When staff at Brookhill Leys Primary School in Nottingham looked into why some of their pupils were not succeeding, they realised it was because those children were not resilient enough; they gave up too easily and avoided challenges. But assistant headteacher Michael Bradley believed that the culture of the school could be transformed by implementing Carol Dweck’s growth-mindset strategies. Here, he explains the steps he took to put the theory into practice.
1. Introduce staff to growth mindset
Although the leadership team was convinced that a growth mindset approach was what our school needed, I felt there was a danger that the rest of the staff might see it as a gimmick. That’s why I set out to build a coalition to lead the change and invited all members of staff to join an action research team.
Having introduced this group to the work of Carol Dweck, the teachers then carried out a mindset questionnaire with their classes. The results of this were startling – only 31 per cent of our pupils showed the traits of having a growth mindset. What’s more, a look at the current attainment levels of those who had been identified as having a fixed mindset showed that they were much further behind than their peers. In light of these results, the team was extremely supportive in developing a new culture of growth within the school.
2. Introduce pupils to growth mindset
In our launch week, we held a whole-school assembly about mindsets. We chose to focus on people who had shown traits of a growth mindset, taking examples from the world of popular culture and our own staff.
We then embedded consistent messaging across the school environment by putting up displays, holding a growth mindset logo competition and modifying our weekly celebration assembly to recognise growth-mindset learners.
3. Reach out to the community
If a change in culture is going to happen, you have to get parents on board. So, at the start of the project, we sent a letter to parents to let them know what they could do at home to help their children develop growth mindsets. We also held workshops and open mornings, so that family members could come into class to see pupils’ mindsets in action.
4. Link growth mindset strategies to teaching and learning
To maximise the impact on teaching and learning, we linked the introduction of each new growth mindset objective to an area of our school development plan. For example, when we focused on embracing challenges, we introduced a new system of differentiation in which students had the freedom to choose which independent learning challenge they wanted to undertake. In lessons, they were given flexibility to move on to a more challenging task if they were finding the work too easy or go to a less demanding task if they needed to build up their confidence.
5. Measure impact
A growth mindset culture can't be developed overnight, but our work has already had a big impact. After re-taking the mindset questionnaire in the summer term, an extra 44 per cent of children displayed traits of a growth mindset. Furthermore, data shows that those pupils previously identified as having a fixed mindset have made far greater progress compared to the previous year.
A concerted whole-school focus on developing a growth mindset culture can help pupils to develop a love for learning through encouraging them to embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks and see effort as they key to success. More importantly, it can have a lasting impact not only for individual pupils but for the whole school community.