Teaching Resilience: Building a Growth Mindset in Students

Posted in: Blogs, Positive Mental Health

“Are they focusing on the next A or test score instead of dreaming big, instead of thinking of what they want to be and how they want to contribute to society?” – Dr. Carol Dweck

Resilience is something that grows over time and can be the determining factor in the future success of all children, especially those facing adversity (read more at the Harvard Centre on the Developing Child).  One way teachers can support the development of resilience in their students is through fostering a growth mindset in students.

Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset

Growth Mindset Fixed Mindset

Students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence.

They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.

Students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits.

They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb.


In this video Dr. Carol Dweck answers this question and more, as she talks about her groundbreaking work on developing mindsets. She emphasizes the power of “yet” in helping students succeed in and out of the classroom.


“We can all agree that meaningful schoolwork promotes students’ learning of academic content. But why stop there? I believe that meaningful work can also teach students to love challenges, to enjoy effort, to be resilient, and to value their own improvement. In other words, we can design and present learning tasks in a way that helps students develop a growth mindset, which leads to not just short-term achievement but also long-term success.” – Dr. Carol Dweck

Simple Classroom Techniques to Start Today

  • Praise for the process (strategies, focus, perseverance) vs the talent (smart, funny, intelligent)
  • Reward effort, strategy and process
  • Use the words “yet” and “not yet” to create confidence and persistence (i.e. You didn’t get it right yet)
  • Teach students how to problem solve and learn from their mistakes (i.e. What would you do differently next time?)
  • Brainstorm positive self-talk phrases (such as “I can do it if I keep working on it” or “I’ve solved problems as tough as this before”). Write these on a poster board at the font, ask students to refer to it when they speak negatively to themselves and choose something else to say.
  • Use the word “already” (i.e. What do you already know about the problem?)
  • Pair students to each have a “partner for success.” Students’ success partners provide support, encouragement, and extra practice.
  • Emphasize that fast learning is not always the deepest and best learning and that students who take longer sometimes understand things at a deeper level.
  • Set personal improvement goals with students.
  • Have students write a letter to another struggling student explaining the growth mindset and telling the struggler not to label himself or herself, and give advice on improvement strategies to to try.
  • Coach students to try different approaches to working and studying, so that they are reflecting and thinking more deeply about their learning – more than just working hard.

Growth Mindset Resources


Desirea Agar is a Health Promotion Coordinator with Alberta Health Services and can be reached at desirea.agar@ahs.ca.

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