Tag Archives: mindset

Shareday Friday – What does ‘Growth Mindset’ look like in schools?

‘Mindset’ is the new buzzword in education. I’m not going to explain what mindset is in this blog so if you need a refresher about Mindset then check out these articles:
Why Mindset is important for teachers and schools,

What Russian tennis tells us about talent and
Expert in a year.

But, what does a ‘Growth Mindset’ look like in schools?

When you are thinking about developing mindset in your classroom or your school the first important point is that it is about creating a climate. Developing a growth mindset in students helps in developing resilience and creating independent learners. In a world where we are educating children for jobs that don’t yet exist, educating children to work with technologies that have not yet been created, we have a duty to create adaptable individuals who have a capacity for learning.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” – William Butler Yeats

In order to develop climate everybody needs to be on board. The first part of developing a growth mindset then is to include as many people as possible in the project. If you genuinely want to be working on developing a growth mindset culture in school then there is going to be work to do with teachers, assistants, dinner ladies, governors, parent helpers – anybody involved with the school. If everybody is working with the same purpose when they interact with the students then we begin to create the culture in which growth mindset can thrive. Let’s take a look at practical ways adults can support the development of a growth mindset in schools.

Five behaviours of adults working to develop a growth mindset culture in schools

1. Intelligence isn’t fixed.
All of the adults in school need to buy into this idea that intelligence is something that we can develop and learn. The students need to see that we believe that intelligence isn’t fixed because  ultimately, that is what we need the students to understand.
I heard of one headteacher who illustrated this each year by starting his first assembly each September by introducing his own planned learning goal for the year. One year he stood in front of the school and unwrapped a package delivered over the Internet. Inside was a gleaming saxophone which he then proceeded to put together whilst explaining how he had always wanted to learn to play the saxophone. His first attempts produced only a discordant drone. He had cheerfully set himself up to fail in front of the whole school. His final assembly that academic year was his demonstration of what daily practice could produce as he stood before his school and played a selection of pieces on his saxophone. Is there a better way of demonstrating that you as an adult buy into the notion that “intelligence isn’t fixed”.

2. Plan lessons with multiple routes
I’m not talking about differentiation here, or even learning styles, but genuine choice. How can you open up your lessons so that students can explore? The phrase “low threshold, high ceiling” should be the lesson planning mantra. We need everybody engaged from the first minute but there shouldn’t be a cap on the learning. How can you make sure that children can go beyond your expectations with their learning?

3. Students need to be involved in self-assessment and in choosing their own targets
I have recently seen some fantastic examples of this taking place in classrooms. Students peer marking, identifying positive points and suggesting ideas for development. This is then followed by the student that produced the work responding to the marking. Students need their own targets but they need to know what they are trying to achieve.
I was interviewing last week and during an interview the candidate asked “Do you WAGOLL at your school?” I imagined myself walking down the corridor quickly and thought that maybe some days it did look like a waggle as I tried not to be seen breaking the “no running in the corridors” rule. When I asked her to clarify she introduced me to “What A Good One Looks Like” as a whole school initiative. Do the students always know what they are trying to achieve? In her school they did as students even asked cover teachers to “WAGOLL” and students expected to be shown what they were intending to achieve. What a simple but easily applied idea to ensure students are involved in directing their own learning.

4. Praise effort, not outcomes
The culture in education has become very focused on outcomes. I think this is a worldwide toxin that has crept into the education system. I never knew levels when I was at school (which is a reflection of my age rather than the way teachers worked) but I do recall regular commentary on effort and learning. Celebrating the achievement of a level, percentage or target focuses on the fixed mindset. It implies that we have reached a destination and also serves to reinforce the concept of a fixed intelligence. Celebrating the effort has the opposite effect. It lifts pupils to realise that with effort they can improve which is the core purpose of creating a climate of growth mindset in schools. Take a look at this video to understand the effect of praise on developing a growth mindset.

5. Have a growth mindset with regard to your own teaching
Do you consider your own teaching skills to be fixed? Are you the expert in a subject area in the school? How can you step out of your comfort zone and be a reflective teacher constantly searching for ways to improve? One way to encourage a growth mindset in respect to teaching in schools is to use peer observations. As in point three above, teachers need to be involved in setting their own targets for improvement. But, teachers also need to know “what a good one looks like”. Is your climate in school such that teachers can walk in and out of each others classrooms gathering ideas for how to improve? If not, how can you set about creating that type of atmosphere in the school?

