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Cultivating a Growth Mindset in the Teaching Profession

January 2022

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the idea of “mindset” (most commonly defined as an established set of attitudes held by an individual). There is an abundance of blogs, books, and pamphlets that aim to inform you why your mindset matters, what your mindset says about you, and which mindsets are conducive to success. It seems that there is much to be discussed on the topic.

Within this body of work, the importance of cultivating a certain mindset within the teaching profession has become more and more apparent. What mindset do schools and teacher educators look for in prospective teachers? What is the optimum “teacher mindset”? What role does said mindset have in guaranteeing the success of teachers and students alike? There is a growing reserve of research which aims to answer these questions. Let’s talk through it.

What is a growth mindset?

Much of the existing literature on teacher mindset suggests that a “growth mindset” is far and away the best mindset for a teacher to have. Carol Dweck is one of the most prominent experts on mindset, and is widely cited in research papers investigating growth mindsets. Dweck uses the term “growth mindset” to describe a mindset that sees intelligence as malleable, something which can be expanded and developed (2000). Research suggests that teachers who have a growth mindset are more likely to support students in cultivating their own growth mindsets, leading to better learning outcomes and increased motivation (Seaton, 2018; de Reuiter et al., 2020; Mesler et al., 2021). The opposite of a growth mindset would be a “fixed mindset”, where intelligence is viewed as inherent and unchangeable (Dweck 2000).

Here is an example: two teachers notice that a student they share is underachieving in mathematics. One teacher, who has a fixed mindset, tells the student that they are unlikely to improve because they “don’t have a maths-oriented brain”. This is likely to discourage the student from trying harder, and could even lead to their grades falling further because they believe they cannot improve. The other teacher has a growth mindset, and helps the student to understand where they went wrong. Even if the student doesn’t understand right away, they will feel more encouraged to try again, and are more likely to practice until they understand. It’s easy to see which mindset was more beneficial to the student’s development.

What are the benefits of a growth mindset?

The benefit of a growth mindset to learning outcomes is well-documented. Bostwick et al. note that research has suggested students with a growth mindset are less susceptible to self-handicapping behaviors, report higher levels of academic engagement, and develop goals that are growth oriented (2017). Mesler et al. observe that people with growth mindsets are more motivated, and demonstrate greater resilience in the face of adversity than people who have a fixed mindset (2021). They also argue that teacher education could benefit from course components that inform participants how to develop a growth mindset.

Moreover, Nalipay et al. suggest that teachers and preservice teachers who apply a growth mindset to their emotions are more likely to be engaged, positive, and better able to manage negative emotions (2021). A growth mindset values learning itself as a goal, meaning people who hold growth mindsets face challenges head on and are more likely to enjoy learning (de Ruiter et al., 2020).

How can we cultivate growth mindsets?

It’s clear to see that growth mindsets are hugely beneficial to teachers and students alike, but, for many, developing a growth mindset is easier said than done. Nevertheless, there are many ways that teachers can develop growth mindsets, and encourage the development of growth mindsets in their students. Useful strategies for developing a growth mindset include:

  • a positive attitude towards mistakes as opportunities for learning,
  • reflecting and feeding back on the process of learning and the strategies used rather than the outcome achieved,
  • exhibiting a willingness to take on challenges,
  • communicating that intelligence and other attributes such as resilience and organisation are malleable and can be developed.

Here at TSP we have developed T-Insight, a scenario-based learning activity which can help preservice and early career teachers develop a growth mindset. T-Insight allows participants to practice responses to a variety of classroom scenarios that they may encounter over the course of their career in a low-risk, supportive environment. After each scenario, participants are given feedback on their responses, with examples of ‘best practice’ from experienced teachers. They are then encouraged to reflect (in writing) on their learning before moving on to the next activity. This type of scenario-based learning encourages participants to practice a growth mindset in their learning, while also giving them the opportunity to practice how they can encourage a growth mindset in the classroom. Follow the links to find out more about T-Insight and the research supporting it.

Further Reading

Bostwick, K. C. P., Collie, R. J., Martin, A. J., & Durksen, T. L. (2017). “Students’ growth mindsets, goals, and academic outcomes in mathematics.” Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 225(2), 107-116,

Dweck, C. S. (2000). Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality, and development. Psychology Press.

Mesler, Rhiannon MacDonnell, Corbin, Catherine M., Martin, Brittany Harker (2021). “Teacher Mindset is associated with development of students’ growth mindset.” Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 76, 1-10,

Nalipay, Jenina N., King, Ronnel B., Haw, Joseph Y., Mordeno, Imelu G., Rosa Elmer D. Dela (2021). “Teachers who believe that emotions are changeable are more positive and engaged: The role of emotion mindset among in- and preservice teachers.” Learning and Individual Differences, 92, 1-10,

de Ruiter, N. M. P., van der Klooster, K. N., & Thomaes, S. (2020). “‘Doing’ mindsets in the classroom: A coding scheme for teacher and student mindset-related verbalizations.” Journal for Person-Oriented Research, 6(2), 103-119,

Seaton, Fiona S. (2018). “Empowering teachers to implement a growth mindset”, Educational Psychology in Practice, 34(1), 41-57,