Many schools have embraced a growth mindset approach to teaching and learning, and seen the impact it makes with students’ attitude and progress.  At Confident Teens we believe growth mindset builds resilience in teens, as with its focus on personal effort it fosters a sense of self-responsibility – this in turn leads to increasing self-belief and confidence.

What’s growth mindset?

“Growth mindset” as a concept was pioneered by Carol Dweck (in her research and explained in her book “Mindset”).  Its central premise is that having a growth mindset means believing that we are all capable of developing new skills. What’s key is the effort we put in and the strategies we use in our learning and development.

In contrast to growth mindset, fixed mindset is having set ideas of what we are good or bad at (for example “I’m rubbish at maths”). With a fixed mindset we focus only on the end-results, with an emphasis on what other people say, and the external circumstances.  Whereas for with a growth mindset we focus on our own resources, efforts, strategies and opinions.

There are three ways that I believe growth mindset builds resilience in teens:

1. Growth Mindset builds resilience in teens: Focusing on effort


Understanding and embracing a growth mindset approach is empowering for teenagers.  Simply because it means that what’s important is the effort that they put in – and this is something that is completely their choice and in their control.

So much of young people’s lives is dictated by others, whether that’s the school timetable, parents’/carers’ expectations, or more subtly the peer pressures they experience.  But by taking a growth mindset approach to their studying – and life as a whole – the focus is on the effort they decide to make.  And that is completely in their control. 

As educators we can encourage this growth mindset approach by helping teens to see how far they have progressed over time, and by linking this progress to the effort they have themselves made, and therefore the influence they have over their own lives.

A key part of feeling resilient in our lives is feeling that we have control over at least some aspects of what happens.  Which is why teaching and encouraging growth mindset is a crucial aspect of building resilience in teens.

2. Approach to failure


The second aspect of how growth mindset builds resilience in teens is the attitude we take to failure.

Failure is such a difficult area for many young people (and adults too of course), particularly at a time when they are feeling so self-conscious, and their academic progress is being rigorously measured.

By adopting a growth mindset approach we can develop a more helpful attitude to failure, as growth mindset teaches us to see failure as simply part of the learning experience.  The “failure” provides us with feedback to try another way.

A powerful example often used to illustrate this is Thomas Edison’s quotation describing his process for inventing the first (commercially viable) lightbulb, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work”.

As part of the Role Models module in the Teacher resources for building girls’ confidence one of the featured role models is Serena Williams.  Serena is an inspiring and extraordinary woman and athlete.  She espouses growth mindset when she says:

“I don’t like to lose – at anything – yet I’ve grown most not from victories, but setbacks.

I really think a champion is defined not by their wins but by how they can recover when they fall”

Serena Williams

3. Taking responsibility


The third aspect of how growth mindset builds resilience in teens is encouraging students to take responsibility for themselves. 

We’ve discussed how a primary tenet of growth mindset is the effort we make and the different strategies we take.  This in itself means that we are taking responsibility as we are focusing on what we are doing – and not blaming outside circumstances or other people for what happens.

This is empowering for teens as it encourages them to make decisions for themselves, as well as think through the consequences of those decisions.  This can apply to the attitude they take at school and the habits they develop.  Habits which can move them towards – or away from – the goals they want to achieve. 

A good metaphor for this is a steering wheel!  We can encourage students to feel that they have their hands on the steering wheel of their lives – they can choose the direction that they steer themselves in.

Image of a car steering wheel to represent choice for  Growth Mindset builds resilience in teens

This article has outlined three ways that growth mindset builds resilience in teens.

Supporting teen girls to understand and embrace a growth mindset is so empowering for them.  By focusing on their own effort, seeing failure as learning and taking responsibility for themselves all contributes to building their resilience.  Girls expand their own resourcefulness, as well as developing their abilities and sense of control over their lives. 

A growth mindset approach is embedded throughout the Teacher resources for building girls’ confidence.  In the confidence-building activities across the five modules, students are encouraged to reflect on their progress, develop their skills, challenge their current thinking and develop new attitudes.

For more ideas for building girls’ confidence, watch the free taster lesson on Self-awareness.

Green button Taster lesson for building girls confidence

Feedback from teachers and students after they enjoyed building confidence sessions

Girls were well engaged and thoughtful through the session” Teacher

“How others see you is not important, but how you see yourself means everything” 13 year old girl

“I’ve learnt that we are all different and unique in our special way” 14 year old girl