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Growth Mindset Q&A


I keep hearing the phrase 'growth mindset' - can you explain what it actually means?

A mindset is a belief about who you think you are and will include different qualities such as ability, faith, personality and talents. People tend to have either a fixed or growth mindset. If an individual has a fixed mindset, they will tend to believe that qualities such as intelligence are unchangeable and will not alter massively over a person’s life time. On the other hand, if an individual has a  growth mindset they will believe that qualities can grow over time and will blossom.

So someone who thinks that intelligence or skill is something we're just born with and cannot change has a 'fixed mindset' and someone who thinks our performance at school and in life can be changed by our attitude has a 'growth mindset'. Right?

Absolutely. The key is that having a growth mindset is very much to do with how you approach a situation or challenge. For example, if someone decides to learn an instrument, and their first lesson is disastrous, they may then think that they simple cannot do it and should give up – this is a fixed mindset. However, if after the terrible lesson, the person leaves asking themselves what they need to do to improve the following week, this is an example of a growth mindset. A great acronym we use at school is FAIL – First Attempt In Learning. Just because you have not mastered something immediately, does not mean that you cannot, it just means you haven’t yet.

You mean, how much a child actually believes they can improve can actually affect the outcome?

Absolutely, as teachers, the key is to ensure that our feedback is consistent and that it is constructive, giving our pupils advice on how they can pursue their goals. I am sure that we can all think back to that one teacher who really believed in us and pushed us to gain results we first thought were not possible – that is growth mindset.

This sounds like it is all linked quite heavily with a child's self-esteem?

Self-esteem certainly plays a part in how pupils are open to new challenges and therefore how they approach their learning.

So resilience is important too?

100%. As a school we ensure that the girls’ self-esteem is nurtured every day and also through annual events such as our Resilience Day. The interaction teachers have with the pupils in the classroom, and the encouragement they receive to aim to be the best version of themselves, helps them to realise their potential.

So how should we praise our kids then?

Carol Dweck would say no, but before you worry that this means we can never again say positive things to our children, let me explain. Dweck says that if you praise a child for doing something but do not build upon that feedback, you could be leading that child towards having a fixed mindset. For example, if a pupil hands me an essay that she has written about Plato’s Cave, it reads beautifully, her knowledge, understanding, analysis and evaluation are all detailed and effective in answering the question, I would be doing the pupil a disservice if my feedback was simply ‘excellent’ or ‘good work’. It is our duty as educators to ensure that the pupil is given the guidance and opportunity to delve even further into her learning and give her the tools to have a genuine love of it through this.

So anyone can become Einstein?

Of course it is not about saying that someone who is struggling with something is going to become an expert in that field overnight, simply because they believe they will, but it certainly helps people to improve and grow. It's about accepting and facing challenges, changing your approach and believing that you can.

How does KC use this concept with pupils?

Every lesson, assembly, form time, club or activity that a girl attends, they are encouraged to accept challenges and push themselves out of their comfort zones. Resilience is a major part of what we aim to develop in our pupils and this has a massive effect on how they perceive themselves. Growth mindset is underpinned in all our departments across both the Prep and Senior Schools. As a teacher here, there is nothing more satisfying than working with a pupil who has really doubted herself and then who blossoms and becomes more confident.

Posted: 25/09/2017 at 09:27
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