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Encouraging a Growth Mindset


At each of the campus commencement services for students and staff I shared a brief introduction to the work of Stanford University Professor, Carol Dweck regarding ‘mindsets’.

Dr. Dweck is a Professor of Psychology and her studies have revealed the incredibly powerful message about how intelligence strongly influences learning outcomes, positively or negatively, depending on our mindset. The studies outline the attributes and outcomes of two mindsets. A ‘Fixed’ and a ‘Growth Mindset’.  Each of these mindsets has an impact on the outcome of how an individual faces challenges in their learning, resulting from what they believe their ability to be.

For teachers, parents and indeed students this can have an enormous benefit to see each of us achieve our potential.

These studies have shown that students with a fixed mindset care about whether they are judged to be smart or not. This impacts their motivation to learn and often causes a lack of resilience. These students reject or avoid opportunities to learn, fearing that they might make mistakes. Having a focus on results alone creates vulnerability and discourages risk taking in student learning.

On the other hand, a growth mindset creates in students a love for and care about learning. This is developed through praising effort rather than intelligence or results, as these create a fixed mindset. How many times have we heard or used a phrase similar to, ‘you are so clever’ or ‘so smart’? If we would only say something such as, ‘I love the effort you are putting in to solve this challenge.’

You may recall that I included a 'screen shot' of the characteristics and the outcomes of each of these mindsets in an email that you received from me a few weeks ago. I encourage you to look at these with your children and share with them your thoughts on how this is such a good thing to focus on in learning. I am confident that the result will see greater motivation and resilience in our students. Please see below.

Through improving the communication with students about the process of learning and praising their efforts, we will see students growing in their ability to learn, as well as in their intelligence as they accept greater challenges and exercise their brains as a result.

At this very early stage in the year it has been very positive to see and hear of examples around our College where a ‘Growth Mindset’ is being encouraged. One simple example that comes to mind is the teacher who stamps any answer previously marked with a cross meaning incorrect, now writes a printed response of ‘Not Yet’! This is a simple, yet extremely powerful indication of the possibilities to create a growth mindset. If we could only all say ‘not yet’ to each of the challenges that we face.

Our College is moving to change the culture of learning to create one that places greater value on learning and the process of the learning over the traditional focus on ‘results’. This, together with creating ‘Growth Mindsets’ within the culture of our College, I am excited about the possibilities for all students to achieve a greater potential. As we work to introduce ‘in-time’ reporting to parents on student progress in 2016, we hope to see a great impact on the effectiveness of this feedback directly for each student.

I conclude with a beautiful story that was shared with me about a student in Year 1 travelling in the car with her parents on the weekend following the first week of school. Her father had failed to turn off at the correct exit of a roundabout. After some conversation about this with his wife, their daughter leaned over from the backseat to inform her dad that Mr. McKeeman had talked about this in assembly and that it was ok to make mistakes as this is how we learn. When her parents enquired more about what she was saying, the Year 1 student expanded saying that by learning from our mistakes we show that we have a ‘Growth Mindset’.

I am pleased that someone listens to me in assemblies!!!!!!!

Please take time to view this clip of DR. Carol Dweck outlining her study.  I trust that you find it interesting and challenging.

I look forward to a year of growth…...together.

Glen McKeeman


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