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Growth Mindset Learning

Growth Mindset Learning

Here at Huntington school we’ve been thinking really carefully about how we continue to develop the great work we’ve started on creating a Growth Mindset culture. We know through evidence that staff and students are acutely aware of the basic concepts of the theory, they get the thinking behind the three mindset traits we’ve developed (examples below). Students and staff can express, with ease, the talent V’s effort quandary, they know that their brain is malleable and can be developed like a muscle and that they can get better at things with hard work and effort. All this though only demonstrates a ‘surface’ understanding of mindsert and we now need to be more nuanced about successfully embedding a  ‘deeper’ understanding; getting staff to change ingrained practice and students to put thinking into practise. Our whole school aim typifies our approach to mindset:  

We strive as a school to develop a Growth Mindset in our students, enabling them to be resilient and curious learners, who work hard to achieve highly.’

To truly embed mindset into the schools DNA we need to develop a school that has a deeper understanding of the mindset theory; moving from the initial ‘introductory stage’ to a more defined ‘embedding stage’ or phase two of mindset as we are calling it. We have spent an inordinate amount of time thinking and researching into how we do this, at times getting really bogged down in the detail. Not many schools are going beyond this initial stage and we have found this challenging and difficult work. However, we found that by turning mindset on its head and going back to the basic core principles of the  theory, see the three traits below, we have a clearer focus. You can see our charted progress below:

Mindset 1: How you want to appear to others Mindset 1 Mindset 2 Responding to Setbacks Mindset 2 Mindset 3: Talent V’s Effort Mindset 3 Combining the Growth Mindset attributes together we see a clear distinction between the statements: GM Attributes In summary this equates to the core principles of GM:           Effort + Strategies + Feedback

So if we are to really embed GM into the DNA of the school we must focus on these three core principles. This links directly with the ‘fuller formula’ for success (Yeager, Waltor and Cohen) and encompasses the elements of our ‘GM Learning’ model:

GM Learning = Effort + Strategies (help from others)

or our more refined student friendly version: Final Final

For a more succinct presentation see our training and implementation slides here:

Growth Mindset Training and Implementation

Details regarding the core principles of GM Learning can be seen below, however a note of caution we are still very much in the draft stage and things may well change!


‘Effort is the key’ If effort is the thing how do we get students to work harder and increase their effort? The key isn’t just effort alone, it’s motivating students to work hard and value effort as an integral part of GM Learning. Our new effort descriptors reinforce the notion that hard work and effort are crucial elements for success; gone is the old satisfactory grading, does anybody really want to be satisfactory anyway? These descriptors are much more rigorous inline with new tougher qualifications. The key to successfully embedding these descriptors isn’t the introduction of the descriptors themselves (they are just the framework for describing effort behaviours). It’s the question of how do you improve your effort? Doing the right things in lessons, adopting the GM approach; responding to feedback, using the right strategies and exerting effort into tasks. See what you make of our ‘insufficient’ grading:

Effort Descriptors


We are in the process of developing a ‘feedback policy’ apposed to a ‘marking policy’, which gives autonomy to departments to shape aspects of the whole school policy; a policy with core elements but enough flexibility for different teaching approaches. This combined with a interactive feedback toolkit; comprising of ‘talking heads’ student videos and feedback evaluation tools using student ratings, should be the first step towards developing this aspect of GM Learning.


We want every member of our staff to understand and develop the following core principles of Mindset:

  1. Think carefully about the language they use in every interaction with every student.
  2. Give students constructive feedback about their work, and then allow them time to act on it.
  3. Set high standards; challenge students from the start. Allow students to learn from their mistakes and develop perseverance and resilience.
  4. Use the right kind of praise; praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation and this ultimately harms their performance.

Through this detailed understanding of mindset and through thorough research we have identified four strands of pedagogy that are backed up by the mindset theory these are: Memory and Mindset; The Power of Feedback; Excellence and Failure; and The language of Learning. This will form the cornerstone of our thinking on ‘adopting the right strategies’. See our introduction to the document attached below: 

Can I be that little bit better…

Four things about ‘Mindset’ you need to know and do: includes a paragraph explanation, then three action points (things that you could implement right away, easy wins) and potential further reading. learing brain See the full draft strategy document here (still working on it):

Mindset Implementation Plan Draft Copy

Much more work to do, but we have a plan! Thank you to everyone who has collaborated on this work and sorry if we have failed to reference anyone.


