, ,

It has been nearly three terms since Barry Hymer introduced us to the ideas of “Mindset” and in the interim we have had three teachermeet sessions where we have considered how we translate the key messages into classroom practice. As a staff we have argued mainly over whether Dweck’s views on praise are “right” and whether or not the ideas she puts forward are just too simplistic. There is no doubt that the ideas are appealing and many of us have been encouraged when a student has declared that Churchill had a “fixed mindset” or has apologised for giving up too easily and “being a little bit fixed mindset!” but it is probably time to take a more nuanced view.


FLCKR photo credit megan Lynnette

The phrase “Mindset” actually brings to mind a quote attributed to Henry Ford: “whether you think you can or you can’t you are probably right”. But is believing that effort will help you get better enough – even if you reframe it as Virgil’s more positive “Success nourished them: they can because they think they can”.[1]

Over the course of the 2014-15 Year 7 students have undertaken mindsets training based on a model designed by the University of Portsmouth which QKS had access to as part of the “Closing the Gap” research funded by the NCSL. The course was delivered by Geography, History and RS staff and involved students studying: how the brain works; how language and feedback can influence the learning process: breaking down stereotypes; identifying role models and their journeys to success and allowed students to plan their own routes to potential success.

As part of our evaluation process students completed a mindsets questionnaire before and after the course in order to ascertain if their mindset changed. As we had this data we used it in a variety of small ways. For example, we compared the change in scores for matched samples of children of higher and lower prior attainment (as measured by KS2 SAT scores) as we wondered if either or both groups were more likely to change mindset after the training. However, we found no significant difference in the scores.

Another very small scale study looked at the mean mindset score against progress made in Maths over Year 7. Students from a sample Year 7 form made one National Curriculum sub level more progress if their questionnaire responses indicated a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. Using mean growth mindset set scores we also looked at progress in maths for pupil premium students of a growth mindset, comparing them with pupil premium students with a fixed mindset. Again, on average, those with a growth mindset made a sublevel more progress.

The initial signs (based on some very small samples) suggests very tentatively that the Mindsets course is beginning to make an impact on students but mindsets is a long journey – we haven’t got there… yet. It is clear that just delivering mindset training is not enough.

After reading Yeager Walton Cohen 2013.pdf a colleague Heather Wilson summarised success as being mindset+effort+teacher help.  This fuller formula echoes with a blog written by John Tomsett who summarises the research as effort+startegies+help from others as perhaps being a fuller formula for mindset success.

The ideas of Dweck are complimented by those found in Practice Perfect[2] which asks us to reconsider that practice does not necessarily make perfect if you are practising the wrong method. It is more accurate to assert that “practice makes permanent.” and therefore, knowing how to practice and using modelling and feedback in a culture of practice are equally as important as the belief that the effort spent practising will result in improvement. The book then goes on to give us 42 strategies which will help us in these areas!

Although the ideas of Dweck are appealing not least because they appeal to our desire for hard work to be rewarded but creating a classroom climate which attributing “student success to effort rather than ability and valuing resilience to failure (grit).” Coe et al (2014) is only the first step to embedding a holistic mindset culture at QKS.


[1] This Much I know about Love Over fear John Tomsett Crown (2015)

[2] Practice Perfect Doug Lemov Erika Woolway and Katie Yezzi Jossey-Bass (2012)