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Growth Mindset - brilliant or bobbins?

(32 Posts)
noblegiraffe Sat 21-Nov-15 14:01:12

As I just posted on another thread I'm starting to see the shine on Growth Mindset starting to tarnish a little.

It is certainly all the rage in schools at the moment, my school has posters up all over the place about seeing mistakes as stepping stones to success and how it's possible to improve with practice and so on. We are told to praise effort over achievement and other sensible-sounding things. However, there seems to be a bit more to the whole thing than that, and children might be identified as having a 'fixed mindset' and interventions put in place, which starts sounding a bit culty to me.

What are other schools doing?

It might be worth being aware that the evidence might not be all that.

These researchers struggled to explain why their growth mindset intervention program in the UK didn't produce statistically significant results:

and David Didau wrote this blog (which is well worth a read) wondering whether Growth Mindset is slipping into pseudoscience. The poster in there which he has seen in a school is awful!

Are we being sold another Brain Gym?

OP’s posts: |
roundtable Sat 21-Nov-15 14:16:25

I've already posted on the other thread which I know your on so I won't repeat myself but wanted to add some other thoughts in seeing a variety of schools and their approaches to a growth mindset.

It is important to teach children to be resilient and to encourage a strong and positive work ethic but I find it lacking in most places.

Just another way to do 5 way differentiation but with the children having to take responsibility for all the decisions which I don't think they have the life experience or maturity to do imo.

I think it's another fad.

roundtable Sat 21-Nov-15 14:20:21

I am toying with the idea of coming up with a new education idea and peddling it up and down the country. grin

It always reminds me of the people in the Western films who used to sell their potions, travelling from town to town and nobody realising until they'd left they'd been ripped off.

roundtable Sat 21-Nov-15 14:21:31

Excuse my terrible grammar, my phone is glitchy.

WildStallions Sat 21-Nov-15 14:22:36

Growth mindset is just another way to keep them hooked on praise.

Alfie Kohn has written lots on this, including his thoughts on growth mindset. But basically his view is that you need to be intrinsically motivated not extrinsically motivated. So therefore all praise is bad. (Ie praise makes intrinsic motivated people extrinsically motivated which hinders them)

He says it very well. But the gist is all praise is manipulatitve And therefore ultimately not good.

WildStallions Sat 21-Nov-15 14:25:53

Here is Alfie Kohns article:

LindyHemming Sat 21-Nov-15 20:50:29

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

user1484651856 Tue 17-Jan-17 12:04:39

The Growth Mindset business is now under serious academic scrutiny. See

Eolian Tue 17-Jan-17 12:13:38

Dh is a deputy head and largely agrees with the growth mindset thing. I'm a teacher too and am very sceptical about it. The Kohns article is interesting and very convincing, I think. Have shared it with dh but he'll probably say it's bollocks!

cricketballs Tue 17-Jan-17 17:03:16

Our HT was hugely invested in this last year - staff meetings and assemblies held all year preaching it - it hasn't been spoke about this year hmm

ninnypoo Tue 17-Jan-17 17:11:49

I was thinking about this the other day on a long walk (ended up going round in circles).

I've noticed that certain children (the ones with a 'fixed mindset') often fake a growth mindset as another way of giving the right answer- for instance all the 'don't say X, do say Y' displays surely promote a right/wrong way of thinking? So these kids parrot back "I can do it if I just try" knowing it's what teachers want to hear but without believing any of it.

I don't know if you can develop a growth mindset because surely if you don't have one naturally, you develop one due to being told by teachers that it is the right mindset to have rather than coming to these conclusions independently? (I know some people might change their mindset themselves but my experience in schools proves otherwise). Anyway this led to me thinking maybe a genuine growth mindset is an either you have it or you don't type thing, which obviously contradicts the whole growth mindset approach. And then I stopped thinking because my head hurt.

0nline Tue 17-Jan-17 17:14:30

But... it's nothing new. On my 1 month CTEFLA (introductory TEFL certificate) back in the early nineties we covered intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, mistakes as risk taking that is essential for language growth, and evaluating effort rather than output.

How come it has suddenly become a huge business ?

I've never put any posters up. It was something WE were supposed to bear in mind when it came to our teaching practice. Not something we were supposed to exhort the students into understanding and applying on their own.

Maybe I'm so old that it went out of fashion, and has just come back in again. Like flares. I'm been wearing them resolutely since platforms made a come back pre millennium (skinnies make my legs look like carrots) and now they are just popping up in the shops with much fanfare. Like they are all new and ground breaking.

