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October 11, 2022

5 Strategies for Creating a Growth Mindset in Students

Mindset is more than just thinking positive. A student’s mindset can impact a student’s ability to learn. For example, with a growth mindset, students believe in their ability to learn and achieve their goals. This growth mindset leads to a higher likelihood of students actually obtaining those educational goals and growth. In contrast, students with fixed mindsets tend to think they'll fail. This mindset can lead students to lack the motivation to even begin to apply themselves.

Learning to foster a growth mindset with your students can be a key foundation for creating a positive learning environment with your students.

As a tutor on our platform, you have the opportunity to foster a growth mindset in the students you work with so they can be more successful in their academic careers. To help you foster the mindset, we have compiled five simple strategies to get you started and set yourself (and your students) up for success.

Embrace challenges

Feeling challenged is a normal part of the learning process. Part of a growth mindset is meeting challenges head-on. This allows students to feel empowered as they overcome each challenge or solve a difficult problem.

As an online tutor on Pear Deck Tutor (formerly TutorMe), you can make challenges a natural part of your tutoring sessions. If your student is encountering a new concept for the first time, treat this challenge as something exciting and fun for the student to undertake.

Think about how you present this challenge. By presenting the opportunity to face a challenge with enthusiasm, you can help inspire the student to view the challenge in a new way. Enthusiasm is contagious. Let your emotions and presentation set the stage for how a student will first encounter a problem.

You can also utilize empathy to engage with your students to foster a relationship of collaboration and partnership. For example, if a student is struggling with a complex concept, try sharing a personal experience of something you have struggled with before. Empathize with how they are feeling before helping them create a plan for how they will conquer this problem.

Positivity goes a long way here. By keeping positive and remaining encouraging, you can continuously support your student’s growth mindset. Remind them that the process of learning can be hard, but in the end, it's worth the extra effort!

Practice SEL vocabulary

We’ve discussed SEL often in our past blogs, but if you’re new to the game, here is a quick definition. SEL is the education world’s abbreviation for "Social-Emotional Learning."

SEL encompasses certain words and phrases that we can utilize to help students develop a growth mindset. Social-emotional learning helps students stay focused, alert, and present during tutoring sessions. CASEL is an excellent source to learn more about SEL and its positive impact on student learning.

As a good rule of thumb, check in with your students before each lesson. Ask guiding questions, such as “How are you feeling today?”, to establish an understanding of what mental space your student might be in at the moment.

From taking the moment to check in with your student, you are already rooting your lesson from an empathetic perspective – and you’ve already started to incorporate SEL vocabulary. Sometimes, students need a little extra attention and motivation to get their head into the right mindset for learning.

Throughout the lesson, be mindful of how you phrase your feedback. Let’s take a look at the following feedback cycle to see which situation might foster a growth mindset.

Situation A: A student answers a math question incorrectly. The tutor tells the student “No, that’s wrong. Try again.”

Situation B: A student answers a math question incorrectly. The tutor tells the student, “That is incorrect, however, I can see where you might have come to that conclusion. Let’s take a look back at the problem and rework it together.”

Situation B provides feedback rooted in empathy and establishes a step to move forward, encouraging the student to continue to grow and not hit a wall of frustration. Specific feedback is almost always better than general phrases.

If you are limited on time and can’t rework the problem, utilize questioning techniques to help the student understand where they might’ve gone wrong. Listen to your student’s response to identify where the error occurred to help them identify it. This gives your student the tools they need to be successful when meeting a similar problem down the road.

Also, consider how you engage your students throughout the session. Positive affirmations, such as “You’re doing great!” or “Excellent insight!”,can encourage students to keep trying and growing.If your student gets frustrated with mistakes, remind them that mistakes are part of the learning process. You can also compliment them on how much hard work they have been doing during the session. Check out this blog for more great ideas on incorporating SEL vocabulary into your tutoring sessions.

