Enhancing Mentor Effectiveness: Tools for Teaching the Growth Mindset 

Social emotionaIllustration of brain lifting weightsl learning, growth mindset, and grit are buzz words these days in education. These words appear repeatedly in social media. Books about these topics — such as Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success or Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character — are placed on the front shelves of local bookstores.

Most of us have a good degree of growth mindset. The reason you and I come to work, either as a Check & Connect mentor, teacher, or researcher is because we believe our efforts matter and will contribute to the positive changes of our students. Unfortunately, for many of our students and their families in the Check & Connect program, the internal voice they have is probably more like, “Nothing will change no matter how hard I try.” This is an example of a more fixed mindset.

As Check & Connect coordinators, one thing you can do is to work with your mentors to determine if, when, and how to share about developing the growth mindset with students who are struggling to feel that their efforts in school are worthwhile. Your mentors might want to share with these students that the science of brain plasticity (or neuroplasticity) has shown that we can change our brains, we are not stuck with the brains we have (see resources below).

As coordinators, you might encourage mentors to share information with students about how to improve one’s growth mindset. It might even be a useful reminder for yourself and your mentors as adult learners!

One resource we recommend is the MindsetKit: Growth Mindset for Mentors developed by the MENTOR: National Mentoring Partnership and the Project for Education Research that Scales (PERTS), a research center at Stanford University. Their website has 12 mini-lessons on the growth mindset designed for mentors (takes about 45 lessons to complete). Coordinators can use these resources to provide professional development for their mentors; mentors can also go through this training at their own pace and apply what they have learned.

Regardless of what avenue your mentors take to nudge a student’s mindset from fixed to growth, the key message you want them to deliver to their students through these sessions is that, “Learning changes the brain by forming new neuronal connections and you (students) are in control of this process!” 

Recommended Resources

Assessments on Mindset

Videos on Neuroplasticity and Growth Mindset

Resources for Teaching Growth Mindset

Acknowledgement: We want to thank Check & Connect trainers Eileen Klemm and Joseph Angaran for their contributions to this article.

About the Authors: Xueqin Qian, Ph.D. is a research associate for Check & Connect at the Institute on Community Integration. Megan Dushin is the communications coordinator for Check & Connect and contributor/editor for this Attend-Engage-Invest blog.

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The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

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