As teachers head back to school, eagerly awaiting the fresh faces that will greet them at the door of the classroom, many are left wondering, what can I do differently this year to really make an impact?

One high-leverage classroom practice is developing a growth mindset within your students. A growth mindset is the understanding that we can all develop our abilities and intelligence. When children learn that they have a choice in how smart they can become, they are liberated from previous constraints they may have heard at home, from previous teachers, or from other students. Teaching students they can develop their intelligence is a powerful tool in the classroom, and there’s no better time to start than the first day of school.

How Can I Get Started? 

1. Develop Relationships

When your students know you care about them and are genuinely interested in who they are, they will believe you when you teach them that they can become smarter through their efforts and strategies. They will trust you to give them feedback to help them learn and grow. Simply put, when you care about your students, they will care about you, and work hard to live up to your expectations. One tool you can use to get to know your students is from our MindsetMaker™ Online Professional Development course. Download a sample Student Interest Inventory here!

2. Teach Malleable Intelligence

Share stories about how trying hard things causes our neural connections to strengthen and build new pathways in the brain. Ask students for their stories. Ask, “When did you try something really hard that you couldn’t do at first, but after a lot of practice you could do it? That is building new pathways in the brain.” They might share stories about gymnastics, or learning to be better at math, or drawing. Share your own stories to model how you became better at something with dedicated and deliberate practice. Use this article, “You Can Grow Your Intelligence,” from our Brainology® Program, to teach them the science!

3. Praise the Process

We know that praising the process that leads to successful outcomes is more effective than praising outcomes alone. When students work hard on something and achieve success, ask them to recount all the steps they took to get there. Remind them that it may have been difficult when they first started, but that through their focused practice, seeking help, and using effective strategies they were able to overcome a big challenge. This will build resilience and persistence so that they have tools for the next big task! Use these Feedback Tools found in our LeaderKit™ and MindsetMaker™ Course to help reframe your feedback to be more process-oriented.

Working to develop a growth mindset in your students will teach them the most important lesson they can learn - how to become lifelong learners. Have a great year!