Reflection on Growth and Fixed mindsets: A Praxis Workshop Follow-up

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214by Yang Li, Graduate Assistant, Reinert Center

A reflection on the Praxis workshop, “Harnessing Mindsets to Improve Student Success,” facilitated by Dr. Michelle Sabick on January 30, 2018.

The first time I heard about growth and fixed mindsets was in my first graduate level course. I was taught to become a change leader for a school. I used to think that as a practicing teacher, preparing principal or expert, I was supposed to know everything about my students, my school or educational field. However, I learned very quickly that there would always be things that I did not know, no matter how hard I worked to know everything. When I started to see these possible unknown areas, I found that growth mindset helps me to have a calmer and clearer state of mind to handle the challenges in my learning.

What is fixed mindset?

Fixed mindset learners in general live in a world where some are superior and some are inferior. They believe that intelligence and ability are set and cannot be changed. When they fail, it is because they are not capable, it is the fault of the other team members, or the circumstances. They avoid risks because failure is regarded as weakness (Fullan, 2011).

What is growth mindset?

Growth mindset learners learn through practice. They believe that they look for and seek growth in themselves and in others. When they make mistakes, they regard mistakes as a learning moment to improve themselves and others. They would like to take the risk because failure can indicate their inadequacies for further learning (Fullan, 2011).

How do these mindsets influence students’ performance?

According to Dr. Dweck, growth mindset learners achieve at a higher level than fixed mindset learners in general. This does not mean students with a fixed mindset cannot succeed in their academic endeavors. It means that within the top 20% of achievers, students with a growth mindset make up a greater part compared with students with fixed mindset. Students with a fixed mindset become timid to learn something new or challenging. Fear of failing reduces students’ motivation and effort in learning deeply, which will lead to students’ lower achievements. On the contrary, students with growth mindsets are more likely to take the risk to explore their limits of learning by investing more time and effort to investigate the reasons for misunderstandings or errors to solve problems. These two mindsets can be changed for instructors and students if we can have an inclusive conversation with our faculty and students at the beginning of each semester.

The mindsets of instructors’ feedback also influences deeply students’ academic achievement. There are four tips for instructors’ feedback. Firstly, do not focus feedback only on students’ talents or intelligence because talent and intelligence are stable and cannot be changed through a short period of time. Instead of emphasizing students’ talents, the feedback could emphasize more about students’ effort invested in the project or assignment and the strategies implemented in the specific situation. In addition, instructors should also provide feedback to encourage students to continue to improve their capacities in practice. Finally, instructors also can communicate with students clearly that assessment results are tools to diagnose students’ learning but are not the purpose of education. The most important part of learning is to make mistakes and take challenges to deepen their understanding.


Dweck, C. (2007). Mindset: The new psychology of Success.New York City, NY,

Ballantine Books.

Fullan, M. (2011). Change leader: Learning to do what matters most. San Francisco, CA:

John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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