Growth Mindsets

I intend drip-feeding you information about growth mindsets over the next little while and this dripping will, I imagine, culminate in some kind of workshop for those of you who might be interested.

Just for today I’d ask you to consider two pupils. George and Geoff are friends, have similar levels of achievement and do similar things outside of school. One day they are given an interesting task that is well-pitched and challenging.

George gets going with gusto. He’s good at this sort of thing and likes the fact that he has a reputation for getting things right, and fast. He does find the task unusually difficult however and quickly becomes dispirited with it, worrying that the other pupils will think he is coming across as slow. He dismissively tells the pupil next to him that he thinks the task is boring and he disengages from it and shows others he is not trying.

Geoff gets going with gusto. He enjoys this kind of thing because he likes working things out. He finds it tough and begins to enjoy himself- his intellectual curiosity is aroused. His first attempts lead nowhere and he laughs to himself when he finds he is going down a blind alley. He tries a new strategy and talks it through with a couple of classmates. He is tenacious and begins to make progress with the task.

Where do George and Geoff’s mindsets come from? Research would indicate there are two key factors:  the way we give feedback over time and the way we over-value self-esteem. George has been praised for getting things right and quickly—‘clever boy.’ He now does things in measured proportion to the praise he receives. People have been effusive about his every action to help him develop positive self-esteem. Geoff on the other hand hasn’t received a great deal of praise- instead it has been noted and commented on when he has worked hard and people have shown an interest in what he is doing. People have encouraged him to value effort over easy success and take an interest in problems as intrinsically interesting.

I hope you’ll agree it is worth pausing to reflect on this research. In school we will be looking carefully at how we talk to pupils and in particular how we respond to their efforts.