Can A Fixed Mindset Be Changed?

After my students thought & wrote about growth mindset, Dave Tamblyn challenged us to think about people who have a fixed mindset.

Thank you Colleen for sharing this. What a great exercise! I wish I had been there to have heard the discussion. I am particularly interested in hearing from those students who typically don’t have a growth mindset – the ones who say they are not artistic before they have even taken their first class. After watching the videos and hearing the comments from their classmates has their fixed mindset been undermined? In terms of interventions for students with a fixed mindset you say you offer reassurance and encouragement. Do these strategies work? Are their other intervention strategies?

My classes were ready to share their thoughts right away.


“I think someone can go from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset if they really want to & work hard enough with the right motivation and encouragement.”

“I think that you can change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset by surrounding yourself with encouraging people that want you to do good, and being open to try new things and experiment with them because you never know what you’ll be good at.”



“I think the way for someone with a fixed mindset [to] transition into a growth mindset is by slowly trying new things, slowly reaching out of their comfort zones.”

“In some ways I believe that people that have a fixed mindset are stuck to what they know and stubborn in some ways.  To get from a fixed mindset, I believe that if they at least one point in their life leave what they know and experiment, not only are they leaving their fixed mindset but they are growing because of experimenting.”



“I think that if somebody puts their mind to it, they can change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.  Although, it may take a long time because it doesn’t seem like something you can change in a snap.”

“I think someone can change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset by believing they can do something and to not give up.  Also, try out new things because you learn from failure.  You have to be passionate about practicing and learning.”



“I think if someone has a fixed mindset, they can change to a growth mindset by themselves or get help, but it is their own choice.  If they are not willing to, they won’t.”

“I find that in some ways I have a fixed mindset like when I started art, I right away thought that I would have a bad mark because I “sucked” at art.  After realizing if I work hard I can actually be pretty good I think I [developed] a growth mindset.”



“I don’t think there is any way for somebody to change their mindset because that’s how they live their life.”

“You change your mindset by not being stressed or [by] being positive.”



“You can change if you’re happy.  [A fixed mindset] is just being lazy.”

“I think you just need to believe and be patient with yourself.  Things take time and if you give it that, you can do anything.”



“You can tell them that if they actually try, they will.  You have to give positive energy so they will believe that they can do it.”

“I think someone can go from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset if they really want to & they work hard enough with the right motivation and encouragement.”


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3 Responses to Can A Fixed Mindset Be Changed?

  1. David Tamblyn says:

    Thank you for posting the student responses to my question. It provides me with some valuable insights into their learning. In reading through the responses and listening to their comments it is evident they recognize that you can have a open mindset in one subject area, sport, or other interest while having an closed mindset in another area. For instance you may be an athlete who is willing to try any new sport but at the same time you may not be willing to learn how to play a musical instrument because you think your not very good at it. Similarly you might have an open mind set when it comes to learning new techniques in Art and have the perseverance to learn from your mistakes but in math making mistakes might only reinforce the notion in your mind that you aren’t any good at math.

    Yesterday I attended a session on the implementation of the new framework for French as a Second Language. I was at a table predominantly comprised of French teachers and language consultants. The discussion focused on a growth mindset as it applies to the acquisition of a second language. The conversation flipped back and forth between French and English. While my colleagues around the table talked about the anxiety their students experience in finding the courage to speak French in class I was faced with my own fears of speaking French with this group of individuals. Although I could follow most of what was being said I was reluctant to respond in French. When I thought about this later there were a few factors that I could pin point that were contributing to this fixed mindset. I have enough knowledge of French to be able to express my ideas with a fair level of clarity but I didn’t have the confidence to speak French in this particular setting. I did not feel comfortable. Even in my maternal language I often have to gather my courage before speaking to a group of strangers. The thought of speaking to this group in a language other than English seemed to me to be out of the question! Besides the fear of speaking in public I was also fearful of looking incompetent. What would they think if they heard the Director of Education stumbling to express himself while mispronouncing words in an accent along way from Paris! In all honesty I think they would have been very supportive yet in spite of all that I know about a growth mindset, taking risks and understanding the importance of practice I wasn’t willing to take a chance. I can only image how difficult risk taking is for some of our students.

    As educators we are looking at what the conditions are that would support a growth mindset in the classroom. If you think of the example I gave above of my own experience I wasn’t comfortable in that particular setting to take any risks. Had I been among friends who like me were learning French I would not have been the least bit intimidated to speak French. It might even have been fun. I am curious to know what students think are the learning conditions necessary to support a growth mindset? Does it look different in a math class than it does in a second language class?

    • colleenkr says:

      Dave, I love this comment. I hope you don’t mind if I share your story with my students to see what they think. I have a feeling that they will appreciate your honesty and your curiosity. I know I do!

  2. Pingback: Student Voice: Learning Conditions Needed to Support a Growth Mindset | Northern Art Teacher

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