Provide opportunities to demonstrate understanding

To help foster your students’ growth mindsets, always give your students the opportunity to show their understanding of key concepts. Not only is this a great practice strategy of their learning, but this also reinforces the fact that the student has accomplished something (and not just to you, but to the student as well!) This is an essential step for cultivating self-confidence — a crucial aspect of a growth mindset.

So, how can you create opportunities for students to demonstrate what they've learned?

Incorporate probing questions throughout your sessions to provide opportunities for students to explain their work and demonstrate their understanding of the problem or topic at hand. This can be done throughout a lesson or at the end. This is also a great point to start off a session, so you have a stronger understanding of a student's understanding of a particular topic or problem.

For example, math tutors can break apart the steps of a math problem to allow a student the opportunity to demonstrate their own learning. Tutors can start by guiding a student through a math problem step-by-step before pausing and allowing the student to finish the remaining steps, independently. Foreign language tutors can converse with their students using new words they've learned. Reading tutors can structure the session so the student reads one section, then the tutor reads the next section, and then the student again, and so on.

Whatever subject you're providing support in, you can find ways for the student to be involved and take control of their own learning, creating continuous opportunities for growth and learning ownership.

Reframe mistakes as learning opportunities

Mistakes are going to happen, but, as a tutor, you have the power to allow mistakes to become opportunities instead of discouragement for your students. When a student makes a mistake, use that as an opportunity to remind them that mistakes are a natural part of the learning process. If they arrive at an incorrect answer, help them work backwards to determine where the error was made and have a discussion about why this was an error and how to learn from it.

For example, repeated subtraction mistakes in a math tutoring session can provide a perfect opportunity to play a fun online subtraction review game. If you notice the student lacking an essential, foundational skill, help them reinforce their knowledge and skill to better handle difficult math problems in the future.

A wrong answer in a history tutoring session can inspire a fun anecdote about something that happened during that time period.

If a student incorrectly uses a word in a grammar tutoring session, you can make up a little song about it to help them remember.

There are an infinite number of ways you can transform mistakes into better learning. When you use each mistake as an opportunity to learn, you are creating a positive learning environment for students and teaching them essential skills to help with their learning moving forward.

Set realistic goals

One common occurrence you might encounter as a tutor is coming across students with overly ambitious goals. For example, many students might be entirely focused on their grades and say they want to make 100% on all their Algebra assignments and exams throughout the entire school year. While this may demonstrate admirable ambition, this goal doesn’t allow much wiggle room and may be setting the student up for disappointment.

As a tutor, you can help students set smaller, more realistic goals that they can meet in a matter of days or weeks. By breaking up ambitious goals into chunks, students can break up their workload and meet goals more quickly. When these manageable goals are achieved, this allows a student to feel a sense of accomplishment. This accomplishment then can provide the confidence to set more goals and slowly move towards that larger goal.

A good technique when setting goals with your students can be to set SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Oriented. These are specific goals that allow the student the specific measures they need to determine if they met their goal.

These goals can work towards a wider goal (such as making an A in Algebra), but provide the student with actionable steps. It is important to include your student in the goal-setting process. Let them lead the conversation and give them ownership into determining if the goal is met.

Here are some examples of realistic goals that you can help students set::

  • Read three chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird this week
  • Learn how to multiply fractions by the end of this session
  • Write three different introduction paragraphs for the research paper you need to write for school, and next time we'll talk about which one is the best
  • Get all your overdue Language Arts homework assignments finished in the next three days
  • Study an extra 30 minutes for your next test

Are you ready to change fixed mindsets into growth mindsets?

When students feel challenged, have realistic goals to meet, and are given the opportunity to demonstrate their newfound knowledge, you know that you're well on the way to fostering growth mindsets!

Keep using uplifting SEL vocabulary as you talk to students, especially when they make mistakes during the learning process. These are prime opportunities for reminding students to keep trying. Students who believe they can learn are more likely to become successful lifelong learners.

Are you a knowledgeable tutor ready to help students develop a growth mindset for deeper learning? Apply today to become a tutor on Pear Deck Tutor!


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Amanda Gralto
Tutor Operations Specialist

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