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Common pitfalls of Growth Mindsets

Carol Dweck’s work on how students beliefs about their abilities, and the subsequent impact this mindset has on their motivation and achievement, has been around now for some time.

In this commentary, which we would like you to read, Carol revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’ and discusses her own learning over many years researching in this field. Carol highlights the common pitfalls and the misunderstandings about growth mindsets, and what to do about them so that we can maximize the benefits for our students:

  • A growth mindset isn’t just about effort: students need a repertoire of approaches, not just sheer effort, to learn and improve.
  • ‘Fixed mindset’ is used as a label, and to justify poor progress: “Oh, he has a fixed mindset.”

A PDF version of the article is also available. We are grateful to Carol Dweck for permission to reproduce and use the commentary as first appeared in Education Week on Sept 23, 2015.


Having read the article we would like to encourage you to reflect on the questions below and post your thoughts in the discussion. We would like you to share in particular the implications for you as an educator in establishing a classroom culture that motivates and supports all learners.

  • Why do you think Carol states that ‘a growth mindset isn’t just about effort’ and what are the implications for educators?

  • Carol discusses a ‘false growth mindset’. Why do you think it is important to be aware of this and what are the implications for educators and their students?

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This article is from the free online course:

Differentiation for Learning

National STEM Learning Centre