Growth Mindset-One year on

One year on; we conducted the Growth Mindset diagnostic questionnaire with our Key Stage Three students for the second time. Although not scientifically valid or even recommended by Dweck. We knew that already having a database of GM scores was an irresistible chance to fly with convention and retest our students. The results were interesting to say the least. See our average pre and post test results below (NB* Average of 8 GM questions graded on a scale of 1 Fixed – 6 Growth).

Year Group No of Students Average Pre test Average Post test Diff
Year 7 194 3.37 4.24 0.86
Year 8 179 4.04 4.40 0.36
Year 9 165 4.12 4.30 0.17
AVERAGE 179 3.84 4.31 0.47

We do need to delve a little deeper into the results although we do already see patterns and trends appearing. We still need to analyse our Key Stage 4 results and also look at SEND/Pupil Premium correlations. More to follow…

We conducted some targeted GM interventions with a small group of students; you could call it ‘a Growth Mindset boot camp’. These results show an upward trend, but are less successful, on average than our whole school work (NB* very small sample size). Decipher that one if you can!

Student Pre GM score Post Gm score Difference
Student A 5.38 5.25 -0.13
Student B 3.63 3.75 0.12
Student C 3.38 4.38 1
Student D No score 3.50 N/A
Student E 4.13 4.66 0.53
4.13 4.3 0.38

We are continuing to work on embedding the GM theory across the school and will focus squarely on the use of GM language in the classroom next year. More recently we have developed this GM culture by getting our students nominating each other, explaining why/how they had shown a GM approach to learning. This information will be used to shape our GM awards evening later this year. The sheer body of comments and stories is overwhelming and will continue to feed into our whole school work for sometime to come. See pro-forma below:


We also continue to develop our memory work in light of the new, more rigorous qualification our students’ are expected to undertake. See our presentation on memory techniques here:

Memory Presentation

Teacher Notes -GM Memory

In September we are undertaking a Growth Mindset challenge day with all our new Year Seven students. See our initial introductory presentation (Thanks to Gary at Bohunt for some of the content) here:

Growth Mindset Introductory Student Training

Growth Mindset Student Training Teacher Notes

Next to follow: Effort Reporting

Knowing how your memory works……

Growth Mindset Winning Logo

Students’ understand ‘that working harder makes them smarter’ they get the concept that their brains are malleable and can be developed through hard work and effort.

The Growth Mindset theory shows use that teaching students’ ‘how their memory works’ opens up the learning brain and helps reinforce the notion that memory can be improved and developed.

See the brilliant Joshua Foer to reinforce this:

Read the book; think about the possibilities of the human brain.

Joshua Foer

Understand how your brain works and see our journey into the world of memory below.

The Junior Leadership Team at Huntington School spent a period of time researching into ‘how your memory works’. See our findings here:

Research Summary-How Your Memory Works

We planned and implemented a staff training session on memory inspired by Dweck. See our presentation here:

Staff Training-Memory

We gained feedback from staff. What are Huntington School’s most successful ways to help students encode information?

See our outcomes here:

Staff Feedback-Memory and Revision

See our summary of the 10 most effective ways to encode information to memory. Please use our great pictoral resource, we presented this to all our Year 11’s during their revision period.

Top 10 Memory Techniques

Top 10 Memory Techniques-Notes

To follow….

Teaching key Stage 3 students how their memory works.   









What the Best School do…..

Huntington Schools Junior Leadership Team

The following  points are generated from our initial research into student motivation (reading materials are referenced below).

The Best Schools do………

‘Outstanding schools make their high expectations manifest in students achievements, and they do this by sustaining a school culture that compels and supports students to achieve’

Build a culture of excellence-children will then fit into this culture because it’s expected. Students need to value something-raise the bar in terms of expectations. Have higher expectations in everything: more trust, more responsibility and deeper and broader accountability. ‘Insist on a culture that thrives on being stuck and finding a solution that isn’t simply to stop work, put up your hand and wait to be spoon fed’ Mistakes are essential steps to competency link failure to factors that students can repair.

‘I believe that work of excellence is transformational….when students see their best work’ Ron Berger.