ChipsForSupper Wed 18-Jan-17 00:23:26

Roundtable - love your image of the travelling quack salesmen - how many INSETS have we all endured, bored to death, on growth mindset led by a man (or, less often in my experience, a woman) who has extensive teaching and SLT experience but who clearly couldn't bear the stress any longer and manged to escape to the holy grail of CPD provision. Generally, he spends the day pontificating with a mixture of smug relief that he is no longer in our shoes and pity for us.

The problem with all of these fads is that they are always ridiculously one-sided so, of course, will run out of steam. As far as growth mindset is concerned, yes, of course, it helps if a pupil approaches learning with a sense of open-minded willingness to try new things and to work hard (which is the bleeding obvious rather than a revolutionary new concept, actually) but there is an implication that this attitude will help you to achieve anything - which is obviously nonsense and belongs to the X-Factor 'just believe in yourself' imaginary world of pop-psychology. There are such things as natural abilities or talents, levels of intelligence and social advantages which mean that, no matter how hard I work, no matter how willing I am to try new things, I am not going to be an astrophysicist or a premier footballer. Also, there is nothing wrong with praising someone for having a high level of intelligence or a great way with animals - the person may not have worked hard to achieve those attributes but they are, nevertheless, valuable attributes and worth celebrating.

0nline Wed 18-Jan-17 08:18:48

I am not going to be an astrophysicist or a premier footballer

I think that's true to a certain extent. But perhaps not to the extent we have always believed it to be true. In the sense that maybe we place too much emphasis on talent.

When the bulk of your top table tennis players at one point came from one street in Reading it does rather highlight that opportunity to practice, hard work and support to keep working hard does go a long way to shortening the odds.

Kids who don't demonstrate any obvious natural ability (that then attracts support, encouragement and opportunity) may be missing windows to become quite, or even really really good at something. Just because it was not presented as a realistic possibility for them.

I've just seen my own kid come from nowhere, to being picked for sign up in an adult semi pro team from September. He's not tall, he was a lousy shot, he wibbled in defence and that was a year after he started at 14. To the rest of the world he suddenly took off three months ago. I've been watching the leg work behind the "stratospheric rise" for 18 months. In the hot and the cold, with a clipboard and a burning desire to be back on the sofa with my iPad

The only thing that changed was that six months in he took "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard" to heart and has worked his socks off. On and off court. With physical skills work AND extensive reading.

I don't know if he'll realise his dream of making it to the very top. But I do know that having come to believe that the concept that talent is a nebulous, semi-myth ... he is applying the concept of "work hard, screw up, get up, work harder" to his life as well. Which has done wonders for his grades.

Maybe we need to focus less on the "premier"footballer part. Shift the focus away from the end goal at the top, and focus instead on the possibility that even without any obvious natural abilities most people, most of the time, can become at least competent in an area that will be useful/enjoyable for them, if they put in the hours needed.

I can't say I love having a kid whose sport participation means our life is ruled by his season. I would not have chosen this for him, or us. But credit where credit is due, it is via his sport that he has learned that if he applies himself he can make progress and a lack of obvious natural ability is no reason to not to work your socks off. Which is not a bad life lesson by any standards.

Plus he is far too busy to get into normal teenage trouble. Which is not to be sniffed at.

I don't think he would have made the mindset transition via posters in school and having to trot out 'sanctioned' ways of talking about his learning. That's too "chicken nugget" as opposed to hunting, butchering and cooking your own steak.

So as it is being presented I can't see it changing hearts and minds. Quite possibly it merely turns growth mindset into just one more hoop teachers and student have to jump through... when they'd rather be focusing on the stuff they enjoy/need and would like to get better/good at.

Eolian Wed 18-Jan-17 09:23:37

I think that's true to a certain extent. But perhaps not to the extent we have always believed it to be true. In the sense that maybe we place too much emphasis on talent.

I agree with this actually, even though I think much of what is peddled in Growth Mindset is bobbins. It's not that there's no such thing as specific talents, or different levels of intelligence, but I do think that a lot of apparently innate ability in subjects can often be at least partly down to nurture rather than nature, or a bias for or against arts/sciences etc unconsciously created by parents.

My dd is very bright but has an unusually extreme verbal bias, according to her CAT tests. She's ok at maths but not as good as you might expect from her general intelligence level. I just wonder if that's really entirely innate. With a history teacher father and a linguist mother, she hasn't exactly had much nudging towards the maths side of things. But then again I suspect if I'd had CAT tests I would have had a similarly extreme verbal bias, so who knows?

midnightlurker Wed 18-Jan-17 09:36:00

I think it is another fad. Very unfair on children with Additional Needs also.

lougle Wed 18-Jan-17 09:38:43

I think growth mindset is vital, really. I'm not sure if you can teach it, but you can definitely nurture it and cultivate it by the environment you provide.