There are many other ways in which schools can move towards creating a climate that supports development of growth mindsets in their students but the above ideas are important first steps.

Below is a reading list of books that explore growth mindset. As well as providing a clear explanation of the mindset theory they also provide inspiration as to how mindset can be applied in schools.

Top 5 reads if you want to create a climate for growth mindset in your school

1. Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential by Carol Dweck
This one really is the “how to” on mindset. It is easy to read and essential for any schools considering a mindset approach.

2. Mindsets in the Classroom: Building a Culture of Success and Student Achievement in Schools by Mary Cay Ricci
This book takes the work of Carol Dweck and explains practical ideas for using that in the classsroom.

3. Growth Mindset Pocketbook by Barry Hymer
A quick overview of growth mindset in an easy-to-read small format book. Ideal for lending to colleagues who need an overview of mindset in an accessible form.

4. Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice by Matthew Syed
A look at growth mindset in action.

5. The Talent Code: Greatness isn’t born. It’s grown by Daniel Coyle
Exploring the idea that with the right amount of practice anybody can excel.

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Expert in a year

As an educator I’m fascinated by research into learning and one theme that keeps recurring is the notion that talent is not a birthright but something that is earned through hard work.

An intriguing project that has been getting attention on the Internet recently looks at what is possible in just one year. Under the title “Expert in a year” a table tennis coach by the name of Ben Larcombe has taken a young protege, Sam Priestly, and set off on a twelve month project to try and place that player in the top 250 players in England. The composite video that records the project is compelling viewing.

We watch the early days and, to a man, are thinking “I could beat him in a game”. As time rolls on we see how, with practice and training, Sam develops into a player that looks like a contender. But what does this all mean? How does it have any relation to learning and the work of schools?

In Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice, Matthew Syed take us on his own journey into the world of table tennis. In ‘Bounce’, Syed doesn’t completely rubbish talent but he does provide a persuasive argument for why natural talent is less important than purposeful practice. Often, we mistake this hard work for a natural talent. To anybody who has read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success the notion of talent being the product being a reward for hard work isn’t a new idea. Gladwell argues that with 10,000 hours of practice (he believes that with commitment you can reasonably assume to put in 1,000 hours per year and therefore the journey is one of 10 years) anybody can become an expert. What Matthew Syed does is bring that idea to life. Through his own experience of rising up the table tennis ranks and ultimately representing his country in the Olympic Games, he takes what Gladwell wrote about and makes it real. On the way to his conclusions he covers confidence, nerve and even race. Matthew Syed also notices that practice alone is not sufficient. What we need is targeted practice. Relevant practice.

Carol Dweck has then taken the work of Gladwell and Syed and in her book Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential she explores these concepts in an accessible but scientific manner. She coins the term “Growth Mindset” and compares this to a “Fixed Mindset”. Again, this is nothing new but it is presented in a different manner. Carol Dweck argues that if you have a fixed mindset you are of the belief that you cannot improve. Therefore as educators, our role is to help develop pupils who have a growth mindset. Students who believe that through hard work and effort they can improve are clearly better equipped to work in a modern world where adaptability and resilience are key characteristics to success.

Again, what does this mean to teachers and schools? All of the above can easily be applied to education, specifically to education taking place in schools. However, it isn’t something one teacher on a course or one teacher with a book can use to make positive change. No, rather it is work that needs to be a part of school culture. It needs the support and understanding of everyone working in the school. Only then will the work of the school be directed towards an effective and purposeful change. Fortunately, there is a point by point guide as to how this theory transfers into practice in schools. If you are a teacher or leader in school and have yet to read this book then are missing the single most significant collection of advice to motivate and engage your students. I offer it to you as a key part of any school development plan, a tool for school improvement and far more significant than “common core”, “curriculum 2014”, “OFSTED” or whatever other external political influences are trying to control the direction of education in your part of the world.

Mindsets in the classroom: Building a culture of success and student achievement in schools
by Mary Cay Ricci

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What Russian tennis tells us about talent

Is talent innate, a birthright awarded to the lucky few, or is it something that we all have if it is developed correctly? Given the right experience and opportunities can we all excel?

