Over the last few years at Normand Croft, we have been learning about the theory of Growth Mind-set. The principles come from years of research by Dr Carol Dweck of Stanford University. Her research shows us that by learning about mind-sets, children can become more resilient and better able to overcome the learning challenges that they may face.
Learning about mind-sets improves children’s mental wellbeing and can increase their ability to learn. Children are taught how their brains work and how new connections are formed when new learning is practised and applied to new contexts. Children learn about famous and influential people who have achieved success through resilience and perseverance.
The principles of Growth Mind-set are incorporated into PSHE lessons and assemblies, and staff embrace the language and way of thinking that promotes these principles across all areas of school life.
Encouraging a Growth Mind-set is integral to everything we do at Normand Croft. Growth Mind-set is an approach to learning in school and in life generally. A child’s belief about intelligence and ability is an important factor in whether they become effective learners. We know that pupils who have a positive attitude towards their learning will feel successful in all that they do. Consequently, instilling all our pupils with ‘growth mind-sets’ has become a priority for us and it is now very much part of our school ethos.
We want all our pupils (and staff) to embrace their mistakes as part of the learning process, relish the challenges that are set for them and value the importance of effort and determination in order to improve in their learning and thinking. We strive to encourage children (and staff) to respond to feedback on their learning and take inspiration from others.
Carol Dweck and her research identified the characteristics of learners with a fixed and a growth mind-set.
We use the characters Mr Worry, Mr Bounce and Mr Muddle to help children relate to these different mind-sets:
Mr Worry has a fixed mind-set
- He worries about making mistakes and getting things wrong so he prefers to only do things that he finds easy.
- He thinks that he is not as clever as other people and is often scared to contribute to group or class discussion for fear of getting something wrong.
- He doesn’t like to try new things in case he is not very good at them and gives up easily.
Mr Bounce has a growth mind-set
- When he finds things difficult, he never gives up.
- He likes his work to be difficult because he knows it means he is learning.
- He loves challenges.
- He wants people to praise him for the effort he puts into his learning.
- He believes he can get more intelligent by working hard.
- He feels clever when he is learning something new.
- He learns from his mistakes and bounces back when faced with difficulties.
Like Mr Muddle, most people will have a mixture of mind-sets in different aspects of their life however developing a growth mind-set can help to remove invisible barriers to learning as children begin to realise that they can grow in their abilities through hard work, perseverance and practice.
Staff encourage a Growth Mind set through their everyday interactions with the children across the curriculum as well as through assemblies, stories and challenges.
The Impact of Praise on Mind-set
The vast majority of children love praise and respond well to it. Sometimes however, it can reinforce an expectation for them to ‘do well’, and ‘always succeed’ and this can cause children to struggle if they face a difficulty. Praise such as ‘wow, you have finished quickly…’ or ‘you’ve made no mistakes – brilliant…’ sends the message that speed, and perfection are valued.
Children often worry that achieving poorly in one piece of work or making lots of mistakes means they simply cannot and will not ever be able to master that skill or carry out that task.
You may see children wearing red ‘Mr Bounce’ hats or hear children and adults saying ‘Be like Mr Bounce!’ or I/you can’t do this… yet which are great signs that they are finding something challenging but are working hard to maintain a growth mind-set.
As a school, we avoid only praising intelligence and instead recognise effort and perseverance. This does not mean that we do not celebrate when a child does well – rather that we balance this with the importance of working hard and not giving up.
|Instead of …||Try thinking …|
|I’m not good at this||What am I missing?|
|I give up||I’ll use a different strategy|
|It’s good enough||Is this really my best work?|
|I can’t make this any better||I can always improve|
|This is too hard||This may take some time|
|I made a mistake||Mistakes help me to learn|
|I just can’t do this||I am going to train my brain|
|I’ll never be that smart||I will learn how to do this|
|Plan A didn’t work||There is always plan B|
|My friend can do it||i will learn from them|
Encouraging children to become confident and resilient learners – how families can help at home
We know that in order to fulfil the potential of our pupils and encourage them to become confident and resilient learners we, as a team of parents and staff, need to be modelling the mind-set of a learner who is not afraid of making mistakes but who thrives upon them, knowing that this is all part of the learning process.
The way in which we encourage children to learn and explore is vital to their success, not only at school but at home as well.
The good news is that mind-sets can be changed! This approach may be helpful in many areas of life, rather than just school. A key part of developing a Growth Mind-set is in hearing consistent messages from everyone, in all areas of life.
Praise effort, perseverance, motivation and strategies:
- Well done, you are learning to…
- You’re finding it hard? Good – it’s making you think – that’s how your brain is growing!
- Every time you practise, the connections in your brain get stronger.
- Be brave! Have another go! Maybe this time you could…
- You’ve worked hard on this and succeeded because…
- Mistakes are good…learn from them and think what to do differently next time.
Show an interest and ask open ended questions:
- Tell me about it, show me more…
- How did you do that?
- How many ways did you try before it turned out the way you wanted it?
Encourage your child to take a risk:
- Encourage your child to push themselves and see challenge as a positive part of their learning.
- Where possible encourage them to try things that they perceive as being ‘just out of reach’.
- Offer small but achievable challenges at home – don’t make everything too easy.
- Remind your child that we don’t learn many new things when we stay in our comfort zone.
Try to model a Growth Mind-set Yourself:
- Let your child know when you find something tough and talk this through with them.
- Try not to talk about yourself in a Fixed Mind-set way e.g. ‘I was just rubbish at maths at school and that was it’. This leads children to think the future is pre-determined.
Don’t worry about making mistakes:
- Accidents and mistakes happen – encourage your child to not be scared of these.
- Talk about what works and what doesn’t.
- When you do learn from a mistake – celebrate this!