Helping all children become happy learners
Believing that you can always improve and become better at anything you try; is what having a growth mindset is about. The opposite is a fixed mindset, where you feel that your talents, skills and cognitive abilities are determined and that there is little you can do about it. Someone with a fixed mindset will accept fate and believe it is down to luck whilst a person with a growth mindset sets out to change their fate and make their own luck.
Helping everyone to develop a growth mindset is perhaps the most important lesson that can be taught in schools. Those with a growth mindset will be more motivated to learn, more willing to take on challenges and more resilient to failures and setbacks.
What happens when a student gets something wrong in front of their peers? How do staff react? How do peers react? How does the student feel?
It is essential to develop a school culture where everyone accepts that getting things wrong is a normal, inevitable part of learning. Ensuring that students quickly recover from any negative feelings, such as embarrassment, is necessary if they are going to continue to want to volunteer answers and avoid any anxiety about doing so.
Teachers who model mistakes and own up to genuine mistakes are helping to communicate that 'to err is to be human'. Avoid labelling mistakes as 'silly', 'stupid' or 'forgetful'. These labels communicate an inadequateness about the individual which can undermine learning confidence. Better to keep it simple:
'Looks like I made a mistake here, anyone see what I need to do to correct it?'
Some students are extremely sensitive to failure. This may reflect life experiences that are outside the sphere of learning and school. Whatever, the cause they may need their mistakes shielded from their peers. 'Saving face' is essential for them and so staff need to be discreet in how they communicate mistakes.
'This is great so far but I'd like you to look at this section again.'
These students may also lack learning resilience and may need further support to avoid giving up.
'Let's try and make this even better. I want you to change/revise this and think about the following...'
Not achieving the impossible
What would happen if you gave your students an impossible task to do? What would they learn? How would they cope with the failure?
Developing resilience to failure is essential. If students are going to be able to take on difficult and challenging problems and work through a number of possible solutions before finding the correct one they will need stamina. This is important for all students but particularly the most able who may often have found tasks easy.
Devote a whole lesson to exploring an impossible task and discussing what the students have learnt about themselves as learners.
How lucky are your students? Do they consider themselves fortunate or not? What is the basis of their comparison?
There are very few successful people who have not benefitted from a little good luck along the way. However, no one becomes successful by just being lucky. It is about having the knowledge, skills and attributes that enable a successful person to make the most of a fortunate event. If you don't have this then the event does not lead to success. In this way, 'successful people create their own luck'. For students, there are two important lessons regarding luck.
First, is to see themselves as already lucky. Whatever a student's circumstances they are always better off than someone else. And if you tracked the most disadvantaged individual on the planet they would still be luckier than many who have lived before. So students need to avoid comparing their situation to those who are better off and instead compare it to those less well off.
The second lesson, is to realise that they have the power to create their own good luck. They can achieve this by taking positive action to ensure that they are ready and able to take advantage of every good chance that comes along. This is about having ambition and putting the effort into acquiring the knowledge, skills and attributes they will need to realise their dreams.
Invite Positive Criticism
How do your students perceive your lessons? What do they say that they get out of them? How are these lessons helping them to achieve their ambitions?
Students are more motivated in lessons they feel are relevant to them in some way. This can be simply because they enjoy them or because they feel that they are getting something useful out of them. Where neither of these apply students are more likely to be easily distracted; lacking in engagement and effort; and generally not achieving their potential.
Growth Mindset Scale
This assessment resource has ten statements that help to determine whether an individual has a fixed or growth mindset. Instructions for scoring attached.