I remember, when training as a teacher, hearing a lecturer tell us that in our class every child was gifted. Our task was to discover in what field they were gifted and to provide the learning opportunities to develop in this area. Maybe this is true but perhaps talent works in different ways.

Spartak tennis club in Moscow has attracted attention as a result of success. Perhaps it is an example of growth mindset in action. Carol Dweck’s Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential explores why mindset is important to success and Spartak certainly relies upon the correct mindset. Let’s take a look at some facts about Spartak tennis club.

Indoors facilities at Spartak tennis club

Spartak tennis club, Moscow

– It is located on the outskirts of Moscow and has only one indoor court. For many months of the year the outside temperatures mean the only facility available is this one court.
– Three of the top six female Russian tennis players (four if you include the now retired Anna Kournikova) were trained at Spartak.
– Between 2004 and 2007 Spartak achieved eight players in the women’s year end top 20 rankings. In the same time the whole of the USA achieved only seven.
– Spartak has produced more top 20 players on the WTA than the whole of the USA. It has produced more top 20 players on the WTA than the whole of Europe.

But why? What happens to make such a small tennis club stand out. Two things took place here that cemented the celebrated position it now holds in tennis history. Firstly, the lady responsible for coaching took what was, at the time, a unique approach. Secondly, in terms of believing something is possible, success breeds success.

Larisa Preobrazhenskaya

Larisa Preobrazhenskaya – the mother of Russian tennis

The coaching strategy
The coach responsible for the success of Spartak was Larisa Preobrazhenskaya. She developed a system of coaching perhaps in part as a result of her limited resources. Where the USA and Europe were training tennis players by getting them into tournaments from a young age, Larisa was training their muscles. Working in a way that is now common in sports science she realised that a movement could become hard wired (or myelinated) into the brain if it was practised repeatedly. Her coaching strategy was to have her students practise the correct movement for playing different tennis strokes. The students practised in slow motion, with no ball and no game being played. They repeated for hours and with time increased the speed. Only when the students presented with sufficient skill to handle a range of strokes correctly did Larisa use tournament play in the training regime.
In effect, Larisa took the old adage “practice makes perfect” and honed it into “targeted practice makes perfect”. Why spend hours playing a game that might bring only a small amount of opportunity to play a backhand stroke down the line when you can practise that stroke a hundred times in a couple of hours? Daniel Coyle in The Talent Code: Greatness isn’t born. It’s grown explores this notion that with the right training talent can be developed. So, is talent simply a matter of the right training or is there something else needed?

Belief breeds success
The importance of self-belief is vital for success in any field. If you don’t believe you can excel then how can you dedicate the time and energy needed. By the way, if you’re still not sure how much time, 10,000 hours. Malcolm Gladwell identified that in any given field to become an expert takes 10,000 hours of practice. That is usually around ten years of dedication. (Outliers: The Story of Success).
Spartak suddenly burst onto the scene with the success of Anna Kournikova. In 2001 Russia had one player in the WTA top 30. In 2007 half of the WTA top 10 were Russian women. In fact, in 2004 the French open final between Myskina and Dementieva showcased an all Spartak final. (A tournament event that became quite common.)
This isn’t unique and talent pools develop elsewhere in the world when an exemplar succeeds and demonstrates what is possible. In 1998 Se Ri Pak from South Korea sank a birdie putt to win the US Women’s Open. This made her the youngest to win, the only South Korean to win, indeed, the only Asian to ever win the tournament. The result, within ten years South Korea jumped from having one player in the top fifty to having more in the top fifty than the whole of the USA. Ten years on and Se Ri Pak was still playing but now although still in the top fifty she was only the 14th highest placed golfer from South Korea. Her success gave belief to South Korean golf and that was the catalyst to a practical take over of the golfing world.

What does this mean for teachers
As teachers, this is important. It is science and it is proven but does it have a place in the classroom? I believe so and I believe there are two key points to take away.

1: Training needs to be targetted – don’t waste time on things that don’t matter
Do pupils have individual learning targets? Are they developing towards an achievable target that moves them forward? Do they understand what they need to do to improve and is it an objective that they can self monitor or, to put it another way, will they know when they have achieved success?

2: Belief breeds success
Using the correct feedback, praising effort as opposed to the child or the attainment, we can develop a belief. Call this what you like, Mindset, confidence or self-belief but without it there is no motivation to invest time and energy into working to improve. Teachers have a duty to make pupils believe in their own capacity to improve and this means removing labels and including individual pupils in an evaluation of their learning. If you know where you are and can see where you are going then you can buy into the possibility that you might succeed. Nothing drives motivation like the likelihood of success.

