At Holywell Primary School; children, parents, staff, and governors are all developing a Growth Mindset attitude to learning.
Many schools use superhero characters or cartoon animals to represent these positive traits, but after much research and discussion, staff and pupils in our school council voted to use real-life Animal Learning Powers. If these creatures depend on these traits for survival and success, then we can learn from them!
We have learned about each of these four animals in special whole school assemblies this year.
You may have heard your children talking about how they've been into "the pit" at school! These posters and others are displayed in all classrooms as visual aids for children and staff to talk about their learning journeys throughout the day. We want the children to understand that it is okay to be stuck and that some of their best learning is done when they find things the hardest. Rather than simply praising success we praise effort and persistence.
We believe that the best thing to do is to teach children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy the effort, and keep on learning. For children who find work easy, we make sure that they encounter more difficult tasks. Our children recognise that effort, persistence and good teaching are what help them improve.
The theory behind Growth Mindset is based on the premise that two types of mindsets exist that children and adults may possess, a ‘fixed’ mindset and a ‘growth’ mindset. Below is an overview of the traits of each:
I like my work to be easy
I don’t like to try a challenge
I want people to praise me for how clever I am
I believe I cannot change how clever I am
I don’t like to try new things because I won’t be very good at it
I give up easily
I never give up
I like my work to be difficult – it means I am learning
I love challenges
I want people to praise me for the effort I put into my work
I believe I can get more intelligent by working hard
I feel clever when I’m learning something new
I learn from my mistakes
It has been proven that having a Growth Mindset can improve children’s progress and attainment. As a result, we are teaching our children that by having a Growth Mindset they can grow their brains and intelligence and are more likely to achieve!
This approach links with how we mark work and give feedback too: we always mark giving ‘prompts for improvement’ in writing and ‘next steps / Now Try This’ in maths so that all learning for all children, even the most-able, 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. Children strive to improve their own personal best, rather than seeing coming top as the goal.
A quote from Carol Dweck, a principal researcher in Growth Mindset:
"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 and never look dumb. 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.”
How you can help at home:
Praise the amount of effort your child is putting into things rather than how clever they are;
Talk to your children about their brain is like a muscle - the more they use it, the stronger it gets;
Encourage your children to not give up if they are finding something difficult;
Challenge your children to try something new or challenging.
If you would like more information on Growth Mindset, please speak to your child, your child's class teacher or arrange an appointment with our Growth Mindset champion Mr. Stephenson.
Below is some further information about Growth Mindset and what it means to us at Holywell Primary School, including some examples of motivational quotes displayed around the school.
Your Fantastic Elastic Brain
This innovative and timely picture book teaches children that they have the ability to stretch and grow their own brains. It also delivers the crucial message that mistakes are an essential part of learning. The book introduces children to the anatomy and various functions of the brain in a fun and engaging way.
The Girl Who NEVER Made Mistakes!
Mindset in the classroom: Building a culture of Success and Student achievement in Schools. By Mary Cay Ricci
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
Mindset: Drive the Power of Habit from A Fixed Mindset to A Growth Mindset [Kindle Edition]
Anna L. Matthews
Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential by Dweck, Carol (2012)
Your Fantastic Elastic Brain Hardcover – December 13, 2010, by JoAnn Deak Ph.D. (Author), Sarah Ackerley (Illustrator)
Carol Dweck: The Effect of Praise on Mindsets
An interview and overview of Fixed and Growth Mindset.
Growth Mindset – Carol Dweck’s website