The neuroscience behind Dweck’s work is uncontested, as is the vast array of evidence emerging from schools across the globe and in Scotland in particular. However, part of the confusion about mindset comes from a lack of depth of application and understanding of what the growth mindset seeks to address. Like any change initiative In isolation, a focus on encouraging pupils to adopt a growth mindset without a depth of systematic application will fail.
We need to view Growth Mindset as part of the approach to raising attainment within a school. It is not the panacea to every problem a school faces. It is not positive psychology taken to the extreme (false and meaningless praise) or praise for praise sake. It is not, as Dweck herself has written, about merely sticking up posters in school and encouraging pupils to parrot back ‘Not Yet’. A growth mindset approach requires mindset to be mapped and plotted out in a classroom in conjunction with all of the work underway across a learning community to drive improvement and educational attainment. From restorative and therapeutic approaches, assessment, nurture based interventions and critical focus on literacy, numeracy and well being – all are congruent with the core underpinning concepts of a growth mindset. All are vital cogs in the wheel of good teaching and learning.
The underpinning concepts behind mindset should provide teachers with a sharp laser focus on all of the activities that are happening across the school and in particular, feedback. We do have a problem presently with many of our pupils unable to deal with robust and constructive criticism. Therefore any work within the classroom environment such as peer learning and peer feedback should be applauded. Such approaches have been affirmed by the writings of Shirley Clarke, Dylan Williams and others. All recognised as leading within their field and based on evidence on sound pedagogic practices. Therefore, teachers should take a holistic view of mindset across all school activities to strive for a consistency of messaging about focusing on potential and effort rather than outcomes.
Too many of our children and young people are failing to achieve their full potential. We need to support our pupils (and indeed often their parents and careers) to develop resilience and promote positive mental health. We need to help them by encouraging task persistence and help them with effective strategies to deal with failure as well as being able to give and receive robust feedback. Failure to do so is tantamount to professional negligence. You only have to look at the enormous increases in demand for mental health service provision for children to see the need for earlier intervention with children and young people at risk of exclusion. Support on understanding their mindset and their future potential should be part of that response.
Effective teaching and learning are fundamentally about relationships and relational teaching. So, is growth mindset. Both are intrinsically linked and require a sophisticated and planned approach where staff, pupils and parents and carers work together.
We should seek to re-doable all our efforts to help all of our pupils understand their intelligence is not pre-ordained, critically challenging ourselves to have high expectations of all my pupils and ask – ‘Am I doing all I can to help my all of pupils achieve’?