Growth Mindset

A key concept which shapes the ethos of our school is growth mindset based on the work of Carol Dweck. We believe the best thing to do is to teach children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning and asking questions. Rather than simply praising success we praise effort, persistence and positive attitudes to the frequent difficulties in the process of learning.

Have a look at the video below for some startling facts about how growth mindset works.

How does growth mindset work in reality?

A quote from Carol Dweck:

“In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”

This is important because (1) individuals with a “growth” theory are more likely to continue working hard despite setbacks and (2) individuals’ theories of intelligence can be affected by subtle environmental cues. For example, children given praise such as “good job, you’re very smart” are much more likely to develop a fixed mindset, whereas if given compliments like “good job, you worked very hard” they are likely to develop a growth mindset. In other words, it is possible to encourage students, for example, to persist despite failure by encouraging them to think about learning in a certain way.”

Pupils who have growth mindset:

  • Believe that intelligence is not fixed
  • Thrive on challenge
  • Throw themselves into difficult tasks
  • Are self-confident
  • Recognise intelligence can continually be improved through effort
  • Ignore the low aspirations of their peers
  • React to failure by trying harder
  • Engage in self-monitoring
  • Have learning goals
  • Like feedback on their performance so they can improve

Research shows only about 40% of students have a Growth Mindset.

People with a fixed mindset will only tackle things at which they are fairly certain they will succeed. People with a growth mindset will not only tackle any task, regardless of whether they believe they will succeed or not, but will feel excited by the challenge.

We can fix mindset through our language of praise:

  • “You learned that so quickly! You’re so smart!”
  • “Look at that drawing. Is he the next Picasso or what?”
  • “You’re so brilliant”
  • “You got an A without even studying! Well done”
  • “That’s amazing, you didn’t make a single mistake”“You have natural flair”

Remember that you are the product of your upbringing and education and you may have been brought up with a fixed mindset yourself.

Ask yourself honestly:

Do I believe I won’t ever be good at something?

Do I constantly compare myself to others?

Do I give up easily?

Do I make things easier for my child so they don’t risk failure?

Do I care about where my child ranks?

Do I praise my child for getting the best / top mark?

Do I tell my child how clever they are?

Do I reinforce their negative views (I couldn’t do maths, so it’s no surprise my child can’t)?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then don’t panic – it’s easy to change your mindset!

This approach links with how we mark work and give feedback too: we always mark giving ‘prompts for improvement’ in writing and ‘next steps’ in maths so that all learning for all children is seen as a way to grow. If children have fixed mindsets they find it hard to cope with failure: we teach our children to see mistakes and failure as positive. This makes for a very energetic and inclusive culture. It also has a really positive effect on our ethos and on how children approach learning and support each other.