Teaching Growth Mindset to Mentees

One of the most direct ways mentors can help mentees adopt a growth mindset, is by spending some time directly teaching them about the neuroscience of brain plasticity. Numerous studies show that people are more likely to develop a growth mindset when they learn about the scientific evidence for the brain's ability to rewire itself through practice.

While most of the growth mindset strategies you’ll learn about in this toolkit are subtle ideas and phrases you can weave into your normal conversations, some youth may really benefit from sitting down and learning about the science behind growth mindset. This might be the very thing that gets them to see their abilities, and potential for growth, in a new light.

There are several ways to begin the conversation about growth mindset with your mentee:

  • Initiating the conversation in response to a recent struggle or a declaration by the youth that they’ll “never get it” on a challenging topic. This might be a great way to counteract some negative self-talk and help the mentee see that more possibilities for growth exist than they may have thought.
  • Alternatively, you could be proactive and tell them about what you are learning in this toolkit. The videos from earlier in this toolkit can be particularly useful tools as they are short, animated, and explain the concepts of growth mindset in easy-to-follow language.
  • For older mentees, you may even want to sit down and discuss some of the specific research listed in this article from Mindset Works. They may be fascinated to learn more about the science behind all this and what we have learned about the human brain’s potential. These videos are particularly well-suited to sharing with students:
  • This Growth Mindset Lesson Plan by Khan Academy and PERTS also offers some additional videos and talking points you can use to directly teach mentees about growth mindset and the concept of neuroplasticity.

Regardless of how you approach this direct conversation, be sure that the mentee understands that their brain has the ability to grow and change in these ways, and that their lack of progress on some challenge or topic is not a sign that there is something wrong with how their brain is wired. All brains have the ability to grow stronger and become rewired for greater success. And that happens more easily when we try our best to think from a growth mindset perspective.

After talking to your mentee about the amazing properties of the brain, be sure to connect the science, to specific behaviors that help them learn, like working through a challenge, practicing, doing homework, etc. You’ll learn more of these strategies and behaviors later in this Toolkit, but they will make the most sense to your mentee when you connect them back to the science you reviewed together.

 Give feedback