Developing growth mindsets at my school

Children need to be prepared for an ever-changing world.  The teaching of mindsets builds resilience, a desire to learn, to challenge themselves and to encourage others – all of which are necessary for children’s future success.

The teaching of growth mindsets has had a huge impact in my school: it has raised standards, built resilience and created a culture of collaborative learning in both the classroom and the staffroom.With Shirley Clarke's encouragement and support, I have written Growth Mindset Lessons  to share this journey with you.

My experience at Ludworth School

My own mindset journey began over seven years ago. I’m particularly passionate about learning and not placing limits on children’s learning journeys and was eager to turn this abstract concept into something practical and engaging.
In order for children to develop their awareness of mindsets and change their own learning behaviour, I believe it is essential that the concept of mindsets is explicitly taught and explored by children.

My objective was to ensure that mindsets run through every aspect of school like the lettering on a stick of rock. This takes considerable time and it was vital to have all staff on board, embracing the idea and valuing its impact.

Piloting my ideas with my Year 2 class

Initially, I piloted my ideas with the 6 and 7 year olds in my Year 2 class, with a series of lessons that explored the concept of the growth mindset. National data for Year 2 also allowed me to analyse the impact of the work.

To introduce the concept,  I wrote a simple story set in a school where children demonstrated the different mindset behaviours and shared this with the children. Follow-up lessons included discussions on how to support a child with a fixed mindset and about setting personal challenges to improve your learning behaviour.

We also reviewed our classroom practice, focusing on feedback. Initially, we felt that the culture of our classrooms supported children as incremental learners, yet we were finding that we had a growing number of children, in particular those who were ‘gifted and talented’, who would be classed as having a fixed mindset.

The next step was developing the feedback and normalising mistakes. We helped identify challenges for the children and supported them in identifying their own. Openly discussing mistakes we had made and supported the children to identify their own encouraged the children to see mistakes as a key part of the learning process.

The impact

It became apparent that all the Year 2 pupils’ mindsets changed considerably through this process, becoming much more aware of the way they approached learning and how to be more effective. We gathered evidence for this from lesson observations, teacher and parent feedback, the children’s responses to our questionnaires and from observing their attitudes in class. It is particularly interesting to note that the areas in which the children made most progress were areas where class teachers felt they were under-performing. Boys were more often engaged in writing and girls became more confident to have a go in maths. One girl, age 7, during the pilot in 2010 described her learning journey:

I am going to develop my brain by thinking it is OK to make mistakes. You need to not cry but think of the work that you have done when you were younger and see what progress you have made.

We received a considerable amount of anecdotal evidence from parents about the changes to their children’s learning behaviours, and the transference of growth mindsets from being a concept taught at school to one the children were using in everyday life is an indicator of the extent to which the children had embraced the idea.
My Year 2 pilot also created a buzz around the school; staff and children began to ask questions about mindsets and were eager to learn more. The following year, we introduced the concept to the whole school in a staff meeting. The pilot enabled us to learn from our mistakes and create resources to use in staff meetings. By the end of the year, children throughout the school were considerably more honest and open about their learning behaviour, as evidenced by the way in which they would happily and confidently discuss the aspects of their learning that they found hard.

Growth Mindset Lessons, by Katherine Muncaster, with Shirley Clarke, is out now. Learn more here.



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