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Growth mindset in the classroom – How to develop children’s learning behaviours

Eduardo Briceño, keynote speaker and facilitator at Bett 2022, shares his ideas about how we can help primary pupils love learning...

  • Growth mindset in the classroom – How to develop children’s learning behaviours

Understandably, most teachers and schools naturally encourage students to perform to the best of their ability. However, a narrow focus on achievement can hinder learning, improvement, and ironically, performance.

We are inherently focused on praising primary school students when they have done something well or quickly (e.g. ‘you’re so smart’) to help build confidence, but although it feels like we’re being encouraging, it is this type of praise that encourages a fixed mindset.

By concentrating on building a growth mindset and having an understanding that talents or skills are not fixed, children will be willing to take on more challenges and be more successful – they will seek out to learn and do the hard things that they don’t know how to do.

What is a growth mindset?

Having a growth mindset is the belief that we can develop our abilities, including our intelligence, and therefore develop the way we think, as discovered by Stanford professor Dr Carol Dweck.

This differs from a fixed mindset which is the belief that abilities cannot change and that people are limited to being skilled at certain things, like maths or sports for example.

Having a growth mindset is often mistaken for having a positive outlook or being open-minded, however in reality, it’s something that can lead to more positive behaviours.

It is important to understand that having a growth mindset does not act as a silver bullet for achieving these behaviours and nothing is automatically achieved, but the potential to do so is there.

Reflecting on behaviour

Research has shown that children with a growth mindset take on more challenges, work harder, persevere in the face of setbacks, and have a higher competency. It is important that in a primary classroom, we portray abilities as skills that people develop, not as talents that students either inherently do or don’t have.

For example, although it may feel positive, we should try and avoid labelling children as ‘smart’ or ‘talented’, but rather focus on talking about and reflecting on their behaviours, their choices, and what they can control.

If teachers or parents can model this for children by sharing what and how they are learning, what mistakes they make and how they’re growing in response, then students can see examples of lifelong learners and follow suit.

Love of learning

It is essential to make learning worthy; kids should find what they are learning to be interesting, valuable and relevant. A great activity to help encourage a growth mindset would be to share with your students why you love to learn throughout life, what you’re seeking to learn these days, how you’re going about it and what ‘aha!’ realisations you have had.

Then ask them to each share something they’ve enjoyed learning about recently and what they found interesting about it. If students find what we’re teaching them boring, we are teaching them that learning is a drag, which kills self-directed attempts.

Instead, we should be developing the idea that learning is a lifelong journey, and help them to identify where their individual passions lie. 

Eduardo will be speaking at Bett 2022, on growth mindset. More info is available at uk.bettshow.com/speakers

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