explain to children that lessons are about learning and not performing - mistakes are all part of the process. 

  • Change children's language. Instead of saying, "I can't do it", get them to say, "I want to get better at this!"

  • Celebrate effort as much as we celebrate correct answers.


Low-cost strategy

This method is particularly useful because of its accessibility. Changing children's attitude and outlook on ability and talent requires an investment of time, rather than money. Reminding children during activities to embrace the challenge can have a big impact in the long-term. 

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