MINDSETS IN THE CLASSROOM: Increase Student Achievement


[semester equivalent = 3.33 credits]



Brenda McKinney



Why do some children succeed while others fail? Have you experienced burnout with certain students and are not sure where to turn? Let’s turn this around. When students believe that dedication and hard work can change their performance in school, they grow to become resilient, successful students. Mindsets in the Classroom provides educators with ideas and strategies to build and maintain a growth mindset culture. The focus is on how persistence, hard work and grit can change students' school performance. All teachers are looking for tools that will ignite a love of learning while communicating that every student can succeed. Do you want to find out how to capture and identify that mindset?  Are you ready to create successful and resilient learners? Are you interested in learning the new research on IQ and brain plasticity in order to motivate and engage all students? Then join me for this exciting and transformative course. I recommend this course to any teacher, student, administrator, parent or professional developer who is looking to up their game. You do NOT need to have READ Mindset: The New Psychology of Success or taken the Mindset course from this instructor. (The Mindset course is an appropriate introduction to this learning) This course is appropriate for grades K-12, parents, leaders in any business.

LEARNING OUTCOMES: Upon completion of this course, participants will have:

  1. Discovered the latest research on neuroplasticity and how we can change IQ.
  2. Discovered the growth mindset model to end the pattern of failure.
  3. Defined fixed and growth mindsets and understand their role in the classroom.
  4. Learned how and why their students may lose their capacity for growth and challenge.
  5. Assessed the role of a differentiated responsive classroom as it relates to mindset.
  6. Connected the idea that effort, persistence, and grit are as essential to learning as curriculum.
  7. Learned how to increase receptiveness to learning and how to mitigate adverse factors/behaviors.
  8. Discovered the role of failure in learning and how not to fail.
  9. Learned how to create a growth mindset classroom and motivate all learners.
  10. Designed activities/strategies to create a shift in mindset in the classroom and help every learner be successful.
  11. Designed activities to increase motivation and effort.

Completion of all specified assignments is required for issuance of hours or credit. The Heritage Institute does not award partial credit.

The use of artificial intelligence is not permitted. Assignment responses found to be generated by AI will not be accepted.

Completing the basic assignments (Section A. Information Acquisition) for this course automatically earns participants their choice of CEUs (Continuing Education Units), Washington State Clock Hours, Oregon PDUs, or Pennsylvania ACT 48 Hours. The Heritage Institute offers CEUs and is an approved provider of Washington State Clock Hours, Oregon PDUs, and Pennsylvania ACT 48 Hours.



Continuing Education Quarter credits are awarded by Antioch University Seattle (AUS). AUS requires 75% or better for credit at the 400 level and 85% or better to issue credit at the 500 level. These criteria refer both to the amount and quality of work submitted.

  1. Completion of Information Acquisition assignments 30%
  2. Completion of Learning Application assignments 40%
  3. Completion of Integration Paper assignment 30%


CREDIT/NO CREDIT (No Letter Grades or Numeric Equivalents on Transcripts)
Antioch University Seattle (AUS) Continuing Education Quarter credit is offered on a Credit/No Credit basis; neither letter grades nor numeric equivalents are on a transcript. 400 level credit is equal to a "C" or better, 500 level credit is equal to a "B" or better. This information is on the back of the transcript.

AUS Continuing Education quarter credits may or may not be accepted into degree programs. Prior to registering, determine with your district personnel, department head, or state education office the acceptability of these credits for your purpose.



The course text is, Mindsets in the Classroom: Building a Culture of Success and Student Achievement in Schools, by Mary Cay Ricci; used from $14 on Amazon. ISBN: 978-1-61821-081-9.

An optional text for 500 level participants is, Teaching that Changes Lives: 12 Mindset Tools for Igniting the Love of Learning, used from $11, on Amazon.  ISBN: 978-1-60994-569-5.

None. All reading is online.


Course text varies from $11 to 14 depending on the text you choose. Mindsets in the Classroom: Building a Culture of Success and Student Achievement in Schools, is approximately $14 from Amazon. ISBN: 978-1-61821-081-9. An optional text for 500 level participants is, Teaching that Changes Lives: 12 Mindset Tools for Igniting the Love of Learning, used from $11, on Amazon.



Assignments done in a course forum will show responses from all educators who have or are taking the course independently. Feel free to read and respond to others' comments. 
Group participants can only view and respond to their group members in the Forum. 

