Building a Growth Mindset

What Growth mindset looks like

Growth mindset is a term that describes the way in which people see their ability and intelligence. Children with a fixed mindset tend to think that intelligence is decided and unchangeable - if something is tricky or hard, then the best idea is to leave it and do something that they are good at instead. However, children with a growth mindset see challenges as a positive thing, because it means they are learning something new and getting better.

A growth mindset allows children to learn from their mistakes and find new ways of doing things. They learn from other people and collaborate to find effective ways to solve problems. The growth-mindset approach teaches us that children are not born with a natural talent which means they can achieve and be successful; there is a journey to success. Effort and hard work are key.

When we face a challenge, the brain makes new connections- the brain is actually growing through these new experiences. Children with a growth mindset are resilient and are not put off a task just because they do not immediately see a solution. As a school, we believe that these skills set children up for a love of learning and a successful life, full of new challenges, experiences and strategies.

Why it is important

A growth mindset develops desirable characteristics in your child - such as resilience, collaboration, effort, determination and the ability to problem solve. We want our children to show these kinds of traits throughout their lives - it stands them in good stead for whatever comes their way. As a school we want to see children applying these traits to their learning.

Our business is in growing brains, growing children’s abilities and helping them to develop into interested lifelong learners who are always ready for the next challenge or adventure. We see having a growth mindset as a gold-plated tool to help us achieve this.

Within each classroom in the there is a Growth mindset display. It shows children that when they are learning new things and experiencing challenges they move from ‘Stuck Island’ in to ‘Challenge Ocean’ with the aim of eventually reaching ‘Got It City’. ‘Stuck Island’ is a place of comfort, full of activities that children have already experienced and can already do. There are no obstacles and children know exactly what to expect. It is safe and comfortable but there is no excitement, no challenge and it is a little bit boring.  We therefore encourage them to move into ‘Challenge Ocean’ to reach their goals. Challenge Ocean can feel a little scary at first but that is ok. If children use growth mindset strategies and keep persevering, asking questions, learning through trial and error, eventually they will make it to ‘Got it City’ where they can feel very proud of their achievements and they are ready for the next challenge. 

How you can help develop growth mindset in your child

Model making mistakes

If children see that you embrace making mistakes, they will learn not to fear them. Mistakes help us to learn, because if we try again we can learn to avoid that mistake and use a different strategy instead. Celebrating mistakes as a tool to help us grow and learn, puts them in a positive light and helps to encourage children to be resilient and try again.

Celebrate positive role models

Point out people in your child’s life who have worked hard to achieve something good. Show children that it is effort, determination and hard work that result in success. Start conversations about your child’s favourite sports star, for example- there isn’t one athlete out there who has topped the league without a lifetime of effort.

A warning about siblings

When dealing with siblings, try not to place importance on rivalry and competition. Value the process of taking part in sports or activities rather than who gets the trophy at the end.

Language

Be careful about the messages you are giving your child. Saying things like, ‘You get your lack of coordination from me’ or ‘That’s too tricky for little boys/girls’ can lead to a fixed notion of what they can and cannot do, and they will fit into the picture you paint of them. It is a self fulfilling prophecy - if you aim high with the expectation that they can do tricky things, your child will inflate their effort to meet those expectations.

Praise

Praising children by saying things like ‘You’re a natural’ or ‘That’s so easy for you, well done’ can give children the impression that their success is down to their natural talent only- and it follows that if they don’t have that innate talent, they will be unsuccessful. Understanding how they can succeed is the key. If children only value praise for doing something successfully, they are likely to give up if they face difficulty in the future. Praising the effort or the strategy the used helps children to understand that hard work is the key to success, and that they can therefore be successful at anything if they work for it.

Books

  • The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. Perseverance and creativity are key to creating marvellous things, but what happens when things go awry?
  • Rosie Rever, Engineer by Andrea Beaty. Rosie learns a powerful lesson about success and failure in this adorable children’s book with a strong female lead character.
  • Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It by JoAnn Deak, Ph.D. Streeeeeetch your brain and learn new things with the tips in this children’s favourite.
  • The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett. What would it be like to never make a mistake? Beatrice Bottomwell is a perfectionist who must confront her very first mistake in this fun book.
  • What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada. Change your mindset about problems and you may find that nothing is as bad as it seems!
  • Thanks for the Feedback, I Think… by Julia Cook. Feedback, both positive and negative, can create growth opportunities. It’s all about how you handle it!
  • Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg. Teaching children that it’s okay to make mistakes is one of the most important lessons they can learn.
  • The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds. Creativity is on the rise in this adorable book that encourages children to embrace challenges that put them outside of their comfort zone.
  • Making a Splash: A Growth Mindset Children’s Book by Carol E. Reiley. Compare a growth mindset to a fixed mindset in this children’s book that addresses different attitudes and ideas about learning.
  • I Can Be Anything by Jerry Spinelli
  • Someday by Eileen Spinelli
  • You Be You by Linda Kranz

App

  • My Fantastic Elastic Brain

Recommended online resources