How do you create a growth mindset culture?  Businesses, organisations, industries and schools all over the world are asking this question. Why are they asking?  If we can create a growth mindset culture we can establish an environment where people can flourish and thrive rather than languish.  As a senior manager in a school understanding how to create and develop a growth mindset culture in my school has been a fundamental target for us this year as we fully appreciate the benefit this can have not only to our students but also to our staff.

Taking Risks in the Classroom

We want staff and students who work in an environment where they are able to take risks and make mistakes without the ‘failure’ label being attached to their work or ability levels.  We want staff and students who are resilient and able to bounce back when problems arise.  We want staff and students who look for different pathways to succeed and not just to give up when they fail the first time.  We want staff and students to bounce back from these failure and learn quickly from their mistakes always striving to succeed, improve and achieve.  We want staff and students to be the best possible versions of themselves every day.

The Power of Yet

I have no doubt every manager globally feels the same way about their workforce but how do we create and develop this growth minded culture?  At my school we have created a 2 year growth mindset initiative which had been driven by our Junior Leadership Team (JLT).  September 2015 saw the launch of the initiative where we focused on one message and one message only….the power of yet!  This message ran through everything we did in the classroom, around the building using displays and in our assemblies.  Staff focused on the use of the phrase in both their verbal and written feedback to students and students had the opportunity to understand the difference between a growth and fixed mindset during student led assemblies.

Involve everyone to get the culture you want

It was essential for us as a school to also include the parents in our venture to create a growth mindset culture therefore we held a growth mindset evening for parents and offered them advice on how to talk to their children at home to promote a growth minded mentality.  In order for the right culture to be achieved it was essential to ensure everyone was helping us to create the growth mindset culture we were aiming for.

We decided to measure staff and students growth mindset throughout the academic year therefore at the end of each term both staff and students throughout the school completed a growth mindset questionnaire.  The JLT are in the process of analysing the results and we plan to continue this testing and analysis this year.  My advice to others who are passionate about creating a growth mindset culture in your school, company or office is to keep it simple.  In term 1 we had one focus each term for staff and students.

Term 1: The power of yet;

Term 2: Praise effort not attainment

Term 3: Use frequent, effective formative feedback with a growth mindset focus.

This year our results have improved by 10% at GCSE from last year from 53% A*-C to 63% A*-C grades including Maths and English.  We aim to continue to build on this success in 2016 as we move into year 2 of our growth mindset focus and again we are keeping it simple:

Term 1: High levels of challenge;

Term 2: Explicitly welcome mistakes;

Term 3: Reward effort, not attainment.

My observations

More than anything students behave differently in the classroom and now they themselves and often their peers end their ‘I can’t do this’ statements with the word yet.  You can’t do it yet.  This tiny word has had such a big impact on student’s perseverance in the classroom because they realise that they have to apply more effort before they ‘get it’. This tiny word is encouraging them not to give up when they get it wrong, we are making our learners grittier.  Likewise our staff are more willing to challenge themselves, to take risks in their classrooms and bounce back quickly when things don’t work out as they had hoped……yet.

This has been a powerful initiative and I look forward to what year 2 will bring and the positive culture it will create.

About the Author: Katie Small graduated with a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of East London in 2014. Katie’s passion is to teach teenagers about the power of positive psychology and how it can enable human beings to thrive. Katie is an Assistant Principal at Liverpool Life Sciences UTC.


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