Can a Growth Mindset Help with Classroom Management?


Since the publication of Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset, the concept of a growth mindset has received a lot of attention and enthusiasm, especially from educators – and I’ve addressed it, more than once, on my radio programs. I think the concept is incredibly important but I somehow never considered it in relation to classroom management! However, Bill DeMeo and Jennifer Maichlin have, so I invited them, along with early childhood specialist Amanda Morgan, to talk with me about it on Studentcentricity. And what I learned was that it was pretty silly of me not to have seen the connection!

Here’s what Jennifer had to say following our conversation, which you can listen to here.

The most important thing about the application of the growth mindset principles is teaching the child (or adult) the actual science behind it. If a person learns that the brain actually PHYSICALLY CHANGES (neurons grow and new synapses are created) when they apply the strategies of a growth mindset (persevere through obstacles, embrace challenges, value mistakes as learning opportunities), then they cannot use the fixed mindset as an excuse for overcoming a personal challenge. They begin to understand that, yes, they can choose the fixed mindset but it is within their power to change their behavior, and there are many ways to do so. Teaching them the research (which can be done at any age) does not allow for excuses and provides empowerment. There is no excuse for not improving; even scientists say so!

Amanda added:

At its root, mindset relies on recognizing that we each have some control over the choices and consequences in our lives, and are therefore capable of change. Not unlike adults, children are not always conscious of the choices they’re making, so avoid assuming that behavioral missteps are intentional or personal.Take opportunities to teach mindfulness and intentional decision-making. For young children in particular, this coincides with their natural drive for autonomy and power.But that doesn’t mean it comes naturally! It’s our role to point out the decisions they are capable of making and walk them through the possible outcomes to guide them through intentional, positive decision-making so that it becomes a way of being.

when nothing else works cover

To learn more, check out Jennifer’s article, “The End of Classroom Management Issues”:

Also, Bill has written about this topic in his book, When Nothing Else Works: What Early Childhood Professionals Can Do to Reduce Challenging Behaviors. You can learn more about it here.


Thanks for posting this Rae! I wholeheartedly agree with “teaching students the science” behind growth mindset. i think that it is incredibly important for them to know the “why” of learning and not just the “how” or the “what” (which are important as well). They do want to know, and are capable of understanding it.

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