Schools should focus on quality not quantity. Produce work that reflects or represents excellence for that child. Challenging goals are vital even for low-level learning.

We need to see students working much harder than teachers. We are looking for; students working hard, enjoying their learning, making progress and above all in flow.  

Always look for outstanding examples of work-have a library of these resources.

Have quality work celebrated everywhere. Show what quality work looks like find inspiration-critique strengths and weaknesses of quality work. What makes this work strong? Model outstanding practice and use models to set the standard of what to aim for.

Cultivate positive peer pressure-get students to buy into a culture of excellence.

Use peer pressure and class pride to raise standards (culture of excellence). Resist a high praise culture for low effort.

The teacher qualities that matter to students are as much about how they are treated as how they are taught (Rudduck 1998). If the teacher does not like them (even perceived dislike) students are unlikely to be interested in the subject taught. They particularly dislike teachers who do not bother to learn their names. Engagement is transmitted through classroom climate.

Engaging research is not only great for staff but works with students too. Encourage staff to engage in educational research. The best schools; develop research/action research across the school. Allow staff to develop –researching, training, information sharing.

‘if we had a grading system in my school it would have to be described as this: a piece of work deserves either an ‘A’ grade or a not done’. Allow students to re-do work or take re-tests. Let them have the chance to improve (DIRT).

The classroom effect is at least four times the size of the school effect E.g. it’s teachers in the classroom that have the greatest effect on student outcomes. ‘The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers’ (Barber & Mourished 2007)

Adopt a ‘love the one you’re with’ strategy to improving teachers’ pedagogy.

‘The only teachers who think they are successful are those who have low expectations of their students.’

IMPROVE TEACHER PERFORMANCE-the single largest effect on student outcomes.

Use professional development as the first phase of teacher development. Remember it’s what you do in the classroom which truly affects the children and young people you work with. Don’t buy talent buy mindset!

The best teachers look at the evidence of their teaching, through their students. They look at the way their students learn and respond/reflect on what they have seen (adjusting their teaching to suit). Research found; the use of assessment to inform instruction, particularly at classroom level, in many cases doubled the speed of student learning. Foster great teachers and achievement will follow (Dylan Wiliam).

Only ask questions that; cause thinking or provide information for the teacher about what to do next.   You must plan effective questioning-this is a must…   plan a series of questions, not just single surface questions. Reasoning questioning has high impact.

‘Effective feedback should cause thinking’

Allow time to act on feedback-provide extension activities for students who complete feedback before the allotted time is up, this allows all students the time to develop their work. Feedback is a recipe for future action-make feedback constructive. Give less but more focussed feedback.

‘Integrate formative assessment practices into lessons for substantial increases in student achievement’ (could be 70-80% increase in the speed of learning).  

Whole-class instruction is the students’ least preferred way of learning! Reduce teacher talk it disrupts flow 30% teacher led 70% leading own learning.

Schools can influence student mindsets and ultimately improve motivation.

Get every member of staff to make a small shift in their embedded practice. This will then have a seismic effect in overall outcomes. 

As a teacher show you love learning, have a passion for your subject. This passion is infectious.

Feel safe-safe to take risks-safe to care about trying hard. Experts have high respect for students. Experts have long term, working memory. Teach students memory techniques and the workings of the brain. 

An ethic of excellence-Ron Berger                                                                                               EMBEDDED Formative Assessment-Dylan Wiliam                                                                     Evidence based teaching-Geoff Petty                                                                                           Expansive Education-Bill Lucas et al                                                                                                          Full on Learning-Zoe Elder                                                                                                                            How Children Succeed-Paul Tough                                                                                                    Mindset-Carol Dweck                                                                                                                                        The Lazy Teacher-Jim Smith                                                                                                        Outstanding Teaching-Engaging Learners –Andy Griffith + Mark Burns

Coming next….teaching staff and students the benefits of knowing how your memory works 


It’s been 128 days since my last blog….

The following charts our journey at Huntington School in developing a ‘Growth Mindset’ culture. Follow the 10 point plan-take from this as you will!     

  1. Initial Research

We spent several months of initial research focusing on;

How do we develop student motivation and raise aspirations at Huntington school?

