Struggling and Succeeding: Learning with a Growth Mindset on Tuesday 24th May at Sandown Park Racecourse – guest blog by Katie Hayes, Educational Psychologist
Following James Nottingham’s visit to Midlothian and his inspiring demonstrations of the learning pit, it was amazing to have the opportunity to hear him speak about growth mindset in Surrey on 24th May. He was joined by speakers Matthew Syed and Steve Ingle to explore how mindsets affect motivation and learning, and how we can nurture growth mindsets in ourselves and learners.
Matthew Syed, has just published his latest book ‘Black Box Thinking: Marginal Gains and the Secrets of High Performance’ and spoke about how important it is that we see success as a journey. Once you think of success as a journey you are more willing to take the necessary steps to get there. In the media, we so often see the ‘performance’ and not the ‘practice’, and this can reinforce the notion that people are naturally talented or that success ‘just happens’. Matthew Syed shared examples of how David Beckham practiced for endless hours as a child to get to where he is, and how behind every great invention there are countless prototypes that we don’t see. Did you know Dyson has invented a new noiseless hair dryer? And that there were 600 prototypes for this in the making!
James Nottingham echoed the importance of practice and persistence as well as focussing on progress rather than achievement. He made an important distinction between ‘effort’ and ‘process’ – it’s not just how hard you try at something it’s HOW you try; putting the emphasis on process and learning strategies is important. Steve Ingle even shared an example from Lasswade Primary School and their use of learning powers; it was great to hear Midlothian’s work being recognised and named checked down south in Surrey! James Nottingham challenged us all to think about the different ways that we can encourage growth mindsets by celebrating progress, for example, how often do wall displays include draft work as well as the finished product?
The day encouraged me to reflect on the language that we use and the impact of this. For example, simple words like the power of adding ‘yet’ to turn a fixed mindset statement into a growth mindset statement; referring to process as opposed to simply effort; making sure praise is delivered as a verb, ‘good reading’ ‘good swimming’ as this puts learners in control of their learning; and making sure that we don’t talk about ourselves or others ‘having’ a fixed or growth mindset. ‘To have’ sounds fixed, but to talk about being ‘in’ a fixed or a growth mindset uses the language of possibility and hope.
Steve Ingle reminded us that mindset is a continuum and success for ourselves and for learners is messy. How can we ensure that we are walking the walk and creating a genuine culture of growth mindset in our schools?
It was a fantastic conference and a time to think about the opportunities that we can create in schools. Sustainable growth mindset thinking in our learners requires constant opportunities for :
- Optimal Challenge
- Learning from trial and error
- Making safe mistakes
- Learning about learning
- Developing self awareness
James Nottingham made reference to the role that outdoor education can have in this. It has an effect size of 0.52, and provides a platform for all of the opportunities above; it can facilitate a change of perspective that can really help to change our expectations of ourselves and others in a positive way. He recommended any opportunity to run an outdoor education experience at the beginning of the school year to give a shared experience that can be referred back to over the course of the year, helping learners to remember the challenges that they faced that day, and how they overcame them.
Finally, my take home message from the day was that we need to help ourselves and learners to view challenge as interesting not just as something difficult. Again, it comes down to the importance of the language that we use to make sure challenge is not perceived as a negative thing. The title of the conference ‘Struggling to Succeed’ was a deliberate prompt to encourage us to think about how we view the word ‘struggle’ and whether it is a positive or a negative word in education? How can we help learners to see struggle as a good thing? Because this is the journey that will lead to success.