"Growth mindset" - is school using this the wrong way?

(51 Posts)
SansaClegane Mon 19-Sep-16 10:01:51

My DS is 7 and in year 3, he has just moved up to a new school (junior school) which is linked to his infant school.
They have introduced the "growth mindset" thing a year or so ago and I'm fine with that; however at the new school I'm not sure they're selling it right. Let me try to explain.
DS is bright and naturally academic and usually needs a bit more of a challenge at school. I asked him how it's going, what they are doing in Maths. He told me what they had been doing that day and that it was all a bit easy. So I asked if he had told the teacher this and maybe got something more challenging to work on. He became very uncomfortable and said no, because "if I find things easy that means I haven't got a growth mindset". He was upset about this as he strives to do things right, and in his opinion finding things easy is the wrong thing to do confused
So a few days later I asked him again about school, and he explained to me that in order to learn you have to "fall into the learning pit" first (i.e. Not be able to do something) and then "work hard" to get out of it; and if you are able to do something straight away again that's "wrong" and means you're not learning?!
I find it worrying that DS now thinks there's something wrong with him or being able to grasp new concepts quickly. Surely the school can't mean to convey that this is so, but it seems that is what they tell the children?! I've chatted to another parent, whose daughter is also very bright, and she has reported a similar story from her DD.
I guess my question is, do I seek to speak with the teacher now (maybe just to clarify what's going on and how they word this at school), or am I making too big a deal and wait until parents' evening (November)?
On a side note, the work they do at school does seem to be really easy for year 3 and there seems to be no differentiation. DS has had two maths homeworks so far and they both were variations of "find the biggest number" - one was just a line of 5 numbers which had to be sorted from smallest to biggest! They are also learning to "count in 4s and 8s" when my DS is very confident with his times tables up to 12x.

TeenAndTween Mon 19-Sep-16 10:08:30

Well, it is clear your DS has received the wrong message, though whether that is his misinterpretation or the school delivering the wrong message is not clear.

I would definitely go and see the school, and say your DS is not understanding the message properly. They should be being encouraged to select work which is challenging, and not choosing easy work, but that does mean your DS needs to know he can ask for more challenging stuff!

Believeitornot Mon 19-Sep-16 12:58:48

Talk to the teacher! I'd do that as soon as I got wind of the misunderstanding. Growth mindset is about encouraging a child to think about how they could do better and how to get a sense of self pride etc etc.

frozenpink Mon 19-Sep-16 15:49:03

Sounds awful comparing not being able to do something to falling into a pit. I would definitely go and see the teacher.

chamenager Mon 19-Sep-16 16:56:39

I'd say it's 'correct' that it's 'wrong' if a child's work is always so easy that they don't have to think, and therefore don't learn anything ('can't grow', and can't develop a growth mindset which ensues when you make the experience of having overcome a hurdle, having solved something that seemed very difficult). But it is the level of work that is 'wrong', not anything the child does. It is not the child lacking a growth mindset. It is the school/ the level of work given to the child that is 'at fault'.

You could explain that to your child - maybe that's all there is to it, a misunderstanding, your child having got the wrong end of the stick. Maybe school said 'the work mustn't be easy for you, or you won't have a growth mindset' with the intention that the children would speak up if they found the work easy (rather than just being glad that it was easy and quickly completed). Whereas your child understood 'if the work is easy for you, you have the wrong mindset'.

Could also be that the school is trying to get the children to use a different style of self-talk.
So instead of
'I'm not good at this.' -> What am I missing?
I'm awesome at this -> I'm on the right track.
I give up -> I'll use some of the strategies I've learned.
This is too hard -> This will take some time and effort.
I can't make this any better -> I can always improve, so I'll keep trying.
I just can't do maths -> I am going to train my brain in maths.
I made a mistake -> Mistakes help me learn better
She's so smart. I'll never be so smart. -> I'll figure out how she does it.
It's good enough -> Is it really my best work?
Plan A didn't work -> good thing there are 25 more letters in the alphabet.
(from imaginationsoup.net/2014/09/17/help-child-unmotivated-growth-fixed-mindset/

In which case they may have told the children 'not to say it's hard/easy' and instead to focus on how they can learn from this problem.

So the combination of being told 'you can't develop a growth mindset if the work is always easy' (but understanding 'if you find the work easy, you don't have a growth mindset') and being told not to say 'it's easy' could have lead to your son's predicament.

