Introducing students to the malleable brain

When students first come to understand that learning can rewire the brain and increase their intelligence, they often become more interested in learning and less afraid to do things that might make them “look dumb.” In other words, they develop a growth mindset. Educators can help students develop a growth mindset by teaching them about the amazing properties of the brain. In the following lessons, we suggest some ways to introduce students to the growth mindset. We also provide a few general guidelines below.

It's a science lesson, not brainwashing.

It can be tempting to explain what a growth mindset is and what a fixed mindset is and then simply tell students that they “should” have a growth mindset. That approach is sure to backfire—students won't accept a completely new way of thinking just because someone tells them to, nor should they! Present the scientific evidence and help students come to their own decisions. In other words, “show them, don't tell them.”

Growth mindset is about growth, not just about effort.

When people first learn about growth mindset, some think it means to believe that “you can succeed if you just try harder.” There's more to it than that. For students to have a growth mindset, they should understand that trying harder —and trying new strategies—not only helps them succeed at the current task but also helps them succeed in the future by strengthening their brain.

Source: Yeager, D. S., & Walton, G. M. (2011). Social-psychological interventions in education: They’re not magic. Review of Educational Research, 81(2), 267–301.
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