Growth Mindset


At Barrington we encourage pupils to develop a Growth Mindset. This is not a new curriculum but simply an approach to learning in school and life beyond. Research by Developmental Psychologist Dr Carol Dweck points to people having one of two mindsets: Growth and Fixed. We all hold beliefs about concepts such as ‘intelligence’, ‘ability’ and ‘personality’, with roughly half of us holding a ‘fixed’ mindset and the other half a ‘growth’ mindset.

Children with a fixed mindset can be scared to contribute to class discussion for fear of looking stupid; who take one bad test result as a sign that they cannot do the subject, are going to fail and therefore give up; who will not try anything new for fear of getting it wrong; who will persevere with the same approach to their learning even when it is not working rather than being creative and finding a different solution.

Developing a Growth Mindset is designed to remove such barriers to learning as the children realise they can grow their ability rather than being told they can. To help support an open mindset, we aim to praise children’s effort, process and commitment rather than talent or intelligence.


Helping your child to develop a growth mindset


Five quick things you can do to help develop a growth mindset in your child:

1. Ask open-ended questions to solve a problem or achieve a goal.


“What do you think will happen if....” or “Why do you suppose....”. These questions build logical thinking skills and often lead to rich discovery.


2. Use specific feedback that identifies what the child accomplished.


We all use phrases like “You’re brilliant”, “you made that look so easy”, “you’re so clever”, but praise like this doesn’t tell your child what they have done well – these comments just reinforce a fixed mindset in your child. Instead, praise what they have done specifically – “you sounded that work out really carefully and used your phonics – well done”, “I like how you kept going at swimming and tried to get all the way to the other side”.


3. Encourage children to take a risk


Watch and listen to your child so you can take cues about what else they are ready to tackle. Vygotsky calls this the “zone of proximal development” – when we gently nudge children to use what they know to try something just a bit out of their reach, but yet developmentally appropriate. By offering small but achievable challenges, confidence and persistence emerge.


4. Be persistent and growth-orientated yourself


Narrate your thoughts as you try something new or frustrating (with a PG-rating, of course!). Your child may even be able to offer some helpful tips. This allows children to see we all have to work hard to solve problems and we all continue to learn new things. Try to avoid labelling yourself in a fixed mindset way – telling your child “oh I’m rubbish at Maths” gives them the message that you are either good at Maths or not good at Maths and there is nothing you can do about it. A more growth mindset comment would be “oh I found Maths tricky at school but if you keep trying and learning from your mistakes, you’ll get there”.


5. Don’t worry about the small stuff


Accidents and mistakes happen. Show your child there is something to be learned when we don’t achieve what we set out to accomplish. Maybe someone else lends a hand. Maybe you return to the task at another time. Maybe it is best to take a break for a while, or split a task up into smaller steps. Be specific about what worked, identify the emotions involved, and offer encouragement for the next time.

Fixed Mindset
• Intelligence and ability are fixed
• Nature determines intelligence and ability
• I have an innate ability for some things and an innate disability for other things
• I will always be good at, for example, Maths, and always be poor at, for example, Art
• Prove myself
• To succeed, especially with little effort, as this proves that I am clever and/or able
• Avoid failure of any sort, as this proves I have low ability levels
Attitude to Challenging Learning
• Challenges should be avoided
• Difficulties will mean I am not as clever as I thought
• Failure means I’m stupid or incapable
Praise which encourages a fixed mindset
• You’re a great writer / footballer / artist
• We are so proud that you got X marks
• You did that so easily – what a bright spark you are
• You’re really talented
• Don’t worry I was never good at Maths at school
Growth Mindset
• Intelligence and ability can grow
• Nurture determines intelligence and ability
• If I apply myself more, seek help, take risks, change my strategy, then I’ve got a good chance of learning anything and thus growing my intelligence and talent.
• Improve myself
• To learn through challenge, as this will help me to grow my talents
• Seek interesting challenges that will stretch and help me learn
Attitude to Challenging Learning
• Challenges will help me learn
• Difficulties are an inevitable part of the learning process
• Failure means I need to adapt my strategies
Praise which encourages a growth mindset
• It really shows when you work hard at your writing / football / painting
• The effort you put in makes us so proud • You tried so hard – I can see that
• That was tricky for you and you kept going – well done
• Let’s look at those mistakes – they’re a real chance to learn
• You did that so easily – maybe it wasn’t enough of a challenge
• You can’t swim yet, but if you keep trying, you’ll get there
• I found Maths tricky at school but I needed to keep going and learn from my mistakes