Growth Mindset

Motivating Learners


As a school, one of our key learning objectives is to develop intrinsic motivation in all our learners. Developing a growth mindset in our students is a key ingredient to enable teachers to do this. Teaching students how to have a growth mindset can create motivation and productivity and can also be applied to different facets of life, business, education and sports, to name a few.

I think we have all wondered why some people appear to learn easily while others just seem to struggle through. We are not the first and we won't be the last to have these thoughts either. Experts down the ages have lined up to lay claim on discovering why some individuals display smarter traits than others. Methods, such as phrenology (bumps on the skull) and craniology (size and shape of the skull) have been used to try and measure intelligence.

One of the most influential people to devise a scheme to measure intelligence was Alfred Binet, who invented the IQ test. Interestingly, this test of intelligence was not designed to measure how smart an individual was, rather, it was designed to identify children who were not performing in the French public education system. His rationale behind the testing was so that other educational programs could be developed to get them back on track.

So, what is the correct way to determine why some individuals get it and some struggle? In all honesty, most research shows us that there is not one single determinant that shapes an individual’s intelligence. There are, of course, many different factors that will contribute to a person's intelligence. Nature, nurture, environment, genes, the list goes on.

Current research shows that scientists are still discovering that humans have a greater capacity for life-long learning and brain development than was previously thought. This is a positive for us all, it’s not just about being intelligent.  

But how does this really relate to our school and our students? 

Over the last 30 years, Carol Dweck, a researcher from Stanford University has been trying to determine what enhances the motivation in students and has coined the term, Growth Mindset.

According to Carol Dweck, individuals who possess a fixed mindset, believe that their intelligence and talents are fixed traits that are set in stone and cannot be developed. They believe that their success will come from talent alone. Individuals who have a fixed mindset, will avoid challenges because to fail would suggest that they did not possess the intelligence to complete the particular task.

On the flip side, individuals who have a growth mindset, understand that through hard work and effort, trying different strategies and helping others that they can improve in their endeavours. Possessing a growth mindset is key to enabling student motivation and achievement. This notion, is also underpinned by John Hattie's research on Visible Learning. Self Efficacy, which Hattie ranks 11th of the 256 factors relating to student achievement, has an effect size of 0.92. Well above the 0.40 hinge point. A score above 0.40 has a positive impact on learning. 

We all have bad days, and although we can shift between both of these two mindsets, we need to equip all our students with the ability to believe they can improve in what they are doing at any given point in time. That hard work and effort will bring them achievement and success.

Next time, we will look at ways of implementing a growth mindset and how other key determinants can enhance they way we think to achieve success in our lives.

Drew Roberts - Deputy Principal