I am a natural 'growth mindset' person, I think. I'm lucky that I'm very intelligent (I was assessed as a small child because my language was unclear and I had the development of an 8 year old at the Age of 4) but I'm not afraid to fail. I'll always do the task that seems just beyond my level and hope I can stretch to it, rather than playing safe.

DD3 is very intelligent, but can't stand to fail, to the extent that she wouldn't read at all until recently, because she might get the words wrong.

0nline Wed 18-Jan-17 18:02:10

but you can definitely nurture it and cultivate it by the environment you provide.

Agreed. I've seen for myself how somebody can move up the spectrum of
FM<----->GM. But I don't believe that the movement is guaranteed to be in only be in one direction.

We were ready for DS to go out on the court, risk and fail. As it happened his risks paid off. Big time. But that wasn't a given at all, so we had a plan in place to stop the landing being so hard and bruising that he shifted in the other direction. Which with him, was always something that had to be considered. He was capable of taking it very badly when failing went from theory to practice. Our concern was that as a consequence he could move ever further down the "avoid mistake/failure" end of the scale than he had started at.

What happens in schools if "mistake avoiding" kids do take risks and put in loads of effort ... but still don't get the desired grade/output, as well as getting back work peppered liberally with errors, thanks to their new found GM ?

Putting up posters and having a nice talk in assembly is not too taxing, but I have found the realities of planning and providing a softened landing for a single kid who is taking a GM leap of faith, to be a big job and really quite time consuming.

How do the GM sellers propose the school/teachers organise for softened landings ? To make sure that the GM Products aren't inadvertently glueing some kids further into a less than flexible outlook. If not actually accidentally giving them a hard shove in the wrong direction cos they had too bumpy a landing

In some ways, (bearing in mind I am only peeking in, not actually in a mainstream school observing closely) I'm beginning to think this one is potentially worse than Mind Gym. Because IMO there may be potentially unintended negative consequence with "potted GM" if the position is that as long as you can persuade the kids leap, the only possible direction they can go in is up. So no safety nets required.

lougle Wed 18-Jan-17 18:45:59

"What happens in schools if "mistake avoiding" kids do take risks and put in loads of effort ... but still don't get the desired grade/output, as well as getting back work peppered liberally with errors, thanks to their new found GM ? "

Then surely they've been taught GM badly? If they think that one burst of risk taking and effort will equal unrivalled success, that's ridiculous! Otherwise we would all be amazing and inevitably, what is viewed as amazing would be pushed further skyward....

They need to hear about the Edisons of the world, who failed 1000 times to invent the lightbulb for which he is famous.

goingmadinthecountry Wed 18-Jan-17 21:31:13

To me it's just about keeping options open/thinking positively/moving on. It's what all children(well,everyone) should do, so what we should all be promoting in schools. No big thing to me. Another word for doing the right thing.
It's an attitude I positively encourage at school without ever giving it a name.

But hey, there is SOME benefit to lazy 8s... grin

storynanny Wed 18-Jan-17 21:43:03

Sad thing is, when a new ( well, recycled) fad comes along and heads jump on the bandwagon, the last fad gets forgotten.
Im thinking Rights Respect Responsibility, thinking hats, different learning styles, PATHS (turtle time) , golden mile, creativity,
Healthy Schools , Arts Mark, etc
Everything is the new latest "invention" till the next one comes along.

MaybeDoctor Wed 18-Jan-17 21:44:09

I am out of teaching now, so don't know how Growth Mindset is being promoted in schools. However, I do rather blush when I think of how Braingym was being peddled and swallowed in my NQT days....There must be a kernel of evidence that physical movement helps to aid continued focus, rather like advice to take a walk when you are studying, but oh the 'thing' it had become....grin

Going back to growth mindset, I have read Carol Dweck's academic book as well as her popular book - it is based on a series of psychological studies she conducted with children. One that I read in depth was called 'Mediators of persistence on pre-schoolers'. So there is some evidence there, but presenting it as the solution to all ills is a step too far...

storynanny Wed 18-Jan-17 21:55:15

Oh yes brain gym , add that to theust along with the current hand gym.

storynanny Wed 18-Jan-17 21:55:34

The list

rollonthesummer Wed 18-Jan-17 22:02:46

Brain Gym
VCOP pyramids
Bloom's Taxonomy
Higher order questioning
Learning styles
R time
Mantle of the Expert

Too many wasted hours of my life I will never get back sad

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