I can’t do this. I don’t understand this. I don’t know. These are all common utterances in a typical classroom. But they can be transformed with the power of a single, three-letter word: YET.

I can’t do this…yet.
I don’t understand this…yet.
I don’t know…yet.

What is growth mindset?

Ever wonder why some students rebound while other students seemed devastated by even the smallest setbacks? Thirty years ago, after studying the behavior of thousands of children, Dr. Carol Dweck coined the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset to describe the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence. When students believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger. Therefore they put in extra time and effort, and that leads to higher achievement.

Fixed mindset is the belief that you simply are or aren’t, and that your effort will have little impact on your achievement. Often, high-achieving students who view their academic accomplishment with a fixed mindset crumple at the first effort demanded class or failed test. They assumed they were naturally smart, without even trying, and when that veneer is shattered, so are they. On the other hand, students who learn to apply a growth mindset know their success hinges not on natural talent or aptitude, but effort and outlook.

How does it work in the classroom?

Teacher practice has a big impact on a student’s mindset, and the feedback that teachers give their students can either encourage a child to choose a challenge and increase achievement or look for an easy way out. Praising hard work, effort and progress cultivates a growth mindset.

Think of all the ways YET could transform classroom direction and feedback. “You haven’t mastered your vocabulary this week…yet. Can I help you make a plan?” “This algebraic concept is a tough one. You haven’t got it yet, but if you try these two similar problems, maybe come back to it and try again.” “The first time most students read Shakespeare, they have no idea what he’s saying. Yet. Keep reading. Read it aloud. It’ll get easier with effort.”

Growth mindset is just as important for teachers to adopt, for both professional development and classroom instruction. Do more than encourage a growth mindset in your students; make sure you recognize their efforts with thoughtfulness and equity, absent of bias or assumption.

Growth mindset and resilience

Unlike a fixed mindset, a growth mindset offers limitless potential for students to succeed in their academic lives and beyond. Lisa Damour, a psychologist and executive director at Laurel’s Center for Research on Girls says, “At Thanksgiving every year, our front hall is flooded with freshman girls coming back from college who are appalled at how fragile their roommates are, and are taking it upon themselves to have to educate the girls in their cohort about growth mindset.” Growth mindset allows students to learn to take risks, tolerate discomfort and ultimately gain resilience.