The Growth Mindset – Why children should no longer fear making mistakes


For children, making a mistake can be the cause of embarrassment and frustration, however, mistakes are far from being something to be avoided, as they are a fundamental part of the learning process. It’s all part of the Growth Mindset.


The concept of the Growth Mindset was developed by psychologist Carol Dweck in her book: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, based on research that has found intelligence isn’t fixed, it can be improved. This has changed the way we think about education. Here are five ways that the Growth Mindset has changed our perspective on education, and why mistakes shouldn’t be feared but embraced.


1. Children can get ‘smarter’

The idea of intelligence (or IQ) as a fixed commodity prevailed in education, but the Growth Mindset challenges that. We now know that children can improve intelligence, they just need support to develop the tools and strategies for doing so. By developing a positive approach to learning, children can get smarter. This short video explains why.



2. Learning is a process

One of the most important contributions Dweck has made is in encouraging us to see learning as a process. The focus isn’t on providing answers, but on providing students with the tools to learn.


In this way, students can develop a positive approach to learning, and strategies for personal development, that will help them throughout their lives.


3. Mistakes are OK

Children can become disillusioned when they experience failure, but it’s actually normal. It’s not failing that’s important, it’s what you do afterwards.


The Growth Mindset encourages us to embrace failure as a fundamental part of the learning process. In fact, mistakes and failures can be used positively as opportunities for developing the learning process. In this way, the Growth Mindset gives underachievers the confidence to try until they succeed, reducing the fear of failure.


4. Effort improves outcome

The Growth Mindset is about instilling a belief that learners can develop. The more effort, the better the outcome.


As a result, teachers should consider how they approach learning in classrooms, focusing on praising the effort, not the outcome. In an article in Scientific American, Dweck describes why effort improves outcome, concluding that: “slipups stem from a lack of effort or acquirable skills, not fixed ability, they can be remedied by perseverance.”


5. Rewards for all

To stimulate young minds and inspire effort, teachers and educators need to change the way they consider rewards. The Growth Mindset encourages us to reward not only a successful outcome but a successful process too. It’s about recognising the value in a positive personal approach to learning.


This can revolutionise the classroom environment, and rewards that used to be exclusive to a handful of high achievers, are now accessible to all.


One of the key principles underpinning the growth mindset is the need to visually reward and encourage children and young people for their effort and approach. In the past, this may have meant a gold star for effort, but things are much more sophisticated with a whole range of growth mindset motivational materials available to school teachers and educators, from Brainwaves.