Maybe explaining it all to him as it is meant to be will be enough to reassure him? But if he is like my child, he'll prefer to believe what (he thinks that) the teachers say. So a discussion with the teachers would be necessary, just so that the teachers can clear up the misunderstanding. Hopefully it IS a misunderstanding, rather than the teachers having got the wrong end of the stick!

alivealiveoh Mon 19-Sep-16 18:26:12

Ah, growth mindset.

The brain gym and learning styles of our time.

It's a load of codswallop which is unfortunately very popular. I know of a school which has half an hour 'growth mindset group' time.

I'd speak to the teacher.

Believeitornot Mon 19-Sep-16 20:11:27

Why is growth mindset codswallop? I've read a book and like the idea of not praising generically "good boy/girl" but being specific and most importantly showing an interest in a child's work. Then get them to think about what they like to grow their confidence. What's codswallop about that?

TeenAndTween Mon 19-Sep-16 20:22:28

I think growth mindset is sensible. You are basically praising effort and not results. It should reduce the whole 'bright but lazy' where kids almost don't want to try in case they fail and are then shown not to be that bright after all.

Though whether you need regular 'growth mindset grouptime' is another matter of course!

Ca55andraMortmain Mon 19-Sep-16 20:36:42

Erm I can see where he's got confused. Basically the idea is that it's good to find things challenging because it shows you're learning. If your work is too easy then it means that you already understand the concepts being covered and therefore aren't learning something new. If you find something hard (fall into the learning pit), then you shouldn't be discouraged because it shows you're learning. Everyone is equipped with tools and strategies to help them escape the learning pit (I.e. overcoming the problem a bit at a time until you're confident enough to move to a new challenge.) so mistakes are nothing to be upset about.
I would explain to your ds that he'll only get his chance to be in the learning pit if his teachers give him more challenging work. Mention his misunderstanding to his teacher too, he won't be the only child not to have understood.

yellowvan Mon 19-Sep-16 20:46:22

Its the brain gym and learning styles of our time

Even worse than that, it is the insidious manifestation of the individualistic culture that sounds like common sense and is the result of massive dumbing down of research.

It implies that there are no structural reasons for a student to fail; no lack of support or opportunity; no dearth of natural talent; no poor differentiation or bad resourcing but simply that the student is not applying their growth mindset (ie not trying hard enough).

It also logically goes against the notion of gifted and talented and special needs as we can all achieve the same if we just apply growth mindset, so no wonder it's confusing for teachers.

Sometimes, you just have to know when you're beaten, or indeed, when you can piss it and both of those are o.k.

I hate it as I have seen it work against children who get no support at home and yet they are expected to have the same degree of resilience as someone with massive support. Sometimes these things really are structural and out of the hands of the learner.

SansaClegane Mon 19-Sep-16 21:17:36

Thanks for all the replies - some interesting points about the growth mindset thing being raised!

I think it's probably a mixture of DS getting the wrong end of the stick ("if I find things easy that means I'm doing it wrong") and the school not providing work at an adequate level for him... I'll have to find out how to go about speaking to the teacher now (he's taking the bus to school now so I never actually see anyone anymore)!

Believeitornot Mon 19-Sep-16 21:19:58

That's a misinterpretation of it then yellow. The teachers themselves need to apply the mindset to help children grow. Not just about expecting the children to have such a mindset.

And yes you can know you're beaten and think you'll try something else instead - that's a growth mindset.

frozenpink Mon 19-Sep-16 21:50:29

I'm not sure that schools should allow themselves to be so susceptible to the latest plausible learning idea and then spend money on it and then allow teachers to pass along the results of their poor training to children.
If growth mindsets isn't something that can be taught and used well and easily, then it has no place in a school.

YouMakeABetterDoorThanAWindow Tue 20-Sep-16 16:57:01

I'd agree Frozen, I would like to see some actual research too. My DC school has jus adopted this. I'm not going to get involved, I'm already "that" parent for suggesting they might like to use Synthtric Phonics to teach my child to read. I'm sad that the school will spend time on something that is not researched, yet have denied children access to something that has been.

I'm sort of hoping it won't affect my DC that much but I'll be cross if I come across anything like the OP.

I wonder how the school will explain to the child in a wheelchair that having a growth mindset won't enable them to walk. Or will it? Has that child just not got the Growth Mindset ?