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Seven big myths (and one truth) about top performing school systems

Andreas Schleicher, OECD director of education and skills, wrote an article for the BBC website claiming PISA answers seven big myths about education in the world. Andreas, apart from having an impressive job title, is the man in charge of PISA tests and therefore may not have a completely unbiased opinion. Here is my response to each of his myth busting claims.

1: Disadvantaged pupils are doomed to do badly in school
Andreas busts this myth by referring to Shanghai. He says “the 10% most disadvantaged 15-year-olds in Shanghai have better maths skills than the 10% most privileged students in the United States and several European countries”.
But, China still cheat the education system by entering their two most affluent cities instead of their country. Looking at population, this is probably equivalent to the UK entering Eton and Harrow into PISA! Time magazine ran this article explaining how China is cheating the PISA ranking system. 24% of Chinese students go to college but 84% of students from Shanghai.
One final point that even the BBC acknowledge is that Shanghai doesn’t enter all of its pupils. In fact, only about a third of school age pupils can afford to attend education in Shanghai. With an estimated 300,000 15 year olds eligible for the test, only 100,000 were included. Doing the maths (84% of a third) that means that around 27% of Shanghai students go on to college.
Myth busting busted: Even just looking at Shanghai, it is one of the lower attainers in the PISA ranking.

2: Immigrants lower results
Andreas tells us that there is “no relationship between the share of students with an immigrant background in a country and the overall performance of student in that country”. We would all love this to be true but unless the country concerned has 100% school attendance then Andreas’ statistics tell us nothing. Statistically if there is a cost for attending school then children of recent immigrants are likely not to be in school.
Myth busting busted: PISA data is too incomplete to answer this question.

3: It’s all about money
Andreas says “Success in education systems  is no longer about how much money is spent, but about how money is spent.” He uses South Korea as an example South Korea did well in the PISA rankings but is not one of the biggest spenders on education. But, there is a cultural difference here that is not being included. Much of Asia see school as only a small part of the education a child receives. Children leave school and go immediately into expensive private classes. Often in small groups or individually children are tutored from school leaving time (around 4pm) for up to an additional six hours. This is a cultural difference. Most parents in the UK or America for example expect school to educate their child.
Myth busting busted: What we are actually measuring is not the total spent on education but in fact in the case of many countries we are seeing only about half of their educational spend. The other half is being made by parents after school.

4: Smaller class sizes raise standards.
Andreas finds that smaller class sizes do not, according to PISA, raise standards. Andreas, stop ony looking at PISA. Hattie has already discovered this by taking into account results from much more than just one study. (Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning).
Mythbusted…but not by PISA: This myth that Andreas busted is correct but the proof is found with Hattie and later Alistair Smith (High Performers: The Secrets of Successful Schools) and PISA alone is insufficient to draw this conclusion.

5: Comprehensive systems for fairness, academic selection for higher results
The same logic that has countered some of Andreas’ mythbusting skills in earlier points applies here. PISA does not have complete information. Shanghai appears to be a non-selective education system and yet two thirds of its 15 year old pupils are invisible to PISA.
Myth busting busted: Unless PISA includes all pupils from all schools and takes into account the pupils not in school then PISA does not have sufficient evidence to discuss whether selective or non-selective education is more effective.

6: The digital world needs new subjects and a wider curriculum
At the risk of repeating myself, PISA does not have the data to answer this myth. Because the PISA data is woefully incomplete it just shouldn’t be seen as useful for making generalisations about curriculum.
Myth busting busted: Innsufficient evidence again!

7: Success is about being born talented
Andreas wheels out his only gun here and uses PISA to bust this myth. Again, PISA doesn’t have sufficient evidence to comment on this but others do.
Myth busting busted: Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers: The Story of Success) suggested there is no such thing as ‘Talent’ and that to be an expert at anything took 10,000 hours of practice. Carol Dweck has used research to say something very similar in her work on Mindset. (Mindset: How You Can Fulfill Your Potential).

And now time for the one truth…

Truth: PISA is riding high on the fact we love an international competition and is making claims that it just cannot back up by statistics. Until PISA collects data from all students in a country and compares like with like (country with country) then many of the claims that are being made from its data will be easily debunked.