Assignment #1: Introduction.

For those participating in Group Collaboration, you must read and follow the instructions outlined in the Group Collaboration Guidelines. Click on the link for Guidelines.

  • Assignment #1, each participant must complete this assignment independently.
  • There should be a minimum of (4) four group meetings during which the course content is discussed. 
  • Teleconferences or live meetings are acceptable. A good videoconference option is Zoom (
  • Each participant must attend at least 75% of the group meetings (a minimum of 3 of 4 meetings).

You must complete your introduction before moving on to other assignments.

Introduce yourself in 500+ words with a background profile and introduction.  

  • What led you to choose teaching as your profession?
  • Describe your current professional situation. 
  • What brings you the most joy in your work?  
  • What struggles have you experienced in the classroom? 
  • Have you had prior experience or training in Mindset strategies and research?  
  • How did you choose this class and what outcomes do you hope to achieve?

Assignment #2: Mindsets and How They Affect the Classroom

In the text read pages 1-11.Be prepared to summarize your thinking about success/intelligence in the classroom.

View the video below about how the brain changes itself, Norman Doidge
How can mindset redefine our view of persistence, developing grit and student potential? Think about the connections between learning between cognitive science, hard work, and developing motivation?
View this video about IQ and Mindset, Paul Tough
What was new learning for you? What statistics were shocking and will help change your own mindset? What case studies were the most meaningful?
Respond in 250-500 words: What was new learning for you and what will have the most impact on your teaching situation?
In addition to your submission on the above assignment, read 4-6 postings from other teachers on this assignment (if any are present) and respond to at least one. 

Assignment #3: Building a Growth Mindset Culture

In the text read pgs. 13-29 and be prepared to summarize your own personal belief system. 
Consider the following:  For things to change, I must change? 
How does the science of neuroplasticity and the malleable brain change the way you structure your classroom.
View the video. It’s a powerful glimpse into the world of neuroplasticity.
What did you learn about mindset and how emotions can be changed based on thinking, attitudes, and behaviors?  Include the work of Weil, Han, and Dawson, pgs. 18-19.
View this video on the Mind UP from the Hawn Foundation.
  • What are the critical elements of using praise and how does this affect your teaching strategies and beliefs? 
  • Why is it critical that students understand how the brain learns as it relates to engagement and motivation? 
  • Does the new learning about mindset change the way you think about intelligence, grouping, and the way you teach your classes?
  • Reflect on your own personal belief system. 
Respond in 250-500 words. What was new learning for you? What is the critical take away learning for building the mindset culture?

Assignment #4: Differentiated Responsive Classrooms

Read in the text pgs. 31-54 and reflect on differentiation and how it affects the brain’s willingness to learn.
Why is a Differentiated Responsive Classroom Important to Developing a Growth Mindset?
  • What was critical new learning for you in the preview and pre-assessing learning section?
  • What critical strategies can you take away from the learning on: 1) curriculum compacting; 2) flexible groups; 3) acceleration and enrichment? How will this change your teaching? What can you use right away?
  • Why is formative/summative assessment critical and non-negotiable?  
  • What learning on differentiation is totally new learning for you?  Check out the chart on pg. 143-144 to set goals for your classroom.  How many of things are you already doing?  What are you excited to implement? 
  • What are the strategies that you will continue to research and implement or research?
Respond in a 250-500 words or mind map. 
In addition to your submission on the above assignment, read 4-6 postings from other teachers on this assignment (if any are present) and respond to at least one. 

Assignment #5: Critical Thinking as a Component of Growth Mindset

Read in the text pgs. 55-65 to understand the role of critical thinking and this is an integral part of the growth mindset classroom.  
  • What are the ways that critical thinking/mindset are related and essential for success?  
  • What did you learn from analyzing the Critical Thinking Growth Mindset Project?  
  • How has this powerful research changed your opinion about both critical thinking and growth mindset as essential elements of your classroom experience? 
Respond in 250-500 words: Consider how learning about critical thinking provides another link to understanding how to develop growth mindset in all students. Consider how you might make critical thinking a segment of every lesson you teach.

