Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset


In 1979 Roger Waters wrote the immortal words:

We don’t need no education

We don’t need know thought control

No dark sarcasm in the classroom

Teacher, leave them kids alone

All in all it’s just another brick in the wall

This video is filled with imagery of students as mindless robots walking through their day in school. They are forced into the same routine that “has always worked”. The teacher does not budge from their ideals or their philosophy. The student’s are not allowed to be free and creative. This, sadly, is the FIXED MINDSET that many in education still work within. The idea that it has worked for the last ten years it’s what will keep working is outdated.

We live in a fast paced ever changing world where we must adapt or be left behind. In fact, we as educators, must not simply adapt to the current trends, but be able to look into the future and prepare students for what will happen years down the road. It doesn’t do the students justice to prepare them for current trends if they change by the time they graduate. I know what you’re thinking at this point. “How the heck am I supposed to know what the future will hold?”

Listen to your students. Open your mind to their ideas, and their point of view. When is the last time you set your own thoughts aside and just let the students in your classroom speak. I’m not talking about the times you ask a question and they regurgitate an answer, but really let them talk about what’s on their mind. Where they think the future is headed. Student’s have an opinion and a voice. They want to be heard. Listen to what they have to say and adapt yourself and your lessons to what and how they want to learn. You will see the amazing results it yields.

I have been teaching Graphic Design and other creative classes for many years, and the biggest challenge I have with students comes down to one simple question they ask me. “Is this for a grade?”. That statement makes me cringe. My reply to them is “I don’t care about grades, I care about you gaining knowledge”. Do I take a grade on everything in the class? Absolutely not, but my kids still do the work. Why? Because they are interested. I ask them, what do you want to learn. We reflect on the work they turn in as a class and have open discussions. They research work from outside the school and reflect on that. One of the most detrimental things you can hand a student, in my opinion, is a grading rubric. This limits a student to what they believe they need to do to receive the “grade” they want. What if you ask a student to grade their own work and justify their decision?

The first time I asked a student what grade they thought they deserved, they proudly stood and looked at me and said, “I should get an A”. I replied, “Great, tell me why?”. This is a key part of the educational process. It is more important to have students justify their own thoughts and how they came to an answer, then to simply give that answer. This is the same idea as peer teaching. A student can learn better from their peer then they can from a teacher. Are you a teacher that prefers the “no talking” classroom?

This is the point where you need to reflect on yourself and the environment you have created for the students. Is your classroom setup so students are focused on you, or focused on learning? To this point I have been talking about my classroom, a Graphic Design lab. You have probably been thinking, “sure it’s easy to get kids excited in your class, they want to be there.”. Well, guess what? They are the same kids that you have. They don’t want to be there any more or less than any other class. We have a science teacher at our school that has fostered an amazing educational environment. When you walk into the classroom, the students are broken into small groups working with technology, and engaged in meaningful student centered discussion. This teacher has grown with the changing times and adapted to the learning styles of the students.

Don’t just allow yourself to see students as “another brick in the wall”. Build upon their creative interests. Listen to their ideas. Blend your ideas of what has always worked with new ideas. Don’t be afraid to “fail”. Failure is an opportunity for growth.

Follow these steps to free your mind:

  • Listen – to yourself and to your students (understand that you have fixed ideas that may still work)
  • Make an effort to understand you have an opportunity to change
  • Reflect on these opportunities, ask yourself “how can I adapt my thoughts to better serve the students?”
  • Implement your changes into your classroom
  • Reflect on the results of these new changes
  • Make adjustments and repeat

If we as educators continue to try to fit all students into the same mold that we have used for years, they will become disengaged. The video concludes with students revolting and destroying the school. This metaphorically represents what is going on in the student’s mind when we don’t allow ourselves to adapt to changing times.


  • Mongchilde. (2010, July 5). Pink Floyd – Another brick in the wall (hq). Retrieved from
  • Dweck, C. S. (2016). Mindset: the new psychology of success. Penguin Random House LLC, New York.