Growth Mindset

Written by David Thomas, Personal Development Coordinator and Year 2 Teacher.

At The British School of Brasilia (BSB) we aim to instil students with the belief that one’s skills and qualities can be cultivated through effort, perseverance and resilience. We are therefore creating a growth mindset in our students.

To quote leading educational researcher, Professor Carol Dweck: "In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that's that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don't necessarily think everyone's the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it."

If we can embed a growth mindset in all of our students, then it will enable them to explore the extent of their intellectual, moral and physical abilities; helping them to fulfil their potential. They will uphold the values of honesty, integrity and respect for others and promote the general good within our community.

At BSB we want to develop students who:

- Believe anyone can get better at anything, because your abilities are entirely due to your actions.
- Understand that mastering skills comes only from practise.
- Are confident pushing into the unfamiliar, to make sure you’re always learning.
- Commit to mastering valuable skills regardless of mood, knowing passion and purpose come from doing great work, which comes from expertise and experience.
- Understand that failures are temporary setbacks and an important part of learning.
- Believe a lasting relationship comes from effort and working through inevitable differences.

Now such a massive cultural shift cannot be undertaken if an educator’s walk is not matching their talk; therefore our teachers have been striving to ensure that their actions and vocabulary always match our growth mindset philosophy. At BSB our teachers understand that praise for intelligence can actually undermine motivation and performance, as children praised for intelligence increasingly view it as a fixed trait. In the face of failure, these children will display less task persistence, less task enjoyment, and overall worse performance.

Carol Dweck points out that "Effective teachers who actually have classrooms full of children with a growth mindset are always supporting children’s learning strategies and showing how strategies created that success. Students need to know that if they’re stuck, they don’t need just effort. You don’t want them redoubling their efforts with the same ineffective strategies. You want them to know when to ask for help and when to use resources that are available."

To guide our approach over the first term, we have been following the work of the growth mindset expert Katherine Muncaster, using her book ‘Growth Mindset Lessons: Every Child a Learner’. This is a collection of whole school assembly ideas, detailed lesson plans, classroom activities, and other resources that ensure we implement a growth mindset in a consistent and effective way across the Primary school.

Our teachers design classroom activities that involve cooperative, rather than competitive or individualistic work. Research suggests that students are more motivated and successful when working in groups. Students feel a sense of responsibility to the group to try their best, and thus will experience the positive feedback loop of effort and success, encouraging the development of a growth mindset.

Changing the culture within our school is a long journey, but when I am walking through our corridors, speaking with our students, teachers and parents I am constantly seeing evidence that we are heading in the right direction.