Assignment #6: Learning from Mistakes & Failures

Read in the text pgs. 67-96 to learn about mistakes, failure, the brain’s reaction and they are essential for learning and retention.
Watch this important video on mindset and failure: 
What did you learn about mindset and its response to failure and mistakes?
 Why is this so critical for helping students maintain a growth mindset? 
Watch the following videos to add to your own understanding of failure and its fallout:
Pick Them Back Up
 You Don’t Know Jack

Read the following article on Failing Forward: Learning from Mistakes    

Read the following article about mistakes and their role in the classroom. 
  • What can you personally change in your classroom to teach the idea of failure but not failing? 
  • How is struggle a critical component of the learning process and directly connected to motivation and reward?
  • What mindset shift is necessary to help students embrace failure and shift their thinking (this also includes shifting your own mindset?) 
Respond in 250-500 words: Consider strategies you will implement and continue research, how to manage students and their response to failure, and the physical changes that take place in the brain determining whether a student will be motivated or quit.

Assignment #7: COURSE FORUM.

Respond in 250-500 words or mind map.  How Can Students Learn to Manage Failure and Develop Grit? 
View the video, How Children Succeed – The Hidden Power of Character, to learn about how to guide students in managing failure. What new insights did you receive from Paul Tough?
View the video link from Paul Tough on Managing Failure in Education.
Why is it essential to have character education along with mindset in changing attitudes to help learners manage failure?
Read and respond to the following article on how to make room for failure.

Discuss where the reading either affirmed or changed your thinking about managing failure, developing grit, and persistence.

If there are other comments by teachers in this assignment, please read at least four and then respond to one.

Assignment #8: Gifted Programs & Growth Mindset

How do gifted programs and a growth mindset culture work together?  
Read pgs. 85-95 in your text to assess whether gifted education and a growth mindset culture can co-exist.  
  • How is accessibility to a challenging and enriched curriculum limited within your own district/school/teaching situation?
  • What were new understandings about the “gifted label” in this section?  
  • What did you learn about early ability grouping?  
  • Has your perception about tracking/grouping changed after reading this section and how?
  • What was new learning for you?
  • What changes could you make in your own personal situation?

Respond in 250-500 words or mind map. 

Assignment #9: Developing A Growth Mindset

What strategies can you use to help students develop a growth mindset in the classroom?  
Read pgs. 97-122 in your text to help students develop a conceptual understanding of the brain and mindset.  

  • What pre-assessments did you find that would be valuable in your teaching situation?
  • What ideas do you have for teaching about the brain, neural pathways, and learning?

Watch the following video to add to your base of understanding how the brain learns.

How We Learn - Synapses and Neural Pathways from The Windmills Jnr School on Vimeo.

  • What tools will be helpful for introducing mindset terminology and the concept of a growth mindset?  
  • Why is optimism critical to having a growth mindset?

Check out the following link. Read the research and view the videos:

  • What was new learning for you? 
  • Why is optimism so closely linked with developing the growth mindset? 

For things to change you must change. Visit the following website. Scroll down to view the following slides:

  • Beliefs of Growth Mindset Facilitator,
  • Growth Mindset Reflection,
  • Questions for the Educator,
  • Personal Accountability and Reflection,
  • Change your Words, Change your Mindset
What new ideas will you take from this section in helping develop a growth mindset classroom?

Respond in 500+ words.



In this section, you will apply your learning to your professional situation. This course assumes that most participants are classroom teachers who have access to students. If you do not have a classroom available to you, please contact the instructor for course modifications. Assignments done in a course forum will show responses from all educators who have or are taking the course independently. ​Feel free to read and respond to others' comments. Group participants can only view and respond to their group members in the Forum. 


Assignment #10: Share Your Learning

  • Share what you have learned with a colleague/administrator/PLC/team/district leadership.
  • Include in the conversation/presentation, research on having a growth mindset that will most impact for your teaching.
  • Explain the science of why engaging students and motivation is critical if we expect them to be successful and how this is connected to having a growth mindset.
  • Secondary teachers explain why this may be a huge shift in perception of what is expected in the classroom.
  • Discuss the long term implications of the science of mindset and how walking the walk is totally different than talking the talk.
In 500+ words:  Write up this conversation, detailing how this new research was received and any plans for the future.

Assignment #11: Lesson Development.

