Thinking and Growth Mindset

At Pen y Dre High School, we strongly believe that anybody can learn anything. There’s scientific evidence that the neural connections in the brain grow and become stronger the more you struggle with learning and correct your mistakes.  Based on research by Stanford Professor Carol Dweck and her colleagues, we know that students with a growth mindset - the belief that intelligence is not just something that you are born with - have higher levels of success than those with a fixed mindset.  Teaching our students about this concept has the potential to make them grittier, more positive, and more successful in their career and everyday lives. Growth Mindset is not a new curriculum but simply an approach to learning in school and life beyond.

Although most people will undoubtedly have a mixture of these mindsets in different aspects of their life, Dweck’s research highlights very important evidence that most teaching professionals instantly recognise in their class. From a practical point of view, staff recognise children with a fixed mindset who are scared to contribute to class discussion for fear of looking silly; who take one bad test result as a sign that they cannot do the subject those who 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.

What staff are doing at Pen y Dre

Penydre has a whole school approach to the development of growth mindset. Some examples of strategies are used to create a culture of growth mindset for students in their classroom and school:

  • Provide praise using effort-based language rather than product-based statements. For example teachers might say, “Great job! You spent a lot of time and practice on that and now you really improved and understand it.” This helps students attribute their success to effort rather than innate abilities. This works by focusing students’ attention on how they can change their behaviors and outcomes over time. 
  • Emphasise that learning is a process of mastering skills and allow opportunities to retake assignments or tests to reach mastery learning.
  • Help students to understand that errors are expected and ongoing practice is needed to become an expert. Sometimes we want to praise students for learning quickly but this can lead students to be discouraged when some other task takes more time. Remind students that mistakes are an opportunity to learn.
  • Explicitly teach students about the growth mindset and that intelligence, talent, and school performance can be improved with effort. Encourage students to use growth mindset language when they make statements such as “this is too hard.”
  • “YET” is the most common used word in the classroom.