Growth Mindset Is Not Enough: Edutopia featured article

We educators may be tempted to believe that once students develop growth mindset, they are adequately prepared to face life’s challenges and changes. While in one key respect this is true, outlook and affect are not nearly enough to thoroughly outfit any person with all it takes to attain one’s full potential.

Possessing a positive perspective is but one instrument in what must be a cohesive quartet that meets each child’s fundamental needs. Growth mindset is indeed crucial but not any more or less so than three other sets of readiness.

Therefore, educators must nurture the whole child as they supply all youth with a consistent balance of what both fortifies and fulfills them.

The following four core capabilities are equally important and inextricably intertwined:

1. Practicing Growth Mindset

Growth mindsets consist of assurance, adaptability, and the openness to accept assistance, so embolden your students by extending to them sincere encouragement and empathy. Such an attuned and attentive teacher cultivates the self-monitoring we want all children to ultimately acquire. Growth mindset also strengthens resolve and shores up resiliency.

This indefatigable outlook—augmented by focus, persistence, and calculated effort—is an essential aspect of being truly college and career ready. Yet merely working hard does not guarantee results; instead, we must teach students how to work smart.

2. Pursuing Strong Skill Sets 

Strong skill sets back up all that belief, exertion, and perseverance. Without dependable dexterity and solid strategies, mindsets alone do not amount to much. Enlightening students with knowledge and wisdom, as well as equipping them with practical capabilities, develops the eventual self-efficacy that turns conviction into success.

As facilitators, we can assist students in moving beyond being passive consumers of information and toward becoming active producers of intellect, insight, inquiry, and innovation.

3. Setting an Example 

Progressively behaving in ways others should emulate demonstrates true responsibility, reliability, and respectability. Of course, kids cannot set examples for others until the significant adults in their lives have themselves exemplified measure and maturity.

Along with being role models of integrity, teachers should entrust youngsters with developmentally appropriate opportunities to act independently and conscientiously. Children develop self-control only when they have been granted suitable experiences of actual control from which they can learn and grow.

4. Setting One’s Heart 

A focus on that which is personally meaningful makes all the previously explained work and willpower worth it. Pursuing ambitions that deeply resonate, as well as holding fast to dreams, drives engagement and leads to investment.

Unless someone has exposed kids to new experiences and ideas that allow for exploration and experimentation, however, many students do not spontaneously express their desires or refine their talents. Teachers therefore must actively inspire and endorse their student’s passions.


An Inclusive Education

Empower your students to act with increasing autonomy and achievement by daily rousing and readying their hopes, hearts, minds, and manners!

Renew hope with sensitivity and support that boost student self-confidence. Awaken minds by advancing scholarship and skillfulness that build self-competence. Touch hearts with stimulation and significance that bring about self-expression and satisfaction. Galvanize courtesy and cooperation by supplying structure and stability that bolster self-regulation.

Armed with this powerful whole-child combination of social, emotional, soulful, and academic tools, every child can handle eventual setbacks (and even the pressures of success) with humility, humor, and honor.


Acknowledging and Optimizing Emotions

As important as it is for every person to possess a balance of interpersonal, intrapersonal, aspirational, and intellectual capabilities, expecting anyone, especially a child, to perpetually maintain positivity and productivity is not only unrealistic, it is unnecessary. Sometimes it is natural to temporarily fall back into a fixed mindset.

In fact, the researcher who developed the definition of growth mindset, Carol Dweck, now recognizes we are all combinations of fixed and growth mindsets. Moreover, she asserts that this dualism is (gasp!) perfectly okay.

Everyone occasionally doubts, worries, or flirts with giving up, especially when objective evidence sparks brief bouts of despair.

Yet also teach that there is always plenty of progress and promise to dwell upon—if we look for it. The key is to process all of our feelings so we can quickly get back on task with the faith, grace, and gratitude that in due time will help us reach our intended destinations.


Embracing Adventure

In fact, the trust, tranquility, and thankfulness that accompany a student’s initiative and strong work ethic transform journeys into glorious adventures that become just as sweet as reaching carefully calculated objectives. This sense of unexpected excitement and even electrifying adversity are the rewards growth mindset offers when students accept struggle, embrace challenge, and overcome obstacles.

In addition, students’ original wishes and goals may blossom into something completely unexpected yet no less spectacular. Doors open, opportunities arise, and new relationships reveal themselves when we follow our hearts.

Student engagement always matters—not merely because fascination in its basest form can be a means of initiating acquiescence, not just because passion and purpose can be elevated into engendering real commitment, but precisely because pursuing our muses always leads to deep contentment and meaningful success.

The avenues to this self-actualization are found in a holistic teaching approach that expands well beyond mindsets and creates classrooms filled with willingness, wisdom, wonder, warmth, and worth.


In the Comments section below, please share your experiences and opinions about teaching to the whole child.

Booklist quote + cover

For more on this whole-child approach that parents and teachers share, check out Robert Ward’s #1 New Release on Amazon, A Teacher’s Inside Advice to Parents: How Every Child Thrives with Leadership, Love, Laughter, and Learning. 


This article originally appeared on Edutopia and is a companion to my other Edutopia article, Young Adult Novels that Teach a Growth Mindset.

GM Novels Edutopia

Also read this Education Week commentary that I co-authored, “A Growth Mindset Isn’t Enough. It’s Time for a Benefit Mindset.”

EdWeek BM Commentary

BM for sale

Teaching the Benefit Mindset is Amazon’s #1 New Release in Experimental Teaching Methods! You can read more about this inspiring and practical new book here.

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