Assignment #11:   (Required for 400 and 500 Level)
Assignment #11-A:

  • Adapt a lesson reflecting what you’ve learned in this course.
  • Implement your lesson with students.
  • Write a 250-500 word commentary on what worked well and what could be improved.
  • Include any student feedback on your lesson.
  • Share what you’ve learned with other teachers taking our courses by adding your Lesson to The Heritage Institute Lesson Library here.
  • You may download a copy of THI's lesson plan template here.
  • Submit your modified lesson to your instructor via the online response box or file upload.


Assignment #11-B:

  • Adapt a lesson reflecting what you’ve learned in this course. (Do not implement it.)
  • Share your learning with other teachers by contributing your Lesson to The Heritage Institute Lesson Library here
  • You may download a copy of THI's lesson plan template here.
  • Write a 500+ word article about a noteworthy teaching success you’ve had with one or more students.
  • Please refer to the guidelines on our blog What Works: Teaching at its Best prior to writing your article.
  • When you submit your article to your instructor, please also email a copy to Renee Leon THI blog curator and media specialist.
  • Indicate whether or not you are OK with having your article considered for publishing on our website. 
  • Submit your lesson to your instructor via the response box or file upload.

Assignment #12: (500 level only)

In addition to the 400 Level Assignments, complete ONE (1) of the following assignment options:
Option A)  
Read, Teaching that Changes Lives: 12 Mindset Tools for Igniting the Love of Learning.  
  • Download the Choice Map to use as a critical element in the mindset philosophy.
  • Pay particular attention to the listener/judger mindset approach and how this deepens your understanding of how our mindsets shift and shift quickly.
  • How does the ABCD Choice Process add to your experience in helping you implement the mindset strategies?  
Respond in 500+ words how Teaching that Changes Lives has affirmed your belief in mindset. How has personal nature of the book and the slightly different approach helped you embrace the rigors of mindset fo assist you in implementing?


Option B)  
Create a PowerPoint presentation for your staff based on this course and focused on perspectives that would benefit your school. Save it as a PDF. The presentation should include graphics, pictures, color, correct font size 12, and be presentation ready. Check for errors before you submit. It must be at least 15 slides.  Make sure your slides are:
  • Clean. Remove anything (headings, images, icons, template content) that does not support the idea you are trying to communicate.
  • Image-based. Try to only use pictures. If words are essential to getting your point across, use as few as possible Replace full sentences with short phrases or single words. Note: your slides are not your script.
  • Readable. If you're using words, pick large fonts and contrasting colors so all students can read everything easily and quickly.
  • Interesting. Stop using bullet points and explore the wonderful world of smart art. Check out free PowerPoint libraries for educators.
  • Slides with strong visual content are proven to improve recall. But they will only support the learning process if they are sufficiently decluttered to punch your key idea into your students' brains


Option C)
 Design your own assignment (action plan) with instructor’s prior approval (examples include doing a podcast, collecting data, journaling and assessing for at least 3 weeks, designing a project of your own. 


Assignment #13: (Required for 400 and 500 level)

(Please do not write this paper until you've completed all of your other assignments)

Write a 400-500 word Integration Paper answering these 5 questions:

  1. What did you learn vs. what you expected to learn from this course?
  2. What aspects of the course were most helpful and why?
  3. What further knowledge and skills in this general area do you feel you need?
  4. How, when and where will you use what you have learned?
  5. How and with what other school or community members might you share what you learned?


Instructors will comment on each assignment. If you do not hear from the instructor within a few days of posting your assignment, please get in touch with them immediately.


Brenda McKinney, CEO of Vancouver, WA based BrainVolution, is a developer and dynamic facilitator of workshops that teach practical thinking and learning tools for raising student achievement with the brain in mind. She has trained educators throughout the Pacific Northwest and is a popular presenter because of her ability to motivate, make things fun, and teach practical techniques for the classroom that can be used immediately. Brenda continues to read hundreds of books and articles on the subject of neuroscience and searches for the answer to success for every student. Her work with at-risk students and those with reading problems have made her a popular speaker at the state, regional and national level.

Brenda is able to synthesize the new research and continues to address the role of how to use the latest findings to create high achievement classroom. She brings 30+ years of experience at the elementary, middle school, high school and university level as a mentor teacher, consultant, motivational speaker, university instructor, and reading specialist. Brenda has her Master’s in Education from Washington State University and is nationally certified in Brain Based Learning through the renowned  Jensen Corporation, led by Eric Jensen, a noted international spokesperson for neuroscience and education.


