As stated by Psychology Today, a growth mindset is, “the belief that a person’s capacities and talents can be improved over time.” Recently we had the privilege of sitting down with Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at Libertyville District 70, Erik Youngman to discuss what growth mindset is and how impactful it is in K-12 education. Erik explained that the way to improve growth mindset over time is to focus on elements of a growth mindset like learning from mistakes, continuous improvement, effort, creative problem solving, and reflection.

Where Did the Growth Mindset Come From?

Originally the growth mindset method came from psychologist and professor at Stanford University, Carol Dweck. She wanted to explore how mindset science played a role in the desire for older children to achieve their academic potential according to the Association for Psychological Science

Erik explained that his interest in the growth mindset sparked from his teaching career. He spent his time reading articles, synthesizing the information he uncovered, and creating structures that educators and coaches can apply to their teaching strategies to encourage a growth mindset.

Erik also gives credit to his athletic and teaching backgrounds that helped him to identify how he can coach his students and staff to empower them to learn using this method.

Visit Erik Youngman’s Twitter page feed for motivational and inspirational quotes and to get inspired at: @Erik_Youngman

How to Apply Growth Mindset

Erik shared 3 examples of how a growth mindset can be applied in an educational setting as well as at home setting.

1. Continuous learning mindset

Erik merged Carol Dweck’s research with structures of the applications of learning from the Illinois State Board of Education to explain how a continuous learning mindset works. There are  6 dimensions of the continuous learning mindset: problem-solving, communicating, making connections, asking questions, self-direction, and working on teams.

These 6 dimensions empower students to enhance the frequency and effectiveness of thinking while also empowering reflection, courage, perseverance, and empathy.

2. Empowering a growth mindset with feedback, questions, and self-talk


Educators are not the only ones who can promote a growth mindset; parents can also promote a growth mindset at home. The feedback you, as an adult, give to students and children is much more impactful than you think. Erik stresses the importance of being mindful of how you are providing careful feedback to these students and children especially when they have made a mistake or something they could classify as a set-back.

2 really great suggestions Erik made for phrasing affirming feedback were, “You are not successful yet, but you and I both know you will do it,” and “remember the lesson more than the mistake.” 


Parents also have a great opportunity to encourage “teaching moments” with their kids by asking them questions instead of providing the answer. Instead of blatantly sharing an answer with your child, whether it be in life or school, help them get to the next step on their own by asking them, “what questions should be asked or considered in this situation?”

Ask them how they believe they can enhance their efficiency, flexibility, performance, or growth. This encourages the child to think more critically about the specific situation they are currently in and show them how to grow on their own.


Self-talk is a commonly used tactic when dealing with depression and anxiety, and is also known as ‘changing your mindset.’ Many people get distracted and hesitant from doing things they can achieve because of the voice inside their head telling them that they can’t. If parents and teachers give students the right tools to learn about and understand self-talk, students will be more likely to perform better academically and be overall happier and more confident people.

Erik suggests teaching phrases like, “I need to courageously move out of my comfort zone,” and “How do my current actions and attitude impact my progress and success?” Like Gary Vee says, “You can probably make nothing but mistakes for the next 13 years of your life, and probably still have a tremendously happy life, and once you wrap your head around that, it probably empowers you to make the best decision for yourself.” 

3. 12 Characteristics of Deliberate Homework

Erik Youngman has just released a book titled 12 Characteristics of Deliberate Homework in which he talks about the growth mindset in relation to learning and homework. He encourages parents, educators, and coaches to embrace a learning mindset that empowers students to be responsible, reflective, resilient, and resourceful. Erik states how these 4 buckets are pertinent to remote learning.

How does Growth Mindset Apply to Remote Learning?

Growth mindset is used as a lens to empower students and educators as they encounter new challenges, risks, improvement, effort, resourcefulness, and feedback during remote learning. In times like these, where people seemingly have all the time in the world, the opportunity cost of getting out of your comfort zone to embrace new challenges and try new things is inordinately low. 

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