Problem Solving and the Growth Mindset for Students

Help students learn about creative problem skills and how to overcome set-backs. Hear from Stockport residents talking about challenges they encountered in their first jobs and early careers and how they used this experience to grow. Introduce the importance of knowing about a range of study and career pathways in order to continue making progress towards your ultimate career goal, as well as outlining the importance of a Plan-B and how to create one. Help raise aspirations and develop the tools to build a growth mindset for students.

This lesson plan can be used for students of all ages to learn more about the challenges they may face as young people now and throughout their future careers and lives. It helps students to develop practical problem solving skills by identifying simple tactics, reframing their perceptions and making realistic plans to overcome setbacks.

Developing problem solving skills and the growth mindset for students

Learning Objectives

As you prepare to leave school or college, there may be problems or setbacks you face along the way. This could range from unexpected exam results or not getting the place you wanted, to feeling like you’ve made the wrong decision about your course or place of study. Don’t panic. Over the past few years you’ll no doubt have needed to develop essential problem-solving skills and resilience to help you face challenges and deal with change. If you haven’t, or you still need help tackling unexpected problems, we’ll discuss how to get started in building a growth mindset for students and problem solving tactics for your future.

In this lesson plan, students will learn:

  • How to cope with change and manage set-backs
  • How to use feedback and learning to build positivity and resilience
  • How to reframe obstacles and find solutions to problems

Teacher Guide

You can use the PDF lesson plan to deliver a targeted session lasting 30-45 minutes or break it down into smaller chunks to be used during form time, within a careers lesson or embedded within the curriculum in specific subject area.

Our suggested delivery for this lesson would include:

  1. Introduction (5 mins): Start by introducing today’s topic and key learning objectives. You could ask students whether they feel confident in solving problems and any common problems they have faced (big or small) in the past few weeks or months.
  2. Practical Problem Solving (10 mins): Explain that, throughout our lives and careers, sometimes things don’t go according to plan or meet our expectations. This can lead to feelings of disappointment, upset, anger, frustration, loss and despair, but everyone handles things differently. Talk about the recent years of COVID-19 and how all of us have had to deal with unexpected circumstances, which has helped us build resilience and flexibility. Ask students to think about how planning and preparation can help us to cope with change. Use the discussion points on slide 2, raise a flipchart or use the whiteboard to record their answers and reflect on some of the prompt answers on slide 3 to conclude the discussion.
  3. Coping with change (5 mins): Expand on the idea that making plans, and exploring how plans might change, can make us feel more confident when things happen that are outside of our control (such as a bad test result or not getting picked for the sports team). Explain how change can present new opportunities and encourage students to think about different ways in which plans might need to change.
  4. Reframing Obstacles (10 mins): How many of the reasons given for change are ‘negative’? Explain how people often consider change as a negative thing and introduce the idea of reframing obstacles to see the positive outcomes, using the examples on slide 6. Ask students to identify a situation that is coming up and the ‘worst thing’ that could affect this. Can they also think about the ‘best thing’ or outcome that could be achieved? Can they influence this outcome or is it beyond their control? What could they do instead if things don’t go to plan?
  5. Positivity and Resilience (10 mins): Discuss how staying positive and being resilient are key skills students should try to develop to help them cope with change. As a class, talk about the practical ways in which students can remain positive and help others during difficult times. What support is available at school, college, outside or further afield? How could these be promoted to the wider student community? Use slide 10 to summarize top tips for developing and demonstrating a growth mindset to help yourself and others.
  6. Summary (5 mins): Recap on what students have learnt about tackling challenges and finding solutions. Ask them each to name one tactic they are going to try next time they encounter a set-back.

Follow-Up Activities

After the lesson (or if you have extended the lesson into multiple sessions), you could ask students to complete the following tasks:

  • Research support services that are available locally or online to help with common student problems and offer support.
  • Create their own list of practical tips and techniques to overcome problems and stay positive. Can they share these with a friend or family member?
  • Find out about other inspirational people who have encountered set-backs in their careers. How have they overcome them?

Games, Activities & Worksheets

The following printable materials can be used during lessons or sent home with students as follow-up activities:

Individual Activity – My “Plan B” Worksheet

Plot out your ‘Plan A’, ideal route for future study and employment, then consider alternatives if things don’t go according to plan. Use our worksheet to explore back-up options that could help you reach the same end career goal via a different route.

Group Activities – Famous Failures Flashcards

Everyone makes mistakes so use our flashcards to look at some famous/successful figures and the set-backs, criticism or disasters they’ve faced during their careers but still one on to achieve career success. Ask students to create their own flashcards with mistakes they’ve made or potential issues they worry might be on the horizon. Discuss coping strategies and practice reframing problems as opportunities.

Bitesize Videos

View a short 2-3 minute clip to hear from local professionals talking about mistakes they’ve made in their early careers and what they learnt.

Daily Reel (15 min video)

If you need to deliver a shorter session to students, try our Daily Reel video on this topic. It focuses on what to do if things go wrong and the skills you’ll need to overcome setbacks and cope with change. It highlights the importance of making mistakes and how to reframe challenges using practical techniques such as planning, acceptance and self-care. It explains more about common student problems you may face and the advantages of adopting a growth mindset for students. 

In this 15 min summary, you’ll learn:

  • How ‘negativity bias’ affects our view of situations
  • How common problems present themselves in our everyday behaviours
  • Key support services where young people can ask help and support
  • Practical tips to overcome challenges and handle change

Useful Resources on Jobs & Sectors in Stockport

We’ve produced a range of tools to help teachers, careers advisors and students to help you navigate some of the challenges that you may be facing in the next few years. Use these articles and resources to prepare for your lesson or to signpost students to help them expand their knowledge and make informed decisions about upcoming job choices, available training pathways and future career options.

Test Anxiety

Test anxiety is a common experience for students, and it can feel like an insurmountable obstacle to success. The good news is that with the right strategies and mindset, you can overcome test anxiety and perform your best during exams. Check out our top tips for stress-free studying and conquering test anxiety.

Coping with Change

Starting a new chapter in your academic journey can be both thrilling and daunting. Check out our top tips for navigating these educational transitions, complete with insights on how to cope with change, build resilience, make friends, overcome loneliness, handle increased responsibility, and thrive in your new environment.

Having a Back-Up Plan

As you approach the end of school or college, it’s important to recognise that the road ahead might not always unfold exactly as planned. While setting ambitious goals and pursuing your dreams is crucial, it’s equally important to have a well-thought-out Plan B in your arsenal. Find out how to make one so your career goals stay on track.

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