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Monthly top 5 roundup – January 2015

Top five pages from the Internet, top five pages from this site and product of the month all in one convenient place.

The power of five

Top five pages from the Internet

1: War on mediocrity – Hands up if you’re working in school and mediocre…Mr. Cameron is coming to get you!
2: The workload debate – John Tomsett blogs ‘This much I know about…’
3: Haiku Deck – App of the day from ictevangelist.com
4:Successful leaders are visible – Sir Tim Brighouse sharing his wisdom on why leading from behind an office door doesn’t work.
5: Dear Mrs. Morgan – Michael Rosen writes on behalf of a parent

Top five pages from this site

1: Why ‘Mindset’ is important for teachers and schools
2: A strategy for teacher self-improvement
3: Teaching in a British School in Spain – FAQ
4: Common English errors made by Spanish speakers
5: 5 things to know about renting in Spain

Product of the month

Rising Stars Switched on Computing

We began using this product this term. Making the move from ‘Information technology’ to ‘Computing’ is quite a shift for some schools, especially if teacher confidence in computer programing is low. Fortunately, this scheme of work is based entirely on products that are freely available on the Internet so carries no additional software costs. It also provides easy to follow lessons for the teacher and makes the new computing subject accessible for teachers and students. Year 6 have jumped straight in at the deep end with a project and are working towards creating an app.

Switched on computing – Year 1

Switched on computing – Year 2

Switched on computing – Year 3

Switched on computing – Year 4

Switched on computing – Year 5

Switched on computing – Year 6

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Why ‘Mindset’ is important for teachers and schools

Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University is behind a new vocabulary that is creeping into schools worldwide. ‘Mindset’ is a new buzz word and it seems you can’t attend a course or follow an educational blog without hitting up against mindset theories.

At its most basic form Carol Dweck describes two different mindsets. She speaks of a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. This idea of people fitting into one of two different mindsets affects all aspects of decision making and life. Her book, although getting a lot of attention with educators, is also addressing personal development, business leaders and just about any other walk of life imaginable.

Carol Dweck - Mindset

Carol Dweck – Mindset

The Basics
Let’s look at this with reference to intelligence as that is the approach most relevant to schools. If pupils have a fixed mindset they believe in talent. The innate capabilities they have to do well or not in a specific field were defined through birth and upbringing. If a pupil has a growth mindset they believe that their capacity in any given area is dependent on the work they are prepared to put in to developing. They believe that they can change their achievement by learning.

I certainly have had parents discussing their child’s progress in mathematics for example and explaining the low grade with “Well, it’s his mother you see…can’t do maths. Nobody in her family could do maths. That’s why he has these problems.” Although an extreme example of the fixed mindset being developed (let’s face it, genetic disposition to do well at maths just doesn’t sound credible) it is indicative of the way parents and teachers encourage a fixed mindset.

Think about the praise we give.
“Wow, that’s a great piece of work. You are such a great mathematician.” – Fixed mindset being developed.
“What a great picture. I wish I could draw like you.” – Fixed mindset being developed.
“Because you worked so hard you’ve made great progress.” – Growth mindset being developed.

Carol Dweck speaking about developing a growth mindset in young people

The praise we give can really effect whether we are developing a fixed or a growth mindset in pupils. Praising the child or the work develops a fixed mindset. Praising the effort that went into achieving the success helps in developing a growth mindset.

An approach to mindset in schools is not a one off decision. It isn’t answered by a display board in the hall or in each class. It isn’t answered by sending a lead teacher on a course. A mindset approach to education involves a shift in culture within a school. We are in the process of applying mindset theory to our teachers’ development as well as that of our pupils. Encouraging a reflective practice applies to everybody in a school, not just the pupils.

Mindset: How you can fulfil your potential
by Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck is receiving attention for this theory. It is researched and backed up with evidence. However, it isn’t the first time that we have heard this approach. If you find this relevant and interesting you may also be interested in some other similar messages. Malcolm Gladwell talked of 10,000 hours of practice being what was needed to become expert in any given field. Matthew Sayed further developed this by talking from his own experience of rising to the top of his sport of table tennis. Matthew Sayed explores what else is needed as well as practice to develop the skills needed to excel in a given area.

by Malcolm Gladwell

by Matthew Sayed

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