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Growth mindset: Encouraging self-reflection in pupils

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Intelligence can be developed, it is not set in stone; this is the core concept of a growth mindset. It is a learning theory developed by Dr Carol Dweck, revolved around the belief that you can improve intelligence, ability and performance.

When it comes to school education, a growth mindset is incredibly useful. It encourages pupils to see their position in the class as flexible, and achievement as attainable. It’s a useful tool for motivation by raising pupils’ expectations and encouraging them to take ownership of their learning at the same time.

A growth mindset is also essential for an ongoing positive outlook on life, not just in school — we all need to adopt a growth mindset to enable us to think differently and overcome life’s challenges.

It’s an especially pertinent tool in the often uncertain and occasionally overwhelming times we find ourselves in. As we adjust to the new normal, educators need to try and nurture a flexible ethos in themselves, to evolve practices they’ve become used to. And encourage learners to think of themselves as evolutionary creatures, that can adapt and improve, no matter the circumstances of their learning.

In the 50 years since Dweck’s research, her theory has shaped modern learning techniques by encouraging a greater level of self-reflection in schools.

Self-reflection is important for everyone of all ages — it allows people to find and develop hidden talents. But as teachers, how do you develop that skill in your classroom, and in yourself? Here are three ways to encourage a growth mindset in the classroom:

Use formative assessment for self-awareness

Formative assessment can be used to help identify strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work in your classroom. You may use this information to develop your learning techniques and pupil-specific improvement strategies. But there’s no reason why pupils can’t use this information for their own self-reflection.

Formative assessment techniques — such as impromptu online quizzes hosted on your front of class display and linked to pupils’ devices — can help students recognise where they can build upon existing knowledge. Also, by encouraging your pupils to use multiple platforms, they are developing awareness of their digital literacy as well as their subject knowledge.

Do you agree? Have your say in our survey.

Encourage curiosity about the process

Encouraging your students to ask for and act on feedback can encourage a sense of curiosity.

A growth mindset is typically developed by self-evaluating performance and identifying ways to improve. Encourage pupils to see their progress in a positive way — instead of letting them say “I can’t do it”, say “I can’t do it yet”.

In a classroom setting, this means emphasising to pupils that the end result is not the only criteria by which they are assessed. Praise the process, effort and individual development as well as the end result. Collaborative edtech platforms can help you provide ongoing feedback in private to your pupils through progress monitoring tools.

Take a more collaborative approach to learning

With a sharp rise in digital conferencing and remote learning tools in the current climate, pupils can easily collaborate with students from different schools, or even other countries. Broadening pupils’ social and learning circles, and enabling them to learn from one another is a key form of self-development.

Taking a collaborative learning approach — encouraging pupils to step away from their desks and interact on diverse topics on different platforms — is an increasingly popular teaching method. This way, students can also celebrate each other’s successes.

Do you push your pupils to offer help when there is a challenging task, or be peer mentors for one another? A growth mindset helps boost learning, develop a curious mind and seek out knowledge. It also encourages pupils and teachers to feel more confident with tools and technologies in the classroom, too. Our annual State of Technology in Education report has shown that teachers are keen to do more with tech in their classrooms, and developing this curiosity is a great start.

By sharing your thoughts and approach to education, you’re developing your own growth mindset. We’re currently gathering feedback from educators across the country for our 5th annual report. We’d love to hear from you and your colleagues about the evolving role of tech in developing a growth mindset and motivating your pupils, and each other. Share your thoughts in our survey.

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The State of Technology in Education Report 2019/20

Shining a light on what’s most important in education, our annual report is packed full of key trends, surprising data, edtech predictions, and candid insider opinions. This year’s is no different.

View the report