Growth Mindset: Where do we go now?

Before reading this blog it may be useful to read my first blog on mindset from this time last year which is here.

I have just completed the analysis of the mindset questionnaires that we repeated with our students this year. For us we identify any score in the 0 -3 range as fixed (red), scores in the 4 range are moving towards growth (yellow) and scores within 5 to 6 are significantly growth mindset (green). As you can see from the charts below there has been some shift from these three year groups towards growth mindset.

data 1

Year 7 – 9 2014

data 2

Year 8 – 10 2015

However this second pie chart does not take into account those students in red last year who have increased their questionnaire score but who are still within the 0 – 3 category. So the chart below shows all students who have an increasing score or who are already in the yellow/green zone.

data 3

These results suggest that it is possible that the work we have done on GM up until this point has had a positive impact for a significant number of students. Only 129 remain static in the fixed area. We have done a limited amount of GM work to achieve this so far, as I explained in my previous blog. The question for us now is ‘what next?’.

Ive done some reading recently about  sigmoid curves! A sigmoid is an S shape graph often used in business to describe the path to sustained growth and success, as shown below;


This model for progress is one that we are applying to our work as a school on GM.  Whilst we only introduced GM a year ago it is certainly true that there has been some significant progress in the school in relation to it. In addition to that further reading of research on GM and more generally psychological interventions has led me to reflect upon how we move into the new academic year. If we simply keep banging the drum of the mindset message and pop up a few more motivational posters I think we are going to go rapidly into decline, as the sigmoid curve would also suggest. More significantly, and unsurprisingly research by Yaeger, Walton and Cohen (2013) suggests that over repetition of any psychological message can undermine the credibility of that message and in fact be harmful. Their research points towards ‘light touch’ interventions. This has therefore led to the development of our next stage in GM work. I shall explain what we are planning to do and why. However I am mindful that there is little practical guidance ‘out there’ at present and we are far from experts. thus any feedback, comments or links to useful stuff would be most welcome.

1. Research by Yeager et al in 2013 refers to work carried out that shows that advocating a message to a receptive audience is a powerful means of persuasion. That is not just the audience becoming persuaded by the content of the message but significantly those delivering the message have a more genuine buy in to that message. The key to this is that the audience must be genuine.

In response to this we have matched up every current year 7 student with a year 6 student who will be joining us in September. The year 7 students have the job of writing to their year 6 partner and explaining what growth mindset is and how that effects learning at our school.

2. Research by Yaeger & Walton (2011) has demonstrated that early intervention is required for psychological messages before negative processes gain momentum. In order to improve student outcomes over a long period of time this is essential.

The earliest that we can ‘intervene’ is on the year 6 induction day in July. We have incorporated a growth mindset teaching session into the induction process. This slots in with an afternoon of challenges, potential fails and much risk taking.

3.Work by Garcia and Cohen (2013) suggests that the most likely way to bring about long term gains is when psychological interventions are used in recursive contexts. A recursive context is one in which what happens is dependant upon what has gone before. Rob Coe refers to this in ‘What Makes Teaching Great’.He writes “…even where attitudes are changed, it will have little long-term effect on behaviour unless the pupil enters that recursive, virtuous cycle of success”.

In terms of recursive processes in school we are focusing on just one, and that is feedback. Feedback when done effectively can have a significantly high impact upon learning, as is indicated in John Hattie’s work. It is an area that has great potential to be used powerfully to enhance GM, but as Black and Williams research (from Kings College London) indicates. This then is a key area for our school as we focus on GM in this coming year.

I will blog in the next week or so about some of our strategies for using feedback as a recursive process that supports the GM message.

If you are interested in doing some more reading on some of the research mentioned here, as well as the material that we are using to inform our feedback processes then I have put much of it on this padlet. I will also be adding various resources that we are trialling.


About Learning to Teach Lorraine Abbott

Deputy Headteacher in a Surrey School Author for Hodder Education
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One Response to Growth Mindset: Where do we go now?

  1. Geoff Petty says:

    As well as teaching students that the brain is plastic it is important as you recognise to get students to act on weaknesses in the belief that these can be rectified. See ‘Learning Loops’ in both my Teaching Today and ‘Evidence Based Teaching’. This helps teachers diagnose students’ individual difficulties and more importantly gets them fixed. The fact that they are successful at fixing difficulties and they get feedback to that effect helps to develop the growth mindset. But fixing is the key objective, that’s why we want the mindset in the first place.

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