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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3 Responses to Why ‘Mindset’ is important for teachers and schools

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