Hmm, it seems I'm more angry than I thought!

mrz Tue 20-Sep-16 17:31:28

Google Professor Carol Dweck Stanford University for research

notagiraffe Tue 20-Sep-16 17:36:30

yellowvan - those are interesting comments. I read and loved Dweck's book but what you say is very important too and not really covered in the book at all. I'd never thought about it in that way.

Minispringroll Tue 20-Sep-16 17:44:28

It's not really a "latest plausible learning idea". For research, you need to look at the work of Carol Dweck .
It's about teaching children that it's ok when they do not know everything to begin with and that struggling with something doesn't equal failure. Some things in life are hard but that doesn't mean that you should be giving up on yourself. It's about having the self-belief that they are capable of improving by applying themselves. That's nothing new or ridiculous.
What is ridiculous, is to put children at different tables and giving them different tasks because someone has decided that they are either not quite as clever or much more clever than other people in their class and then to tell them that this is all they are capable of. I've never quite understood the lack of aspiration and expectation in some of the classrooms in this country. hmm
In the OP's case, I'd have a word with the teacher. Working with a growth mindset approach doesn't mean that the work is to be pitched lower. Quite the opposite, actually. The teacher should be striving to provide children with tasks that allow them to grow and challenge themselves. If used appropriately, it can be used to accelerate progress and generally makes for happier and more confident children. (And no, I'm not some bandwagon-jumping weirdo...I've actually taught using those ideas for the past decade, with very good results...and since long before anyone's ever mentioned "growth mindset".)

Longlost10 Tue 20-Sep-16 17:48:31

There is nothing wrong with the basic IDEA, of a growth mindset, ie, not to write yourself off as "bad at maths" but to keep working to progress. It should just be the belief that being bad at maths at one age, does not mean you will be bad at maths forever.

There is a lot wrong when this becomes a bunch of ill understood, illresearched, woffly procedures that interfere with education, rather than just an attitude to encourage.

As for "falling into a pit" this is just part of trying to teach children to understand that learning isn't always easy, and they will need to struggle sometimes in order to acheive things they can be proud of.

The trouble is we have suffered from a culture of "entertainment education" for many years, leaving some children and parents with the impression that the teacher should be performing magic tricks and things, while children will learn by fun. It has at last been recognised that children learn by working, not by being entertained, and this goes some way to attempting to address this.

Irush Tue 20-Sep-16 17:51:28

Growth mindset is very useful in sport and dealing with competition. I can't see its quite so necessary in the classroom which hopefully shouldn't always be intense and challenging and falling into pits hmm

I think he's got the wrong end of the stick.

SugarMiceInTheRain Tue 20-Sep-16 17:54:24

Ah 'growth-mindset', obviously the latest trendy phrase being bandied about in education. So much so that last year DS2's class did a whole assembly about it. I have to admit I was sat there for half of it like this hmm but then I am sceptical about lots of stuff now. The whole 'growth mindset' as a buzzword came into DS2's school at the same time as the new deputy head, who unfortunately is his teacher (and was last year when she arrived too). She also said they can't (won't?) allow DS2 to move ahead in Maths so he has just repeated the exact same work for a whole year. Not convinced that'll encourage a 'growth mindset'. Instead he's just lost his enthusiasm angry.

frozenpink Tue 20-Sep-16 17:56:47

I have looked. It's fine as an idea and as a piece of research, but it is often badly applied in schools. There is a gap between the research and the application to real life.
I'd rather the money was spent on books.

mrz Tue 20-Sep-16 18:09:30

What money?

Believeitornot Tue 20-Sep-16 19:50:48

I wouldn't put the fact that your ds won't be moved ahead in maths down to the growth mindset hmm

However I would be wary of schools using it incorrectly.

Mrscog Tue 20-Sep-16 20:29:59

Most of the successful people I know are 'growth mindset' types. I think it's brilliant it's being promoted throughout schools. I wasn't a growth mindset child or young person despite having huge potential and it really held me back. It wasn't until I was working on my dissertation that I trained myself out of a fixed mindset and really started reaping the rewards but it was too late for me really by then - I've had a good career but not as brilliant as it could have been if I'd have got a better learning style throughout school.

But as for your question OP it sounds like he's misunderstood, I'd have a chat with the school. And maybe read up on it so you can help him understand better.

YouMakeABetterDoorThanAWindow Tue 20-Sep-16 21:39:16

Our school have just done an inset day on Growth Mindset. I imagine books would come out of a different pot of money to inset funding however the inset did cost money.

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