How Middle Barton School has made growth mindset a whole-school approach

The concept of a growth mindset is not a new one, especially if you are familiar with the work of psychologist Carol Dweck.

But it was new to the children when we introduced the term in September. It shouldn’t have been new – we’ve never stopped telling our pupils do their best and work hard, which essentially, is what a growth mindset is all about. Only, there’s actually a lot more to it than a ‘gimicky’ assembly and a few motivational posters dotted around the classroom.

The growth mindset had to be a whole school approach for us. It came at a time when our greatest barrier to learning was not behaviour, poor attendance or inconsistency, but the passive learner. Those pupils who had a learned helplessness, who opted out of participating and had become disengaged with their learning.

We have been drip feeding language and messages of a growth mindset through discussion and activities: sharing the research on brain science with the children (about making connections in the brain to enable it to grow stronger) fascinated the children.

Creating displays about the growth mindset language and a board to celebrate our ‘minion mistakes’ has worked well. Giving children opportunities to choose their own level of challenge within maths lessons saw a class of previously passive learners fully in flow for an hour at a time!

And a challenge of a near impossible dance routine has got everyone involved – ‘Soci Baci Vera’ is our proof so far that a ‘can do’ attitude can help you overcome what was once an inconceivable daydream…

Although we are still in the early stages, the children are developing and using the language of growth mindset. (This was evident in a recent assembly where some of year 6 pupils shared presentations and cited a growth mindset as a positive attribute for a leadership role.)

The children are aware that being actively engaged in their learning is compulsory; they are choosing to opt in. Our teachers talk honestly about their own experiences of overcoming barriers and challenging expectations and the children relate to this. And of course, they love it when we make mistakes!

By teaching children to have a growth mindset we are empowering them to keep trying, to believe in their abilities and to develop a confidence in themselves in order to make excellent progress and overcome low expectations and stereotypes.

We teach them that progress is valued, that mistakes are celebrated and failures are essential in order to move forward. We are motivating them to want to do well and to understand that as long as they want to learn, there will be someone there to help them.