With Tests, Take a Growth Mindset

My most exciting breakthrough in tutoring lately has been teaching my students “Growth” versus “Judger” Mindsets.

I have been amazed at how much this has resonated with students.

Mindsets have gained popularity in the past couple decades thanks to research by Carol Dweck at Stanford.

Dweck says “Judger” Mindset (or “Fixed Mindset,” as some call it) is one that sees talents and situations as unchangeable.

It values people not for how well they try, but for how good their results are, regardless of how they were achieved. If your results are good, YOU are good. If your results have mistakes, then YOU are a mistake.

I might argue that 98% of our culture and society operate form Judger Mindset assumptions.

Judger Mindset hates – and cannot bear to be seen – making mistakes. How could you, if a mistake said that YOU were a mistake, and this situation cannot be changed?

My students mostly speak in Judger Mindset.

“I’m so bad at Math” they might say (as if being bad at Math were permanent) or “this graph is so confusing” (as if the graph won’t be understandable soon after asking a few more questions about it).

With this “I’m doomed” approach, they quit in the face of challenges.

Then they get poor results.

Then their confidence and energy plummet.

“Growth” (or “learner”) Mindset, by contrast, sees talents and situations as changeable. They instinctively see learning as a process of incremental improvements – “baby steps,” we call it, and perhaps nobody embodies growth mindset more than babies, constantly trying for better mastery without worrying about mistakes.

People with a “Growth” Mindset value process over results. What is a good process? It’s (1) giving your best effort possible, and (2) eagerly learning from results – including painful mistakes.

Growth Mindset loves mistakes! Because mistakes are where we grow next, and growth is where confidence and pride emerge from.

Dweck has found that a small percentage of people, even at the age of four or five, already love challenges and seek more of them. In any situation approached with a growth mindset, people prove to have higher confidence; greater abilities; more willingness to look at, talk about, and learn from mistakes; and to be more accurate when assessing their own strengths and weaknesses.

Dweck shows that we can switch from Judger to Growth Mindset in any moment.

One skill she has taught people is to put “yet” or “so far” at the end of any limiting and negative statement.

My students now know me as “Mr. Yet” and “Mr. So Far.”

“I hate math,” they say. “So far,” I nudge them.

“I can’t understand this Passage!” they complain. “Yet!” I answer.

And then they go back and look at the Passage again, often finding the answer then – in the past, they would have quit before getting to that breakthrough.

See my Worksheet below which I run through with them to introduce Growth v. Judger Mindset.

In which Mindset do you spend most of your time?

If you look at your life ten years from now, what will it be like if you spend it in Growth Mindset as much as you can – in every arena possible? How happy will that version of you be? How successful? How will your relationships be? What will it be like for others when they are in your presence?

How will that version of you differ from the “Judger” you? What will a decade of you in Judger Mindset look and feel like?

Take a moment and imagine.

In my experience, I find myself in Judger Mindset some moments, Growth Mindset the next. The more I recognize Growth Mindset, the more I realize I am actually not in it.


In each moment, you have the power to choose – something I am so appreciating getting to showing my students.

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