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How to make growth-mindset theory work in the classroom


“When I read the book Mindset by Carol Dweck, I kept turning the page hoping that she might start to tell me how to ‘do it’ in the classroom,” says Katie Walton, a teacher from Cambridgeshire. “But it didn’t happen.”

It’s a common experience. Dweck’s idea of a growth mindset – that intelligence is not fixed, but can be developed through hard work and support – is obviously of massive appeal to teachers. But strategies for implementing the theory in the classroom are hard to come by.

“Dweck offered some excellently argued theory, but how that translated to teaching was anyone’s guess,” Walton says.

Writing in the 31 October issue of TES, she explains that with nothing to go on, she developed some strategies of her own. She presents five practical steps that teachers can take in primary schools. Abridged versions of three of these tips are below.

Define the values and reward examples
Children should consider what values a school needs to have in order to inspire a growth mindset. Values that you should encourage students to aspire to include:

  • Making an effort in learning is important.
  • Making mistakes is helpful and not something to be ashamed of.
  • Feedback, including criticism from others, is important.

Make these values visible with posters and ensure that you reward students when they demonstrate them.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
Develop a shared understanding of what it is to be “stuck”. We often assume that children can deal with feeling stuck when it happens, but not all of them can and they will suffer in silence. This can start to turn them off learning and lead them to think about giving up. If children understand that we all get stuck at different times on different things, they will feel less alone and less “stupid”.

Prove that you can "grow your brain"
Teach pupils about the brain. In my school, we had an information afternoon and made “brain hats”. If the seeds of different mindsets come from differing beliefs about the brain, it is important to show children that what you are suggesting about growth is true. Prove it to them with age-appropriate neuroscience.

Read the full article in the 31 October edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents

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