ISTE 3 – Citizen and ISTE 6 – Facilitator – Growth Mindset – a sequence of steps for growing students into this mindset

My question for the ISTE 3-Citizen: Educators inspire students to positively contribute to and responsibly participate in the digital world and ISTE 6- Facilitator: Educators facilitate learning with technology to support student achievement of the ISTE Standards for Students touches on the importance of a growth mindset throughout education, no matter what your age, in order to be comfortable with the unknown and to be brave enough to wonder and patient enough to learn more.  This blog post is based on my question: What is a sequence of teaching steps we can take as educators to facilitate a growth mindset for students that connects to digital platforms, the learning environment and student citizenship online and offline?

If you are unsure of what growth mindset is or even if you think you know, watch this video of Carol Dweck speaking about it:

and/or read below:

Over 30 years ago, Carol Dweck and her colleagues became interested in students’ attitudes about failure. They noticed that some students rebounded while other students seemed devastated by even the smallest setbacks. After studying the behavior of thousands of children, Dr. Dweck coined the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset to describe the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence. When students believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger. Therefore they put in extra time and effort, and that leads to higher achievement. (

There is so much out there about growth mindset and at times, with such an overabundance of talk about growth mindset, it can start to feel like an idea that has grown into a fade and has become misused, misunderstood and thrown around too loosely (blog post for another day around that!). Yet, at the core of this idea, it can’t be emphasized enough that if students are truly able to understand what it means to have a growth mindset and what this can mean for them as lifelong learners – wow – The possibilities are endless.  This is why I am focusing on the steps it takes to achieve a growth mindset – it is not a quick and easy bandaid or a silver bullet for success. It takes time, mindfulness, thoughtful sequencing to get students to understand and believe in it.

When looking at this infographic:

I see the infographic as the sequence of steps needed to develop a safe and secure understanding of growth mindset from a young age and the sequence takes time and a slow integration with many small steps that turn into larger steps. It is not enough to say, learning should be challenging, you will fail that is how you learn, isn’t making mistakes great so that you can learn why.  These are great beliefs for students to eventually understand but getting them there needs to be gentle. It doesn’t feel great to make mistakes or ‘fail’ (though I do not believe that the word fail is accurate for growth mindset), it feels vulnerable and scary, especially when others seem to understand more than you or are better at something more quickly. Looking at this image and after speaking with my critical friend, Kelli Carlson, this week, I realize that the most important part of growth mindset is starting exactly where this graphic does – with the brain.  Here is an idea for a flushing out this sequence of steps inspired by this infographic to better promote, celebrate and inspire a growth mindset in ourselves and our students.

Our Amazing Brain – …intelligence can be developed

First thing, start talking with students about how the brain learns and gets stronger.  How the brain grows. How connections and neurons get stronger with practice and perseverance. Go into the science of how the brain works.  Find resources that make this interesting and relevant for your students.

Resources/Ideas: (this is a paid program), There are a slew of educational Growth Mindset videos online and with a simple google search you can find one relevant for your age group, Your Fantastic Elastic Brain – read aloud,,

Challenges – …embrace challenges

Once students understand more about how the brain works and grows, they are more ready to face challenges and see them less as obstacles to growth and more as the way to grow. Presenting challenges in a thoughtful way that increases perseverance and where successes are meaningful and can be understood through the process of getting there is key to a growth mindset. If the challenge is immediately frustrating, maybe it would be better to start with activities that can show growth more immediately.  As students get more comfortable with this, then activities can increase with the time it takes to be successful with new learning. Throughout this whole process, teaching the vocabulary that goes along with growth mindset is key – this gives students a voice in what the process feels like and phrases to help propel them in order to keep moving forward.

Resources/Ideas:  Math resource –, pick something that you find is challenging and work throughout the year to explicitly show growth – one example I read about was a teacher learning hacky sack! Find the vocabulary that works best for your students and use it everyday to teach them how to speak using a growth mindset, even if they are not fully there, yet! (Yet being a key growth mindset word!),  

Obstacles – …persist in the face of setbacks

After some experience with persevering through challenges (and maybe even throughout them depending on your students) have them pinpoint what the obstacles were in their learning. Having students share where they struggled, what held them back and what they did to move through the challenge is so powerful.  Learning how to be aware of when you start backtracking into a fixed mindset is key to realizing which mindset you will decide to listen to. I think this step and the previous step may go hand in hand pretty quickly.

Resources/Ideas – hands on tangible obstacles to manipulate to demonstrate what it means to persevere through, problem solve solutions and continue on. Students could explicitly track obstacles as they arise and celebrate how many they persevere through (digital support could be really helpful with this!) Watch this inspiring video which shows students who are very aware of the obstacles and challenges they are facing and proud to share with each other!

