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Understanding the Learners Mindset

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

How the Brain Learns

Learning begins with the brain physically, which leads directly to the mind. Mindset is one of the keys to learning. Research has discovered that there are two mindsets that develop in children by the time they are in 5th grade, a fixed mindset, or a growth mindset.24 The fixed mindset says that a person is born with a certain amount of intelligence, and they cannot grow past that limit. The growth mindset says that a person’s intelligence is limited only by what they want to learn.

The fixed mindset creates an idea that no matter how hard a person tries they are only going to be “so smart.” A person with a fixed mindset evaluates every situation with the “what if I fail” mentality. This belief system takes effort out of the equation. They do not like challenges and avoid making mistakes. Generally, they will choose easy tasks rather than take a chance at appearing to be a failure. The people that have this mindset rob themselves of having rich experiences throughout their lives.25

The growth mindset creates an idea that with effort and hard work a person can change and grow in every area. This person loves a challenge. They will use new strategies when they fail, to them learning is more important than looking smart.People that operate in this mindset focus on the process of growth unconcerned with making mistakes along the way.26

Teachers at Crossroads Christian School encourage all students to develop the growth mindset. Practical ways this is seen in the classroom includes praising the effort not ability, focusing on how hard students have worked to get something done not simply how smart they are for getting the correct answer. Educators teach students strategies to use to correct errors and not let students be content with wrong answers. When teachers build intrinsic motivation in students through recognition and praise for their hard work and effort it has a more lasting affect then simply giving out stickers.

Parents and teachers have the desire for their children and students to be successful. Our words and actions send message to students, it will train a child how to think about themselves. With the fixed mindset students hear that they have unchangeable traits, and they are being judged based on them. The growth mindset students hear that they are developing as a person and their parents and teachers are interested in helping with that development.

To help students to develop a growth mindset, teachers are intentional and purposeful.They help students create SMART goals related to their mindset. Specific,Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely. As well as create smart goals for themselves for the year. At Crossroads Christian School, we strive to have the growth mindset be the culture of every classroom. Teachers evaluate their classroom and make mindful changes to the environment to continue to facilitate a growth mindset. Student work that is displayed shows the effort that was put into the work, mistakes, and all. Growth-oriented classrooms have positive guidelines or rules that reinforce the culture. The environment in the growth mindset classroom encourages taking risks, embracing challenges, asking questions, making mistakes, and always emphasizing effort over ability.

Teachers make sure that they get the parents on board with the process of instilling a growth mindset into the students. Research has shown that when parents are involved in the education of their children there are lasting positive effects. At CCS, we are confident that parents are interested in the educational journey of their child. Part of the teacher’s job is to help parents, as most of them do not have a degree in education so they need guidance when it comes to schooling. Simple communication early and often will go a long way.

It is not natural ability that leads to success, it is large amounts of practice. Society tells students that some people are just naturally gifted in certain areas and are born for greatness. However, the message the educators are instilling into all students is that dedication to the long-term goal is what achieves greatness. Einstein once said that “Failure is success in progress.” The process of learning can be very messy. There is a three-step strategy for helping to use mistakes to your advantage. First, normalize the mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes and has setbacks, that is just a normal part of the process of learning. Next, value the mistake as a learning opportunity. Plan on how you will help your students navigate through the mistakes. Last, coach your students through the mistakes. Teach them strategies to work through when they make a mistake.

Evaluations in the growth mindset classroom come in two forms: formative and summative. Formative assessment are given throughout the unit of study to help determine if reteaching is necessary, guide the learning experiences, and provide students the opportunity to reflect on what they have learned. Summative assessment is given to see what the student has learned at the end of the unit of study.

Being a student in this type of classroom gives them the responsibility over their own learning. The focus shifts from teaching to authentic learning.27


24 Carol S. Dweck, Self-Theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development. (UK: Psychology Press, 1999) n.p.

25 Annie Brock, and Heather Hundley, The Growth Mindset Coach, (Berkley: Ulysses Press, 2016) n.p.

26 Annie Brock, and Heather Hundley, The Growth Mindset Coach, (Berkley: Ulysses Press, 2016) n.p.

27 Annie Brock, and Heather Hundley, The Growth Mindset Coach, (Berkley: Ulysses Press, 2016) n.p.

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