Headteacher column: A growth mindset is essential

The Market Weighton School headteacher Richard Harrison.
The Market Weighton School headteacher Richard Harrison.

Do you believe intelligence is fixed or that it can be increased?

Is how clever we are essentially inherited from our parents or do you believe that you can increase your brain power and learn anything if you set your mind to it?

As we move towards the exam period we must all aim to support the growth mindset approach.

As we move towards the exam period we must all aim to support the growth mindset approach.

This is essentially the difference between a growth and fixed mindset, a concept which was introduced to the UK after the publication of the book ‘Mindset: Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential’ by Dr Carol Dweck, a US psychologist.

The world of education quickly picked up the ideas to try to improve student achievement.

Indeed, it would seem obvious that all teachers should have a growth mindset approach to learning, or it would be difficult to persevere with a job where the primary aim is to improve learning performance!

Things are not that simple however, as much of the way we operate as teachers and parents tends to reinforce a fixed mindset approach.

The suggestion is that students with a fixed mindset fear failure as they have been praised as being bright or talented from an early age.

This makes them seek easier tasks that will make them look bright, rather than choose the hard task that would extend their learning.

What we must do is praise our children for working hard, for trying new things and for making mistakes as this will foster the growth mindset attitude.

It is true that by the time children reach secondary school and certainly by the time they sit their GCSEs some have lost that willingness to persevere with any learning they find difficult and removing that barrier would undoubtedly lead to improved examination results. Mindset itself can be changed and the book suggests that we can all develop our growth mindset.

As we move towards the exam period in schools we must all aim to support the growth mindset approach.

Praise hard work and effort rather than achieving a particular grade. All we can ask as parents and teachers is that our children work as hard as they can. That way they will achieve the grades they are capable of and if you believe the growth mindset theory there is no limit as to what could be achieved.

This approach may also help reduce the stress young people find themselves under as they approach exams.

Stress is not just the proviso of Year 11 students, as this year with changes to SATs it is Year six pupils who seem to be facing unprecedented pressure to achieve.

It is the fear of failure that creates the fixed mindset and limits true potential.

As we enter the exam season our children need to know that whatever the outcome of the exams we will support them as they progress in education.

Hopefully with a growth mindset!