Portrait of a Learner 9-12

Systems Change

Learner Mindset

Factor Connections

Hover to see how factors connect to Learner Mindset. Then click connected factors to explore strategies related to multiple factors.

A learner's Mindset is a lens through which learners see the world. It affects their beliefs, attributions, attitudes, and behaviors that can either help or hinder their learning. For example, a learner's Mindset about their intelligence and abilities can have a huge impact on how they approach learning challenges, affecting academic achievement in turn. Environmental factors ranging from feedback from teachers and caregivers, adults' reactions to mistakes, or school and classroom performance indicators, play an influential role in the development of learners' Mindsets. And research suggests learners can change their Mindsets at any age (not just early in childhood). Therefore educators and caregivers can play an important role in facilitating positive Learner Mindsets for learners of all ages.

Main Ideas

How learners think about and respond to situations affects how they perceive their ability to learn and handle problems that come their way. For example, students may believe that they have a certain amount of intelligence that they cannot do much to change (a "fixed mindset"). Or, students can view intelligence as something that can be developed through hard work, good strategies, and input from others (a "growth mindset”). As a result, learners with growth mindsets see failure and effort as useful and necessary for learning. Importantly, mindsets vary by context: learners can feel more or less oriented towards growth (or fixed) mindsets in response to different challenges, at different times, and across different disciplines and areas.

When learners are given the support and opportunities that promote their sense of self as capable and ever-growing learners, they can develop the capacity to see themselves as problem solvers capable of addressing challenges. In turn, learners improve their skills for effectively solving problems that may challenge them. These mindsets are also related to other beliefs and perceptions of abilities and attributes that influence Motivation and learning including:

  • Self-efficacy: is a learner's beliefs in their abilities to achieve their goals. Learners with a strong sense of self-efficacy are more likely to persist when faced with a difficult task, and put forth a higher degree of effort to achieve their goals. Students with learning disabilities may have a more fixed mindset about their academic ability due to a low sense of self-efficacy.
  • Academic self-concept: is the image that students have of themselves as learners and includes how they think about, evaluate, and perceive their general ability in school. Students with a strong sense of academic self-concept feel they can do well in their school work.
  • Agency: is the amount of volition students think they have to act independently while learning. Learners with a strong sense of agency recognize that they are capable of initiating their own learning.
  • Metacognition: is a learner's ability to monitor and manage their own thinking and learning. Learners who recognize what they understand or don't understand about a problem can go about solving that problem in a methodical way.

Educators can support the development of positive Learner Mindsets by demonstrating the values of challenges as well as providing feedback that highlights these values, for example, focusing learners' Attention on the process of learning by trying multiple different learning strategies. Educators can foster positive mindsets when they provide many opportunities for students to practice with feedback, and encourage development of mastery through mistakes and challenges rather than focusing on underlying abilities. In addition, research suggests that it can be difficult for students to develop a growth mindset in the classroom if their teacher does not hold a growth mindset. This is especially true for students with learning disabilities and ADHD, and those who have been historically and systematically excluded who may have reduced self-efficacy in the classroom and are more influenced by their teacher's self-efficacy that they can effectively teach these students. As such, it is important for educators to practice and model their own growth mindsets, to best support their learners.

Learn More

  • Mindsets matter: A resource that explores how mindsets can affect learning, and how caregivers and educators can foster positive mindsets.
  • Growing lifelong learners: A resource with some free and some paid educational content aiming to positively influence students' Learner Mindsets.
  • Encouraging a growth mindset: A resource that explores how caregivers and educators can foster positive Learner Mindsets
  • Benefits of a growth mindset: A resource that explores why mindsets matter, and how to foster positive mindsets for learners

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