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Teaching a growth mindset in groups can be tricky. Simply telling people to adopt a growth
mindset can backfire, because people often have a negative reaction to being told how to
think. In this tool, a different approach is presented. First, participants are introduced to
the concept of neuroplasticity. Rather than telling them how to think, scientific information
about how intelligence works is offered and subsequently discussed with the group. Next,
the instructor shares a personal example of neuroplasticity, demonstrating how he or she
learned and overcame the struggle. Finally, participants form subgroups within which they
share a story about a time that they made their brains smarter.

Goal :
The goal of this tool is to teach a team that (a) intelligence can be developed, (b) the brain
is malleable, and (c) doing challenging work is a powerful way to make the brain stronger
and smarter.


Part I: Videos and debrief

Together with the group, watch one or both of the two following movies. After you have watched the videos with the group, hold a small discussion about the science behind the brain as it learns. Possible reflection questions are listed below the video link.

“Growing your mind” by Khan Academy (3:04) –

Reflection questions:

■       When do brains “grow” the most?

■        In what ways are brains similar to muscles?

■        How do people become intelligent?

“Neuroplasticity” by Sentis (2:03) –

Reflection questions:

■        How do you define neuroplasticity?

■        How is neuroplasticity related to growth?

Part II: Personal example

Connecting new information to personal experiences helps ingrain learning. For instance, when working as an educator or a coach, you may talk about a time when you overcame a challenge or effectively solved a dilemma. Point out that it took hard work (if applicable) and mention the strategies that you used and help that you received (if any) from others. After sharing your story, ask the participants to share their stories.

Part III: Group discussions

If you are working with a large group, break it into smaller groups (about 3-5 people per group) and ask each person to share a time when he/she felt that he/she became more intelligent. The following questions may set the stage for such a discussion:

■ Can you think of a time when you were facing a challenge and managed to effectively deal with this
challenge? What did you do

■ Was there a time when you experienced a setback but learned from this setback? If so, what did you
learn and what did you do differently after this setback?

■ What knowledge and wisdom have you gained through your experiences with setbacks and struggles?