Effort – …See effort as the path to mastery

“A growth mindset isn’t just about effort. Perhaps the most common misconception is simply equating the growth mindset with effort. Certainly, effort is key for students’ achievement, but it’s not the only thing. Students need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they’re stuck. They need this repertoire of approaches—not just sheer effort—to learn and improve. We also need to remember that effort is a means to an end to the goal of learning and improving. Too often nowadays, praise is given to students who are putting forth effort, but not learning, in order to make them feel good in the moment: “Great effort! You tried your best!” It’s good that the students tried, but it’s not good that they’re not learning. The growth-mindset approach helps children feel good in the short and long terms, by helping them thrive on challenges and setbacks on their way to learning. When they’re stuck, teachers can appreciate their work so far, but add: “Let’s talk about what you’ve tried, and what you can try next.” Carol Dweck Revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’ (2015)

This is where the pieces from the previous steps in this sequence will support not accidentally turning effort into a reason to stop and be the end result – A ‘I tried so I’m done now’ mentality.

Criticism – …learn from others

The word criticism immediately makes me cringe and maybe it is meant to?! I prefer to think of this stage as feedback or ‘feedforward’ as I have heard it called. The goal for this step is for students to start feeling safe to welcome in conversation from others who disagree with them, feel they should change something, or have something to teach them.  I know in the younger grades, we often focus mostly on positive peer and adult feedback. If students are only used to getting positive returns from their work, then as they move through education and the ‘gloves come off’, they can quickly spiral into not knowing how to defend their work, talk through their process, justify their strategies, or be unwilling to learn from peers and not know how to be comfortable with constructive criticism – which is crucial as you get older whether it is in the workplace, in relationships and beyond!

…which leads us directly into….

Success of others – …find lessons and inspiration in the success of others

Whew, this is a big one. If the previous targets have been met successfully, this is a beautiful ending.  It is hard to truly feel comfortable with the success of others sometimes. Especially if you feel as though you can’t be successful because you aren’t smart enough, can’t do it, just don’t have the talent or natural ability. I like the approach of thinking of this step as finding lessons and inspirations of others to apply to your own endeavors. What a powerful feeling to bravely embrace.

Resources/Ideas: Looking at inspirational figures who have persevered and become leaders, focusing on the strategies others have used to be successful from their failures, help students become more aware of who they admire and are inspired by (often times outside their immediate world) and then translate this into their day-to-day interactions with people they engage with regularly.

With each of these steps, digital education has many resources to support each stage. A few in particular that I will be looking more closely at is YouCubed for challenging math support and Sown to Grow which supports students with goal setting, reflection and coaching.  Cult of Pedagogy has an interesting blog post about it. I have come away from deeper research into growth mindset realizing that digital platforms are plentiful for supporting this if, as always, they are incorporated thoughtfully.  The digital citizenship piece blends nicely with the criticism/feedback and success of others stages while during the challenges, obstacles and effort stages students could track their growth using digital portfolios and look back at where they first started. I think of a Kindergartner or 1st grader filming themselves doing a read aloud and then again months later and how they could see the difference.  Or doing math problems on a whiteboard and then again after they have learned new material. Though this tracking of growth would be incredible for all ages – children and adults. Here is an article that addresses using tech to develop a growth mindset that I will be looking more closely at, as well.

Having said all of this, a growth mindset at all times is a tall order.  Is it an attainable one? Carol Dweck says, “Let’s acknowledge that (1) we’re all a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets,(2) we will probably always be, and (3) if we want to move closer to a growth mindset in our thoughts and practices, we need to stay in touch with our fixed-mindset thoughts and deeds.  If we “ban” the fixed mindset, we will surely create false growth-mindsets. (By the way, I also fear that if we use mindset measures for accountability, we will create false growth mindsets on an unprecedented scale.) But if we watch carefully for our fixed-mindset triggers, we can begin the true journey to a growth mindset.”


Dweck, Carol. (2015, Sept. 23) Education Week.  Retrieved From

Ferlazzo, L. (2016, September 24). Response: ‘Freedom to Fail’ Creates a Positive Learning Environment. Retrieved from

Fingal, D. (2017, December 14). Infographic: Citizenship in the digital age. Retrieved from

Gonzalez, Jennifer. (2017, April 30). Cult of Pedagogy. Retrieved from

Murray, Jacqui. Teach Hub Retrieved from

Schwartz, Katrina. (2015) Growth Mindset: How to Normalize Mistake Making and Struggle in Class. Retrieved from

Digital Tools Resources:

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