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Fostering a growth mindset- don’t leave it to chance

Over the last few years, the work of Carol Dweck and others on Growth Mindset has become a popular addition to teachers’ toolkits with teachers, and rightly so. The concept of believing our intelligence is not fixed, that our brains are malleable and can get better at tasks with practice and that we can learn from our mistakes is an extremely valuable one, and when leveraged correctly, cannot only help improve student learning outcomes, but can set them on a positive trajectory for life.  

Many schools and their teachers are successfully embedding strategies to foster a growth mindset in their students, by normalising struggle, demonstrating mistakes and celebrating corrections, and changing their language to avoid praising intelligence, and instead encouraging perseverance and the trying of different strategies.  

There is the danger however in the school that espouses the importance of a growth mindset in its students yet doesn’t set out to intentionally establish a culture which actively promotes one.  

Simply using the same language in our teaching as before, while referring to posters on a wall that remind students to be resilient and enjoy the struggle during a difficult task, will not support them to develop a growth mindset- likely it will confuse or frustrate them, and cause them to wonder why their teacher isn’t stepping in to help like they usually do. 

Building a growth mindset in our students involves all the adults in our schools modelling and communicating about their own growth mindset. It means being truly reflective practitioners by sharing our successes and failures, and working collaboratively to emphasise the importance of getting help and finding solutions. It includes regularly talking with our students about the importance of and strategies to improve their mindset, and ensuring challenges are within reach of our students. And it means intentionally changing and checking our language to focus on process praise rather than product praise.  

If we can do these things consistently over time, we are well on our way to giving our students one of the greatest gifts we can offer them- the power of a growth mindset to see them through the inevitable challenges of school life and beyond.  

Check out other articles Kirsty has written here.