Growth Mindset in Schools

How a Growth Mindset Can Be Cultivated at Each Age in School

By Maureen Leming

At one time or another, we've all had to try something new. We have taken that small step — or sometimes, a giant leap — outside of our comfort zone and thrown ourselves into a foreign skill or unknown activity. Sometimes, it feels like we've bitten off more than we can chew. Often, the first results are disastrous. But what happens next is what really defines us.

The ability to pick ourselves back up, brush off the dust, and try again. To keep learning, improving, and trying until we've accomplished the goal we set for ourselves — and then, setting another. This is the power of a thriving growth mindset.

What is Growth Mindset?

The concept of a growth mindset, which originated with psychologist Carol Dweck, refers to a self-belief that guides one's actions. With a growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed mindset, individuals believe they are capable of learning and achieving new skills through hard work and commitment. 

Rather than assigning labels to themselves, such as "intelligent" or "competent," for example, they assume a mentality of setting goals and working to accomplish them.

Today, many schools are taking active steps to foster a growth mindset in their students. 

This is crucially important because starting early with a strong growth mindset will guide students to take risks, put themselves out there, and push for success throughout their school experiences. It will also guide them beyond the classroom to pursue goals and believe in their potential as adults.

A growth mindset matters greatly. It's what makes the difference between "I'm a failure" and "I failed — but I'll learn from my mistakes and succeed next time." 

With a growth mindset, students discover that learning how to do something is just as important as the output or result. In this education structure, critical thinking questions are presented and effort is appreciated regardless of the outcome. 

Improvement and continual growth are emphasized and encouraged. Students learn to develop healthy goal-setting and believe that with hard work and dedication, they can learn and succeed.

Developing a Growth Mindset at Every Age

It's never too early to begin developing a positive growth mindset. After all, this is a way of thinking that doesn't just snap into place once a child reaches adulthood. It's nurtured from a young age until it becomes a natural way of approaching tasks and challenges, both academic and social. 

Therefore, a growth mindset can be fostered at any age. It may look different in practice for elementary students versus high schoolers, but the theory remains the same.

Growth Mindset in Elementary School

From the first day kids step into school, teachers and parents can begin fostering a growth mindset, breaking students free of a fixed sense of self-belief. During elementary school, students can learn to do their best work rather than settling for "good enough." This way of life is something teachers can encourage by pushing students to excel and find creative ways to approach projects.

Elementary school is also a perfect time to celebrate curiosity. As younger children explore the world around them, start to learn academic concepts, and try their hand at new skills, they're preparing themselves to continually expand their horizons. In order to best prepare for middle school and beyond, they should be challenged in new ways, pushed to try various skills and activities, and taught to approach mistakes or failures as learning opportunities for next time.

Growth Mindset in Middle School

Middle School Students

During their middle school years, students can begin grappling with more complexity and challenges in terms of their growth mindset. At The Hun School of Princeton, we encourage our middle school students to excel through programs like The Hun Way. This eight-day orientation course helps students to grow personally, socially, and academically through communication, leadership skills, and emotional recognition and regulation. Hun middle school students are also introduced to the concept of a growth mindset through a strength-based Positive Education Program.

As our students enter their pivotal adolescent years, we take careful measures to ensure that we're fostering not only academic success but also emotional intelligence. To help students become well-rounded and truly successful future leaders, we know it's crucial to help them develop strong relational skills and emotional coping skills. There's no better time to truly dive into this lesson than during their formative middle school education.

Growth Mindset in High School

A student's high school years provide the ideal time to taking a growth mindset one step further. As they've learned throughout their career to believe in an "I can" attitude and creatively solve their problems, they're now at the crossroads for their future. As students grapple with the inevitable question of what comes next, teachers can continue to develop a lifelong learning approach to help students find answers for themselves.

At Hun, we challenge our upper-school students to continually grow through mandatory participation, both in the classroom and out. They are pushed to engage in class discussions and contribute their voices, creating a sense that everyone's perspectives are welcomed. Perfection is not the goal — participation is.

After-school activities, from student government and theater arts to sports and campus clubs, continue to develop an attitude of constant learning. Students try new hobbies and approach unknown activities with the understanding that they will improve over time, and that dedication to their chosen craft is the biggest contributor to their improvement.

Help Your Child Find Their Growth Mindset at Hun

The Hun School of Princeton in New Jersey is known to be a place where students are challenged, encouraged, and invigorated. 

With access to a plethora of stimulating activities and interests, vigorous academics, and a community of private day and boarding students, your child will have ample opportunities to grow throughout their education. 

We are a campus of educators and students who love to work toward goals, overcome obstacles, and learn together. If you're interested in learning more, simply fill out an inquiry form or schedule a visit to our campus today.

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