At Milford School, we believe that any child can achieve in anything they put their mind to. This ideal is based on the sound understanding that intelligence is expandable, meaning that you are not born with a set amount. This concept is known as growth mindset. A growth mindset has become an accessible concept for the way learners need to feel about themselves and their abilities to be successful learners (Carol Dweck, 2000).
A fixed mindset is the result of a continual focus on your ability rather than your achievement and effort. Praise to young children reinforcing ‘cleverness’ or intelligence and exclaiming over speed of mastery gives a clear subliminal message: to get approval you need to master new things quickly, with little effort, both of which will earn you the ‘clever’ label. The more your ability, your speed and lack of effort are praised, the more you don’t want to lose that position of greatness, so the less you want to engage in tasks which require time or effort or might lead to some kind of failure. People with fixed mindset avoid challenging tasks for fear of failure, thus missing many valuable learning opportunities (Shirley Clarke, 2014).
|Intelligence is static
I must look clever!
|Intelligence is expandable
I want to learn more!
|Gives up easily
|Persists in the face of setbacks
|Sees effort as pointless
|Sees effort as the way
|Ignores useful criticism
|Learns from criticism
|Likely to plateau early and achieve less than full potential
|Reaches ever-higher levels of achievement
It is clear that a belief that your intelligence is limited is a critical barrier to many children’s learning and therefore we regularly discuss this with our children. We don’t accept children saying that they can’t do something, instead turning this around to explain that ‘I can’t do it yet’. Our use praise with children is extremely important in developing the right culture and this therefore focuses on achievement and effort.
If you would like some practical tips in supporting growth mindset at home, please have a look at the resources below.