Growth Mindset & Project-Based Learning

Growth Mindset and Project-Based Learning Ideas

Having a growth mindset means you believe that you can get smarter through hard work and practice. Growth mindset isn't just important for your students that struggle; it's also important for your students that exceed. For the students that exceed, growth mindset teaches them that their intellectual ability can always be further developed.

Growth mindset is a great way of reaching your unmotivated students. It allows for you to teach them that they can, and will, do better in school if they put forth the effort.

Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

“I’m bad at math.” vs. “I need more practice and help to succeed.”
“I can’t do it.” vs. “I can’t do it yet, but I’m working on it.”
“Derek always gets a 100%. Must be nice.” vs. “I wonder what I could learn from Derek.”
“My work is fine the way it is.” vs. “I want feedback, so I can make my work better.”
“My friends should all agree with me.” vs. “It takes effort and working through differences to stay friends.”
“I’m the best at this.” vs. “I’m on the right track. I wonder what I can do to get even better.”

The Project-Based Learning Connection

Project-based learning requires in-depth inquiry and understanding. This is key to really taking a critical look at growth mindset. Some of the most common struggles I see from teachers implementing project-based learning are related to growth mindset, so it can be naturally taught during project-based learning, or you can make an entire PBL around it like I did! It's not easy to teach growth mindset when you're having students do worksheets, but it is easy to teach them when they're working on a long term project where they have to problem solve and collaborate!

Students use media to teach other students about growth mindset
in this project-based learning activity.

Getting Started

First of all, identify the attitudes of your individual students. A great way to do this is by giving them a short growth mindset survey. You can download the survey I use by clicking the image below. The thing I love most about this survey is that we don't need a scoring sheet. They can see if their answer fits in the "growth" or "fixed" category immediately. They can also see which column most of their answers fall into, and what areas they need to work on. Use these results to help students set personal goals that they will work on throughout their project-based learning activities.

Free Growth Mindset Student Survey

Project-based learning is an authentic way to teach students what growth mindset actually looks like. I promote growth mindset in PBL using the following strategies:

  1. Encouraging students to ask questions and complete research to become experts at topics they're not sure about (in-depth inquiry)
  2. Teaching students that their work can always be improved upon (critique & revision)
  3. Giving students a purpose for their learning (driving question)
  4. Recognizing students that ask questions and complete extended inquiry outside of class time
  5. Practicing perseverance and 21st century competencies

Check out this pre-made PBL activity for growth mindset.

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Growth Mindset and Project-Based Learning