What is a Growth Mindset and How can it help children? A guide for teachers and parents.

Have you heard about ‘GROWTH MINDSET’?

What is it exactly?

How can it help children in their education?

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In 2006 an American Professor named Carol Dweck from the Department of Psychology at Stanford University wrote a book entitled ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success’. In it she categorised people as displaying, according to how they view learning, either a FIXED MINDSET or a GROWTH MINDSET.

Fixed-mindset individuals believe that their intelligence is a fixed trait. They dread failure because it is a negative statement on their basic abilities.

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Growth mindset individuals do not mind failure as they believe that their performance can be improved and learning comes from failure. In this respect intelligence is a learned trait.

The reason that this has impacted on education is that it is felt that having a ‘Growth Mindset’ ethos in a school can impact significantly on how children achieve.

For example, if we give children praise such as ‘You are a very clever student. Well done!’ Then children will develop a fixed mindset about their intelligence. However, if we say, ‘You worked really hard on this. Well done!’ Then children learn that they can work to achieve greater intelligence. So, they equate intelligence with working hard rather than it being a fixed genetic acquisition.

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From something so simple. it is easy to see how this can have a huge impact on children’s learning.  A school or educational centre which uses a Growth Mindset approach to teaching and learning can thus encourage students to persist even if they fail at some points of their education. It really does significantly improve their progress and attainment.

In my teaching I use the growth mindset idea in the following ways:

I give frequent formative feedback

This is to ensure that students are acutely aware of their strengths and areas for development.

 I challenge every student

I challenge students to be the best, I have high expectations of all my students and encourage them to take a leap of faith, even if that means failing a few times.

I welcome mistakes

It is vital for students to be provided with a safe and secure environment in which failure is accepted without criticism or humiliation.

I reward effort more than attainment

I praise my students all the time based on their effort. I further endorse this by using lots of reward points.

So, what can parents do to encourage a growth mindset?

  • Praise the amount of effort your child is putting into things rather than how clever they are.
  • Talk to your children about their brain being like a muscle – the more they use it, the stronger it gets.
  • Encourage your child not to give up if they are finding something difficult.
  • Challenge your child to go out of their comfort zone and try something new or challenging.
  • Tell your child that failure is what makes us better at something.

Further information can be found on Carol Dweck’s website and her book “Mindset: How you can fulfil your potential” is available in most book shops and online


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