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How to Teach the Growth Mindset in the ESL Classroom

How to Teach the Growth Mindset in the ESL Classroom | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Having a growth mindset can be life-changing. As an English teacher, you can teach your students to have growth mindsets, and this will undoubtedly be very helpful to them for the rest of their lives.

Table of Contents

What is a Growth Mindset?

Why is it Important for Students to Learn a Growth Mindset?

How to Teach Students the Growth Mindset


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I used to have absolutely no idea what a growth mindset was, but when I learned what it actually is, I realized how much I had been missing out on. I put what I had learned into practice, and my life started to improve a lot. Now I want to share with others what has made my life so much more beautiful. I see the special opportunity that we, as English teachers, have to spread the growth mindset in our students all around the world.

What is a Growth Mindset?

A growth mindset believes that your talents can be developed and improved through hard work, good strategies, and input from others. This seems very simple, yet many people, including myself at one point, believe that their basic qualities like their intelligence or talents are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talents instead of developing them.

People with a growth mindset realize that though they may have been born with or without certain skills, they can improve and become more intelligent, skilled, and talented with effort. They know that they are not ‘stuck’ the way they are but that they can grow and improve with hard work.

It is not too difficult to see how the growth mindset can change a person’s life for the better. Teaching this mindset to your students will undoubtedly help many people in all areas of their lives.

Why is it Important for Students to Learn a Growth Mindset?

When students learn the growth mindset, their whole lives are greatly enhanced. They know that they can improve and become better at anything in life.

This belief helps them to set goals that they can accomplish with hard work. They feel that they are not defined by their intelligence or grades per se but that these things can be improved. And they are not afraid to take up challenges because they know that challenges are what make their brains grow stronger and smarter.

To them, setbacks and mistakes are not the ends of the story, forever defining them as stupid or unable to do anything right. Instead, they realize that mistakes and setbacks are actually learning experiences that they can improve from. They are not afraid of failure, because to them, failure is part of the learning process, and they believe that failure shows them that they have room to improve with more effort.

Students who are taught the growth mindset will have much more confidence in themselves and in their improvable abilities. Their whole lives will forever be benefited from the knowledge of having a growth mindset.

How to Teach Students the Growth Mindset

There are ten specific strategies an English teacher can use to help instill the growth mindset in their students. Some are more direct methods, while others are more subtle methods. Yet all the strategies in the following list teach the growth mindset.

1 Say that the struggle is OK. When students are struggling with something, tell them that the feelings of challenge that they are having are actually good as it is their brain becoming stronger and smarter.

2 Make challenges seem exciting. Talk in such a way that makes the challenges seem fun and exciting and easy tasks seem boring.

3 Use the word “Yet.” If a student says, “I am not good at writing.” Counteract that statement by replying, “You are not good at writing yet.” Using the word yet shows them that they have the ability to improve and are not ‘stuck’ with poor writing skills.

4 Teach that intelligence can grow. Teach students that their brains can grow like muscle and that they can improve their abilities and skills with practice and effort.

5 Put mistakes and corrections in a positive light. Show that mistakes are learning experiences helping them to grow more. Teach that being corrected does not define them as stupid but that corrections are a way for them to learn and grow from.

6 Set attainable and challenging goals. Give the students goals that are achievable and a little challenging and work with them to accomplish those goals. Make sure to point out how they were able to grow and progress to achieve those goals.

7 Create exercises that encourage team effort and input. Having students work together to attain goals helps them to see and understand the value of expecting and seeking out input from others.

8 Give challenges to the students. In developing a growth mindset amongst students, it is essential to teach students to overcome obstacles. Giving students challenging assignments that stretch their ability helps them to learn not to be fearful of difficultthings. Point out how with effort, input from others, and hard work, they can overcome anything.

9 Try not to praise the students for their intelligence. This may seem counterintuitive, but praise for “being smart,” etc., reinforces the idea that intelligence is a fixed and ungrowable trait. Instead, praise them for the effort they have put into their work and the results they have gained. Praise them for becoming not being.

10 Don’t give praise that is not earned. It is very beneficial to encourage students but avoid giving praise they haven’t earned. They can tell if the praise they are receiving is not praise that should actually be theirs. This creates in them a mindset of feeling like nothing they do will elicit real genuine praise. If they receive the praise they have earned, then they will be more likely to place more effort into those areas, and they will feel genuinely pleased with the hard work they have put in. They will want to put in even more effort and hard work the next time.


As English teachers, we have the special opportunity to enhance our students’ lives in a very special way. We can teach them the growth mindset, and this will greatly impact the rest of their lives for the better.

Knowing how to teach the growth mindset and understanding the importance of it is very beneficial knowledge to have.

In my own life, I feel that I have been ‘freed’ due to learning about the growth mindset. Now I know that every day, I can grow and learn not only from good experiences but also from mistakes and corrections. I now believe that my talents can be developed and improved through hard work, good strategies, and input from others.

I want to share what I have learned with as many people as possible. If we as English teachers spread the growth mindset everywhere we go, then people all around the world will experience their lives becoming more and more beautiful and enriched due to the growth mindset.

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Do you know of any other ways to teach students the growth mindset? Has the growth mindset helped you? I would love to hear from you! Leave comments below.

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