Growth Mindset – Grow Your Brain

What Is Growth Mindset?

The term ‘growth mindset’ refers to a way of thinking, learning and taking on challenges. A person with a growth mindset is open to constructive criticism, takes feedback and uses it, takes on new   challenges, pushes themselves outside of their comfort zone and shows resilience and perseverance.

Pupils who have Growth Mindset:

  • Believe that intelligence is not fixed
  • Thrive on challenge
  • Throw themselves into difficult tasks
  • Are self-confident
  • Recognise intelligence can continually be improved through effort
  • Ignore the low aspirations of their peers
  • React to failure by trying harder
  • Engage in self-monitoring
  • Have learning goals
  • Like feedback on their performance so they can improve

Aims of policy

This policy does not aim to prescribe expected language, organisation and teaching approaches at Beverley St Nicholas Community Primary School. It aims to ensure that in using language, in organising teaching and learning and in modelling/managing behaviour, we are consistently reflecting on the impact of our chosen approaches and decisions on the promotion of ‘growth mindset’. It aims to suggest approaches which will have a positive impact on developing pupils ‘Growth Mindset’ and therefore on their learning.


Language is often loaded with cultural and social weight. All language affects our behaviour and attitudes towards ourselves and others, both consciously and subconsciously.

Does labelling always have a positive impact on how we view our children?

We label to organise and to explain. Once labelled, we consciously and subconsciously react in a different way to children. Sometimes labelling has an undoubtedly positive effect e.g. knowing a child is autistic helps us begin to understand and support a child’s behaviour appropriately. However, labelling a child as ‘low ability’ or ‘SEN’ can fix that child in our minds as a low performer, leading to an expectation of low level performance.

This policy suggests: that the word ‘ability’ is replaced by ‘starters’ which is a temporary status and one to be challenged. that we constantly challenge ourselves as teachers to see beyond labels ( SEN etc.) to see the child and to continue to have high expectations

Are we working or learning?

The word ‘Work’ has connotations of toil. Work is the opposite of play. Generally work is something we do for somebody else and it contains no explicit connection to education and learning. So why do we use this word so much in schools?

This policy suggests that the word ‘work’ is replaced by words such as ‘learning’, ‘effort’, ‘discovery’, ‘exploration’ and ‘play’.

Are we praising the person or the effort or process or skills?

Praise which is linked to the person is often limiting in its impact. In fact, every word and action sends a message. It tells children how to think about themselves. It can be a fixed mindset message that says: “You have permanent traits and I’m judging them.” Or it can be a growth mindset message that says: “You are a developing person and I am interested in your development”.

Look for the messages in the following examples: “You learned that so quickly! You’re so smart!” “Look at that drawing. Is he the next Picasso or what?” “You’re so brilliant” “Well done” “That’s amazing, you didn’t make a single mistake” “You have natural flair.”

Teacher/parents hear these as supportive, esteem-boosting messages. But children listen more closely and reflectively and they hear:

“If I don’t learn something quickly, I’m not smart.” “Speed and accuracy are the most important things” “I shouldn’t try drawing anything hard or they’ll see I’m no Picasso.” “Putting a lot of effort into something isn’t the important thing, the grade at the end is” “I am only amazing if I don’t make mistakes.”

This policy suggests that, wherever possible, praise highlights the skill, the process or the attitude rather than the person. “I really like the way you stuck with that problem.” “You built really well on that mistake when you tried the other strategy.” “I am very pleased with the effort you put into that piece.” “Great to see you challenging yourself all the time.” “I love the way you’ve captured the tones and the shadow in that drawing.”


Placing a child consistently into a ‘lower ability’ or ‘middle ability’ group can encourage the child to have lower expectations for him/herself. Children are often acutely aware of where they ‘sit’ in the class and vary their behaviour and aspirations accordingly – their Growth Mindset is undermined. We are also potentially capping their access to higher order thinking, language and activities which might challenge their expectations of themselves and their aspirations.

This policy suggests that groups in the class are consistently flexible and are expected to regularly change in membership as children move through patterns of slower and faster progress. Children should have opportunities to choose their learning (more so in KS2) Groups should be mixed ability wherever possible. Talk partners should also be mixed ability as it gives each partner a chance to share their strengths and improve their areas of weakness.

When is a challenge not a challenge? When it just belongs to the higher attainers!

Often ‘challenges’ are given to those who are performing at a higher level in a task. Challenge can be viewed positively in this way by the higher attainers. It can be viewed as something for those who are succeeding. The rest can continue to struggle on doing work that, by implication, isn’t a challenge – it is easier- merely a task to accomplish.

This policy suggests: That challenge is for everyone at all times, otherwise children aren’t learning. They are either consolidating known skills or are totally stuck. The word ‘challenge’ should therefore denote the real learning point not an extension beyond the general objective. Grappling should be encouraged and pages of tickle pink should be avoided as this shows the challenge is not sufficient.

Can mistakes ever be a positive thing?

Mistakes arrive when children are actively learning – extending their skills and knowledge. No mistakes generally means no learning. Too many mistakes also means no learning. It is a fine balance. Mistakes can also undermine a child’s confidence depending on the culture in the school – if mistakes are a crucial part of learning shouldn’t we see them as interesting, as natural, important steps in learning and potentially useful.

This policy suggests that:

Teachers highlight mistakes as interesting and potentially useful

Teachers create a culture where mistakes are seen as an integral part of successful learning

Praise incidents where attitudes and behaviour reflect a constructive approach to mistakes

Some key aspects of Growth Mindset at Beverley St Nicholas Community Primary School

  • We remember it’s always OK to make mistakes – we learn from them
  • We never give up! We try a different approach, or use a different strategy
  • We learn from each other – we often make the best teachers!
  • We don’t compare ourselves with others, but we do learn from others
  • We challenge ourselves – which really helps us make progress
  • We take risks – we don’t limit ourselves by taking the easy option
  • We join in as much as possible – and we learn much more by being involved
  • We remember that mastering something new feels so much better than doing something you can already do
  • We remember that the brain is making new connections all the time – the only thing you need to knowis that you can learn anything!
  • We use the learning powers below in every lesson.

Concentrate – manage distractions, get lost in the task, plan and think it through

Don’t give up – Try hard, practise lots, try new strategies, ask for help

Be cooperative – listen to others, explain things to others, say when you don’t understand

Be curious – ask questions, notice things, research, think of possible reasons

Have a go – be excited to try new things, don’t worry if it goes wrong, we learn from mistakes

Use your imagination – be creative, think up new ideas and questions

Keep improving – keep reviewing, make improvements, try to be better than last time

Enjoy learning – feel proud of your achievements, use what you have learnt in real life

january, 2020

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