Growth Mindset: Success begins in the mind


Our actions are consequences of our thoughts. This is never more important as it is now, in our new education system. How should our children be thinking so that they are successful in their education and beyond?

By Jemma Taylor

Lead Practitioner in English, SLE at Reddish Vale High School
What do you think a child with potential for success has? Intelligence or a willingness to try?

What is Mindset?

Mindset is the process of how we think about two key components: intelligence and effort.

Carole Dweck, psychologist and the author of Mindset, spent 40 years researching how students’ thoughts impacted on their success and the way they approached their learning. Her research involved giving students puzzles to solve. The children were split into groups: one group were complimented on their intelligence for completing the puzzles and the other group were praised for their effort. All students were then given more difficult puzzles and the reactions and outcomes for each group split. The group praised for their intelligence struggled and in a lot of cases gave up whereas the children praised for effort continued to work through the puzzles. When both groups were asked which puzzles they wanted to continue with, have a guess which group chose the more challenging puzzles?

The Importance of a Growth Mindset

The lesson for us is that a focus on effort rather than intelligence has a significant impact on how children approach their learning and their resilience. If a child is praised for being ‘bright’ and ‘clever’ they are more likely to have a Fixed Mindset. Dweck pointed out that this type of mindset can make a child feel they cannot make mistakes, as this will affect the praise they received. Those with fixed mindsets also think their intelligence is fixed and therefore will only attempt learning, tasks and objectives they can do rather than anything that might challenge them. They are unlikely to try something difficult as they do not want to be seen to fail, which means they are more likely to give up.

The potential negative impact that this can have on a child’s educational career is devastating. If a child refuses to try more challenging work, or they do not experience struggle and failure, they are less likely to appreciate, or achieve, their successes.

So what type of mindset do we want to instil in our next generation?

At Reddish Vale High School we encourage children to have a ‘Growth Mindset’ which will help them see their learning differently. If they know that their intelligence can improve and grow through making mistakes and learning from failure, they will be more likely to be resilient in the face of difficulty and push themselves to reach their potential. Growth mindsets will learn in every environment and use the targets, advice and help offered to spur them on to success. As the researched revealed, having a growth mindset means three key things:

  • Learn at all costs
  • Work hard – effort over intelligence is key
  • Confront mistakes and deficiencies

It is clear that in the face of an ever more challenging and demanding education system, our children need to be mentally prepared and have resilience and independence to their learning. This will help them to know that effort, not intelligence, is what will make the difference between those who will succeed and those who may not.

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