Introducing the 'Growth Mindset'
Practising 'Growth Mindset' theory with children is a great way to get them engaged with subjects and activities that they try to avoid through fear of getting things wrong or "not being good enough.” Carol Dweck is one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation. She focuses on why people succeed and how to foster this success in schools. In her research on motivation and achievement, Dweck introduces the idea of Mindset. Practising growth mindset theory with children is a great way to get them engaged with subjects and activities that they try to avoid through fear of getting things wrong or "not being good enough.”
'Fixed Mindset' v 'Growth Mindset' in Children
Some children often say ‘There’s no point, I’ll never be able to do it’ or avoid doing something because they’ve failed at it in the past? Feelings like this can be related to what children believe about what makes them ‘good’ at something – whether it’s school work, sport, or even their ability to manage their emotions and behaviour. Some children give up on challenging tasks easily, or avoid tasks they’ve failed at before. They believe that being ‘good’ at a particular activity is a fixed state, and is something they can’t control. In psychology, this way of thinking is called a ‘fixed mindset’.
Others might bounce back quickly from failure and be more likely to explore how they can get better at doing something. They tend to be children who believe that you can improve your abilities by practising, or by finding a different way to achieve their goal. This way of thinking is called a ‘growth mindset’, and developing it can help make children more resilient for life. There are lots of small things we can do every day that help children develop a growth mindset. Most babies are excited to learn. However, as soon as children are able to compare themselves to others, some will stop focusing on learning and will instead focus on performance. Although no one likes failing, children with a growth mindset do not let failure define them; instead, they use setbacks to motivate them.
What is 'the Pit'?
There are lots of small things we can do every day that help children develop a growth mindset. Most babies are excited to learn. However, as soon as children are able to compare themselves to others, some will stop focusing on learning and will instead focus on performance. Although no one likes failing, children with a growth mindset do not let failure define them; instead, they use setbacks to motivate them.
You may begin to hear your children talking about how they've been into "the pit" at school! Below is the picture that will be displayed in all classrooms throughout the school and is a visual aid for the children to describe 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.
Teaching Children to Love Challenges
At Ladybridge we are trying to teach the children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning (even when they find work challenging).
This approach links with how we now also mark the children’s work and give feedback. We use a Tickled Pink and Green for Growth strategy which means that we always mark giving ‘prompts for improvement’ and ‘next steps’ so that all learning for all children, is seen as a way to grow. If children have fixed mindsets they find it hard to cope with failure: we are actively teaching the children to see mistakes and failure as a positive.
Wall of Excellence
Once we have implemented the principles of a ‘Growth Mindset’ in school we intend on putting these into action through a ‘Wall of Excellence’. The idea is very simple – a high impact display of excellent work. Not work that necessarily looks pretty, but work that is of a high quality and has been achieved by hard work and determination. Work that sets the standard of excellence and inspires other children to aim for that standard. Work that encourages the children to want to go ‘beyond their best’ Work that shows what can be achieved with hard work, effort and determination.
Pupils were presented with the challenge of creating a 'Mindset Motto'. The standard of enries was extremely high; the winning entry is below:
How Parents/Carers Can Promote a ''Growth Mindset' in Children
Below are a few tips and ideas that can help promote a growth mindset in children.
Set high expectations for your child: It is commonly believed that lowering our expectations promotes self-esteem in children (e.g. “never mind, let’s try an easier one”), but this is not the case. Having high expectations works like a self-fulfilling prophecy. It shows that you believe they can do it, which in turn has a positive impact on their own beliefs, behaviour and outcomes.
Encourage children to be resilient and not give up, even when they find something difficult or frustrating: We now know that the brain adapts to new information and practice by creating new connections, so help your child to believe that challenge is a positive thing because it means they are growing their brains! This can help them to be comfortable with the times that they struggle and means that they see this as a sign of learning.
Celebrate mistakes: The fear of making mistakes can stop children from giving something a go in the first place. We all make mistakes, so try to embrace these mistakes and use them as learning opportunities, rather than feeling embarrassed about them. If we are not making mistakes then we are not stretching ourselves.
Use inspirational role models: Think about your child’s favourite athlete, musician or teacher and talk about their journey to success. We call this unravelling the talent myth. If someone has done well we have a tendency to think they were born that way. We need to show our children that this is not the case. Rather than focusing on somebody’s ‘natural talents’, focus on their early efforts, strong work ethic, and the mistakes and learning that led them to where they are now.
How Can the Way I Praise my Child Help Develop a Growth Mindset?
It’s natural to want to praise children when they do something well, but we need to do this carefully. Research suggests that the type of praise that we use can have a big impact, and even positive praise can encourage a fixed mindset. Praising our children for ability, for example saying things like “you’re a natural!”, “you’re so clever!” or even “this is definitely one of your strengths!” can lead to the belief that being good at something is out of their control.
This focus on being ‘clever’ or ‘a natural’ or ‘being gifted’ might lead to children feeling good in the short-term, but awful when things don’t go very well next time. If children believe that they succeeded in something simply because they are clever, they can end up re-evaluating their abilities if it doesn’t go as well next time. Instead we need to focus praise on the effort they’ve made, the strategy they used or the outcome itself, saying things like “you’ve worked so hard on this, well done!”, or “you get better every time because of all the practice you’ve been doing.” This kind of feedback helps to develop children’s resilience to failure as it teaches them what to do when they are challenged or fail – try again, try harder or try a different way, all things that are within their own control.
Key Points to Remember for Parents/Carers
- Praise carefully – not for intelligence but for effort
- Encourage deliberate practice and targeted effort
- Encourage high challenge tasks to grow those brain cells!
- Discuss errors and mistakes and help your children to see them as opportunities to learn and improve
- Encourage family discussions about mindset and which mindset they (and you) are choosing to use
- Teach children to talk back to their ‘fixed mindset’ internal voice with a ‘growth mindset’ internal voice
Start by redefining the meaning of a few ordinary words…
The secret to getting smarter. The more targeted effort you put in, the more you’ll get out. You can help your children to focus their effort and attention, encourage practise. Regularly recognise this effort with effort praise.
Difficult and challenging tasks give the opportunity for growth. Create excitement with your children as they take on a new challenge and push outside of their comfort zone. Recognise each achievement and point out to them how much they’re learning.
Mistakes are a great opportunity to get feedback, to learn and to grow. Help your children to see that mistakes are feedback (not failure). They provide a great opportunity and motivation for growth. Recognise that when working outside of their comfort zone, they are likely to make mistakes that they can learn from.
A small and empowering word….YET…shifts thinking from a fixed to a growth state instantly, use it in conversation with your children. When you hear…
“I can’t do it”….rephrase and add ‘Yet’. “You can’t do it yet, is there anything I can do to help you?”
Or “I’m rubbish at this”….rephrase and add ‘Yet’. “You haven’t found the best way to learn it yet. What could you do next?”
Please click on the link below to download this information in booklet format: