Common Misconceptions when Creating a Growth Mindset Culture
In education, there are plenty of buzz words. Gemma Sanchez discusses why ‘growth mindset’ is not just a fad but an ethos for the whole school, from the caretaker to the head.
One thing both myself and Liz can say about ourselves is that in our teaching careers, whenever we attended training courses and left being inspired by what was delivered, our notes and handouts were rarely allowed to gather dust, falling back into old habits and viewing the handouts as ‘more work’, or heaven forbid a need for us to change our teaching methods. We always wanted to get stuck in straight away, full of enthusiasm and gusto.
I guess, looking back, we were already showing an invitation to developing the growth mindset, striving to become the best version of our teacher selves. Subsequently, after attending Growth Mindset training in Manchester hosted by Jackie Beere, we quickly recognized the need to further develop our own knowledge but also plan how this would work in reality. What would a true growth mindset classroom or school look like, feel like, sound like?
As the concept of Growth Mindset began to emerge into the world of classroom resource websites and social media, there raised a concern within us, that some teachers and schools who were declaring to be ‘growth mindset’, were only scratching the surface of the concept, or in some cases were magnifying a fixed mindset approach to learning without even realising.
As we soon realized, as middle leaders, growth mindset is not a quick fix or tick box exercise concluding with a few staff training sessions, PSHE lessons for the children and some inspirational posters. A true growth mindset culture or ethos is much more than this. It’s a holistic approach were everyone, caretaker to head teacher walks the walk and talks the talk.
With mental illness on the increase and recent research proving that a growth mindset can reduce and prevent symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression it’s imperative that schools who are on the journey get it right and don’t allow it to become last terms initiative. Here are the 5 common misconceptions/mistakes to be aware of:
Starting with the children.
We have seen many schools and have already spoken to some this year who’s intention is to jump head first into introducing growth mindset to the children. Instead, it is vital to first ask staff to reflect on and develop their own mindset. This will have a greater impact on the children’s development in the long run as well as creating a supportive environment for all those involved. This doesn’t however mean handing each member of staff a copy of Carol Dweck’s book but setting aside regular time with staff to support and inform them in developing and reflecting on their own mindset via high quality CPD.
When staff have a deep understanding of the positive and negative roles of mindsets, they can better support each other and their pupils to shift their thinking. As new staff members join, they will need quality time with a coach to help them get to speed with the concept.
Using meaningless phrases
The words we speak impact massively on the mindsets of both the pupils and our colleagues. The same way that positivity can breed positivity, negativity can also feed negativity. Telling your class that they can’t do it ‘yet!’ doesn’t mean that they will necessarily be able to do it tomorrow. The learning between attempts, changing strategies or time to practise the skill is what children need to be aware of. Saying the word doesn’t way a magic wand it simply becomes ‘I still can’t do it….yet!’. Using phrases such as ‘Change your words, change your mindset’ also has its faults. Some would argue that this is in fact back to front – it is only when your change your mindset to become growth oriented that your words and actions naturally follow. It’s all about actions and role modelling. Words have very little meaning unless they are acted upon.
Praising outcomes not progress
Far too often, we praise children for getting things correct or for being speedy learners. This doesn’t mean that a child has a growth mindset. In fact, it could mean they are not being challenged enough or that they’re rushing for fixed mindset reasons, such as wanting to look smart.
There seems to be a misunderstanding that as individuals we are either fixed mindset or growth mindset. In fact a popular display in schools holds the title ‘Which mindset are you?’
We are, in fact all a mixture of both mindsets. We’re all born with a growth mindset and our life experiences and the environment in which we grow up causes us to develop fixed mindset triggers. Our reaction to and attitude towards challenges, mistakes and feedback determine the progress we make. As we become more familiar with what causes these triggers, we can begin to embrace them and put into place practices and structures that allow us to retrain our brains to become more growth oriented. This journey requires us to be more honest and open about our fixed mindset triggers in order to develop a more consistent approach in school.
Not involving your community
This includes parents, governors, office staff and lunchtime supervisors. Every single person who works with the children in your school should be given the opportunity to be involved in the development of your growth mindset culture. In fact, they are of huge importance to its success to develop consistency of language, behaviors and actions that the children receive the same messages throughout the day, both at home and at school.
We think you’ll agree that Growth Mindset is not a fad and isn’t going away. Mindset has been around since the dawn of human existence, yes Carol Dweck coined the term Growth and Fixed Mindset but it has always been part of our make-up. Make a positive change in your school and more importantly for yourself making sure you’re developing growth mindset to have the biggest impact, one were it doesn’t become last terms initiative in 6 months time.