John is talking about the importance of a growth mindset.
We learn over time that there’s no output without input: you only get out what you put in. As Edison said, there is no substitute for hard work. John wanted to set up a junior leadership team of six people with a single focus: to improve student motivation. They went away and did some research and picked out Dweck’s Mindset as a key piece of research for helping them to achieve this.
At John’s school, Huntington, they have two strands to their plan – teacher coaching, and growth mindset, run by eye junior leadership team. The focus has been on changing the culture. Staff have been trained on what the growth mindset is – ALL staff, not just teachers.
Trait 1: learn at all costs. Learn from criticism and suggestions; seek strategies to improve.
Trait 2: confront mistakes and deficiencies. Actively seek out learning opportunities: setbacks highlight issues and problems that need to be dealt with and learnt from. “There is no failure, there is only success and learning”.
Trait 3: talent vs effort – work hard, effort is key. Understand that no matter what your natural aptitude, effort is essential to improve and achieve. Persistent commitment and motivation are vital.
Students are given a growth mindset questionnaire and given sessions on the neuroscience of the brain as part of the tutor program. John shows examples of two girls with the same starting levels, their GCSE grades and their scores on the growth mindset questionnaire: the one with the higher score achieved better grades, which is interesting. Data like this helps to convince staff that there might be something in it.
It’s difficult to be growth mindset about everything, of course. Sometimes it’s really hard to learn from perceived failures. Also, labelling students as AGT is not helpful, because they think of themselves as gifted students who don’t need to try. Huntington has High Starters in 7, 10 and 12 who are students who are doing particularly well at key phases: this gives students something t aspire to but doesn’t allow them to rest on their laurels.
There’s a weekly growth mindset tip email, a laminate with the three traits for the front of everybody’s planner, and sessions for parents so they can use the growth mindset language with their students at home. Staff encouraged to do small things, such as respond to students who say, “I can’t do that” with “…yet”. They have adjusted “Work smarter, not harder” to be “Work harder to be smarter”.
We do our own questionnaire about our mindsets. There’s a statement about spending time with like-minded colleagues and whether we push ourselves to spend time with people that challenge us that incites some discussion. I come out at a 4.3 average. I like spending time with people that think like me, too.
The JLT at John’s school are quite evangelical about the growth mindset, even suggesting a bootcamp for those who need to develop theirs. There is huge enthusiasm from the bottom up and there’s a drive to make students work harder that has delighted a number of staff.