Growth Mindset+ Part 1 (the PLUS being perseverance, challenge, expectation, enthusiasm, curiosity and inner voice) all at KS1

growth mindset

This is not a Growth Mindset call to arms. However, I do use Growth Mindset with the children in my Year 2 class. I have used it in Year 1 and 2 and have seen it developed in the Early Years too. I think we should be looking more at all of the things that help develop successful learners and Damian Benney blogged superbly on this recently.

My first experience happened in September 2013 when I went to visit Lyons Hall Primary School in Braintree, Essex for 10 days worth of Good to Outstanding CPD practice (prior to observations going grade free) and really enjoyed seeing all of the things that clearly worked for staff, children and parents. Growth Mindset was mentioned in the 8th session and only because someone saw a display of a brain, clearly not considered as the be all and end all for this school or the course we were on. I’ve read Dweck’s books, and read about The Wroxham School and Learning Without Limits too.

All makes a lot of sense to me. I found Primary School easy, incredibly easy. I was just…clever. I don’t remember struggling. Then I passed the 11+ and went to Grammar School, and was immediately threatened by the fact that 1) I wasn’t top of the class, 2) I had to work hard and 3) all I thought I knew of myself had changed. I spent seven years using my intelligence to lark about, make people laugh and generally avoid the issues around learning.

I cancelled a history lesson for the class that I couldn’t be bothered to work in, and told everyone to go to the Library. At year 7 parents evening that year, Mr Short informed my parents that I was “the spawn of Satan”. (Luckily, we got on for the last term of Year 13….) I got into a written debate with my Head of Year 7 on whether I could remove myself from religious assembly on the grounds that it was my Human Right (I believe I researched and quoted the Geneva Convention). When confronted with, it is up to the parent to opt the child out (which of course my parents would have done if I had asked), I eagerly looked forward to the detention I would get when giving the next installment of “I’m an annoying little git who is threatened by failure, so will use my (I thought wonderful intellect) to try and win the most ridiculous argument. My mother could list tens of things that she found out at Parents Evenings that I have forgotten.

See, I believe I had a completely fixed mindset. Based on experience, thoughts, beliefs and mindset, Primary School was a breeze. I should get it and do well through my intelligence – no hard work required. It took for me to scrape some A-levels together to get into a Primary Education BEd degree to decide I had a reason to work hard.

When faced with 5, 6 or 7 year olds who have (already) had similar experiences, I feel it is my job to give them difficulty, challenge and experiences which will build being knocked down, getting up and having a little bit of resilience as part of their school routine. So this is my….rationale for being interested in Mindsets. To be a successful learner though, there is more to know than simply believing that you can grow your learning, or that it is fixed and unchangeable.

On top of knowing this fact, they need to be able to persevere when their fixed or even false growth inner voice is talking. They need to overcome the thoughts, feelings, emotions that might inhibit and we have to be the one supporting them, not just labelling and telling them to sort it out.

We must provide challenge and expectation together. We must expect more and help and support them to expect more of themselves, more often.

We must be enthusiastic and excited about learning and what we find out and demonstrate this almost non stop. It is catchy for children.

We must be curious for what might happen, for us, for them. Be willing to go with the flow, adapt to what is happening and just run with new, better ideas, especially if we want children to be these spontaneous (almost to the point of combustion) learners we dream about.

We must model how to use the inner voice to combat the demons we have at certain times.

There is some brilliant writing already on this topic from folks such as Chris Chivers here, Chris Hildrew here, Stephen Tierney here, Alex Quigley here, and John Tomsett here. All are superb writers and the above blog posts have helped me form my views and ideas around using it in class. Shaun Allison has a wonderful website which just hums with the Growth Mindset ethos he clearly brings to his school. If Maths is your thing, take a look at this, this and this.

I also particularly enjoy reading these blog posts from Nick Rose here, Marc Smith’s response to his and Mark Healy’s recent double act work on Mindsets and enjoyed a discussion with Dr Tim O’Brien after his TES article on 26th June 2015 (no link). I think the fact that they often discuss the use of Mindsets as intervention forces us to really consider just what we are doing and the positive or negative impact we might unknowingly have.

I agree with Chris Chivers in his blog here that “Growth mind-set does not mean just getting better at doing, it means getting better at thinking, deciding, selecting, acting more and more independently.”

By the way, I have never once called it Growth Mindset to my children! I teach them about the elasticity of the brain, that it can grow smarter, if you will, and that they can learn more if they believe they can.

Part 2 will be coming very soon in which I reveal which Sesame Street, Disney, Scientific and real-life models/videos/ideas I use to develop Growth Mindset+ in my classroom. I hope any respect gained by this blog isn’t entirely lost when I explain how an animated Parisienne kitten creates believers in Key Stage 1.


3 thoughts on “Growth Mindset+ Part 1 (the PLUS being perseverance, challenge, expectation, enthusiasm, curiosity and inner voice) all at KS1

  1. Hi Conor,
    Really enjoyed this opening blog. I’m tending to the thought that even the idea of Growth Mindset has the potential to be fixed, through simplified mantras; such as… yet.
    Children undertake tasks defined by the teacher. If the tasks don’t allow for children to take charge and responsibility for the running of the task and the outcome, their decision making capacity is limited. Appropriate challenge enables the identification of the points where support is needed, leading to focused teaching within the task or more generally, if wider need established.
    Our own thinking journey is also worth exploring, as we are capable of defining tasks to suit us, rather than the children’s needs. Teachers an be a limiting factor.
    Look forward to part 2.
    Best wishes,


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