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Growth Mindset at Whickham Parochial

At Whickham Parochial we work hard to embed a culture in which children take a greater responsibility for their own learning and become independent thinkers. We hope to produce children who strive to improve and are able to discuss the steps they will need to take to accomplish this end.
In order to accomplish this, our staff have participated in two full days and several evenings of training. So committed are we to this end that Growth Mindset is part of our School Improvement Plan and is a focus for our monitoring and observations.
We feel that the work we have done so far has been extremely successful in changing the way our children learn, making them far more active participants in their progress. We would love to share our ideas with you so that this journey can continue and strengthen at home.

Peer Editing and Assessment:
Peer assessment provides children with a safe place to explore mistakes and make improvements. It gives an alternative explanation from the usual ‘adult’ viewpoint. Peer assessment also raises children’s expectations of their own work – when they see their peers demonstrating a skill rather than their teacher expecting it, it not only becomes more attainable, it provides motivation and goals.
We also work on raising children’s expectations of themselves by redrafting and responding to feedback. We want them to feel that criticism and high expectations are a good thing and that they help us learn.

Giving children the tools to self-assess helps them to become active, astute and articulate learners. We provide children with models of excellence and success criteria so that they know where they are going in their learning journey. We use technical vocabulary and ask them to use this in their discussion of their work.
We self-assess in numerous ways, including ‘fist to five’ and also by asking children to choose their own level of challenge. Rest assured, however, we are on the lookout at all times for children who are either not coping when they think they are, or are choosing easier challenges than they should. Mixed ability and self-assessment does not mean teachers do not assess or differentiate. One of the ways we accomplish this is to assess understanding through questioning and then ‘catch and release’ – selecting children for a mini-focus session of additional explanation and teaching before allowing them to try independently.

Mixed Ability Pairs and Groups:
Studies have shown that ability groupings do not support progress. If a child is continually grouped with less able pupils, they do not have a model to aspire to, they become comfortable working at that level. They also become set in thinking of themselves as ‘less able’ (no matter how carefully the teacher labels the groups!) Equally, more able pupils become afraid to ask for help or make mistakes. They want to be right all the time and fear misunderstanding.

Mixing groups gives children the freedom to think of themselves as more fluid learners – sometimes things will be easier, sometime harder. It also gives them the chance to be explained to and also the explainer – both of which deepen and enhance understanding

Open Questions:
Wherever possible we try to ask questions which explore and deepen children’s understanding.
Questions such as:
  • How did you get that answer?
  • What strategy did you use?
  • What could they do differently?
  • Explain another way to find that?
make talk partner work more useful and help us to assess children’s skills. Also, by articulating their understanding, they consolidate it. Additionally, if children are struggling with a concept, hearing their peers explain it provides an extra viewpoint.

Praise and Growth Mindset:
It has been discovered that the way we praise children can have an enormous impact on the way they view their ability. If we praise children for their ability or talent (which is known as ‘trait’ praise) the child will be afraid to fail or show weakness in their skill. This will lead them to only feel good about themselves when they get everything right, so they often choose easier tasks in order to demonstrate their success or, as they see it, how clever they are. However, if we praise children’s effort in their task (known as ‘process’ praise), children will be more willing to have a go at difficult things and make mistakes, as in doing so they do not risk losing your approval, but in gaining it for their effort, their resilience and their courage.

To see the video, Google “Carol Dweck: the effect of praise on mindset”. Or you can find a link to the Youtube video in the box to top right of this text.