Category: Growth Mindset

Growth Mindset – mistakes are good!

I tried something new today with a class I’ve only seen a few times, and, well, it took a while for them to get where I wanted (well almost there). In fact, there were many pupils who simply said I don’t get it (even after reframing the task a number of times), or said they couldn’t do it, they just couldn’t. There was even one girl who was in tears, not with me I might add, but just the frustration of, as she put it, ‘being rubbish’ and not being able to do the exercise.

The fear of failure and making mistakes was evident. If Einstein had listened to his teachers he would never have gone on to conceive the thoughts he had about Science. But he didn’t. His growth mindset meant he could look stupid, and fail, and make mistakes, but also provided an opportunity to develop new strategies, theories and ways of achieving better results.
So how do you harness the power of mistakes:

1. Normalise mistakes – students need to experience failure in a safe environment so they know they are a normal part of life and there’s not need to be embarrassed about them, or try to cover them up.  Rather, it’s a natural experience from which they can learn. So, develop a process that makes mistakes feel routine. Annie Brock gets her students to have ‘great mistakes’ which lead to new learning, and ‘Mistake Mechanics’ that unpick their thinking by looking under the bonnet (brain).

2. Value mistakes as learning opportunities – some teachers seize on particularly ‘wrong’ answers that students might have given (do this carefully though) and then get the whole class to analyse what was good about it (firstly), and then what the mistake was, and how it can be corrected. Again this normalises mistakes.

3. Coach them through mistakes – we want students to fix an issue themselves, so they really learn from the mistake, by working through it. So how do you do that?
a. Well, ask open ended questions beginning with ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’.
b. Get them to ask 3 other students first before they ask you for help.
c. Get them to reflect on what’s happened and talk through it with a partner.
d. Get them to think before a task about possible obstacles/issues/problems/misconceptions.

So, go on, make a mistake, and enjoy it!


The Pupil Growth Mindset Plan

Carol Dweck notes the importance of writing a plan in order to develop a student’s Growth Mindset. By creating a plan and visualising how you will carry it out, it helps to foster and encourage a Growth Mindset when faced with failure or a negative situation. Attached is a PDF that school staff can use to produce a Growth Mindset Plan for Learning (which you could easily adapt to create a plan that addresses a particular problem too). There is also an example KS4 Growth Mindset plan to give you an idea of what a completed plan might look like, and this can easily be tweaked for a KS2 class too.

As you’ll see from the PDF, there is a focus on self-talk. These inner voices can have a profound effect on whether we are going to be successful or not on a particular task. This private dialogue works hard to organise thoughts, regulate behaviour and develop self awareness.

Self talk is critical to managing mindsets. Pupils need to know what type of mindset the inner voices are, and then reframe them, if need be. In fact, Dweck actually thinks naming a Fixed Mindset is a good idea. When it appears in a person’s mind (for example, ‘you’re not good enough to be able to do that too!’), the student can respond by thinking, ‘fly away Freddy Fixed Mindset’, or something else the pupil has created. By personalising the Fixed Mindset, it is being acknowledged as a concern, but then is being put aside so the learner can move forward.

Happy coaching!


My Growth Mindset Plan for Learning

My Growth Mindset Plan for Learning KS4 example

What’s better than praise?

Coaching a Growth Mindset is key in unleashing a student’s potential and motivating them to believe in themselves, and that they can achieve anything. According to Dweck, a better way to praise is through process praise rather than person praise. The latter focuses on inherent qualities and traits like intelligence which pupils generally think is inborn, and not necessarily to do with effort. Process praise is about effort, and the strategies and actions that contributed to the success of the task. So, instead of saying, ‘you’re brilliant at this’, you could say, ‘I like how you used different strategies to figure out the problems’.

But what’s better than praise? Dweck maintains that teachers and parents overpraise anyway, and a better way of coaching a Growth Mindset is not to praise after the work has been done, but to interact with the pupil as the work is being done. She says, ‘Appreciate it. Ask questions. If we see that a child is using interesting strategies we can ask about them. Talk to them about their thought processes, how they learn from their mistakes.’