Brenda will inspire and motivate you with her energy, enthusiasm and knowledge. Her wisdom, techniques, and brain based approach to education will inspire you and challenge you to meet the demands of this ever changing world.



MINDSETS IN THE CLASSROOM: Increase Student Achievement

Adams, Merilee, PhD. Teaching that Changes Lives. 12 Mindset Tool for Igniting the Love of Learning. Bernett Koehler Publications. 2013.
Marilee Adams, the originator of Question Thinking, presents a compelling model for creating a classroom environment infused with curiosity, creativity, and caring. Through a moving story of a teacher on the verge of burnout, Adams demonstrates the powerful influence our mindsets have on how we interact with our students, our colleagues, and ourselves. Through vivid examples, she illustrates how cultivating what she calls a Learner Mindset leads to breakthroughs in critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.  On the outside this book seems rather simplistic, but her idea of the listener and judger along with the life map really got my attention and helped me focus on the specific needs teachers experience in the classroom. I think all of you should read this book. It goes fast and is easy to read.
Coyle, Daniel. The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. Bantam Books. 2009. Everyone knows that practice is a key to success. What everyone doesn’t know is that specific kinds of practice can increase skill up to ten times faster than conventional practice. We all need a little motivation to get started. But what separates truly high achievers from the rest of the pack? A higher level of commitment or passion.  This is a good read for all teachers and provides the opportunity to think about what really fuels the commitment to find success and how you can help the kids adjust that mindset and get on this path.
Dweck, Carol. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Ballantine Books. 2007. Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success—but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset. She makes clear why praising intelligence and ability doesn’t foster self-esteem and lead to accomplishment, but may actually jeopardize success. With the right mindset, we can motivate our kids and help them to raise their grades, as well as reach our own goals—personal and professional.  If you haven’t read the book, please do. It is essential for every aspect of life. If you haven’t signed up for my course, please do. There is nothing like diving into the learning and coming out transformed. This book is the real deal. Views about learning and intelligence have changed. Growth mindset is needed for all of us whether we are in the classroom or not.
Medina, John. Brain Rules for Babies & Brain Rules.  Pear Press. 2014.  Dr. John Medina showed us how our brains really work—and why we ought to redesign our workplaces and schools. Tons of advice and practical information for ages up to 12.  Medina is delightful and the research amazing. He has an entire section on mindset. Let’s get started early. That is the key.
Ricci, Mary Cay. Mindsets in the Classroom. Building a Culture of Success and Student Achievement in Schools. Prufrock Press. 2013. When students believe that dedication and hard work can change their performance in school, they grow to become resilient, successful students. Inspired by the popular mindset idea that hard work and effort can lead to success, Mindsets in the Classroom provides educators with ideas for ways to build a growth mindset school culture, wherein students are challenged to change their thinking about their abilities and potential. The book includes a planning template, step-by-step description of a growth mindset culture, and "look-fors" for adopting a differentiated, responsive instruction model teachers can use immediately in their classrooms.
Ricci, Mary Cay. Ready-to-Use Resources for Mindsets in the Classroom: Everything Educators Need for School Success. Prufrock Press. 2015.
Ready-to-Use Resources for Mindsets in the Classroom provides educators with all of the tools they need to help students change their thinking about their abilities and potential. Featuring ready-to-use, interactive tools such as planning templates, letters for parents, pre-assessments, compare and contrast charts, online resources for parents, lists of books that teach perseverance, handouts that teach students about their brains, self-reflection checklists, surveys, and a unique study guide for the original book, this book is perfect for schools looking to implement the ideas in Mindsets in the Classroom quickly, easily, and successfully.  Probably more appropriate for elementary or middle school. Great additions if you are interested.
Tough, Paul. How Children Succeed. Grit Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character. Mariner Books. 2012. Why do some children succeed while others fail? The story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions to SATs. But in How Children Succeed, Paul Tough argues that the qualities that matter more have to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, optimism, and self-control.  Everyone should have read this book on developing grit and curiosity. I can’t recommend it enough.
Mindset website:
Mindset Works website:
Mindset book (Carol Dweck):
The Talent Myth by Malcolm Gladwell:
Eduardo Briceno TedX talk:
Pgs. 155-161, Mindsets in the Classroom
Excellent ideas. Check it out.
Practical tools. You will enjoy this one.