We read every book we could find; talked to students and staff; worked with Zoe Elder (many thanks for the initial guidance) on shaping our vision and more importantly focused very squarely on our end goal. What did we find? See our initial results below, it makes interesting reading.  

JLT Action Research_summary document

Motivational Model-completed

  1. Plan then plan again

Feed your initial findings into your planning. Plan and then plan again. Raise the status of the work by making it a whole school development priority. Don’t treat it as a woolly or fluffy piece of work that looks good on the surface but lacks substance. They said no posters please! Make people buy into it, we only have two whole school development plan strands. Give staff the responsibility to develop this aspect of pedagogy, we have invested in a Junior Leadership Team (JLT), provide them with training and make them accountable, ultimately trust them. Weave priorities into the Performance Development cycle. Expect all departments’ to show how whole school priorities feed into departmental work.

DEVELOPMENT STRAND DS2: How we will develop a Growth Mind-set throughout the school.

Feedback Document-Motivation

  1. Train your staff

2.30pm-4.30pm 15th July 2013 the last week of term –undertake initial training on the introduction to ‘Growth Mindset’ theory. Remember the naysayers (see diffusion of innovation model below), people thought we were mad!

Session 1: Whole school session led by the Headteacher-The message is clear we value this.   

 Session 2: Smaller more intimate groups led by the school’s Junior Leadership Team and supported by an SLT link.    

Growth Mindset Training Session 1

Growth Mindset Training Session 2

Growth Mindset Preparing to Teach Students

  1. Get feedback from staff

Were we wrong training our staff then? See our staff feedback responses below and make your own decision.

‘You are in a Growth Mindset school; what does it look like…..feel like…..sound like….’

Growth Mindset Staff Feedback

  1. Establish your starting point.

Use the attached questionnaire to establish a baseline by testing your students. Use this data to find your school average. Our school average is 3.98.We tested every student in the school and we have the evidence to prove it. We gave staff the opportunity to undertake the test, anonymously of course.

Remember Just knowing your Mindset score can change your way of thinking. 

Grow Your Mindset_ PEH questionnaire scoring

Developing a growth mindset questionnaire for staff EALP

Grow Your Mindset_ PEH which mindset are you

  1. Train your students

Train your staff to train your students. To adopt a more consistent approach to training we spent a considerable amount of time planning and implementing 2 x one hour training sessions with our students. See our bespoke training materials below. 

Growth Mindset Training Student M3 Lesson 1

Growth Mindset Training Student M3 Lesson 2

  1. Get feedback from your students

We genuinely value the feedback from our students. We use their feedback to inform our planning. See some of their responses below. These were just a snap shot of the 200+ pages students generated from the training sessions. Some of the ‘effort based’ success stories were truly inspiring.      

Snap-Shot of Student Outcomes

  1. Plan again in response to feedback

Use your staff and student feedback to inform your planning. Respond to what they say, people are more likely to ‘buy’ into your concepts. Take account of the ‘laggards’ see the diffusion of innovation model below.


See our A3 planning document term-by-term, fluid-like in its approach. We are constantly changing and modifying it to suit our school environment. Termly ‘mantras’ work well. Some of the work is very subtle and deals with developing subliminal messages to students. Lots of work goes into doing simple things really well. 

How about this message appearing on every student computer, every time they log on;       ‘Working harder makes me smarter’      

GM Termly plan 2013-2014 A3 4

  1. Look at the priorities

We responded to staff feedback by focussing closely on the way we write student reports. How do you write a Growth Mindset focussed report? Does it really matter what language you use when talking to students? Research shows that the subtleties of language leave an indelible imprint in our students’ minds. Focus on effort-based statements and avoid intelligence led language. Terms like ‘Gifted’ or ‘Talented’ are banned. Use our report writing help sheet as an aide memoire when writing your reports.    

Growth Mindset-Report Writing

  1. Less is more

Originally we wanted to ‘change the world’ now we understand that less is VERY much more. Focus on doing the best you can really, really well. If we only do one thing well this year and we embed it into the culture and psyche of the whole school community, we will have been successful. Our main focus, for the remainder of this year is to work on ‘effective feedback’ strategies and embed DIRT (Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time) into more lessons.

More to follow in less than 128 days!


‘Those with a growth mindset learn from people; people that help them improve by being honest and providing constructive feedback. They seek help from other people to ensure they develop and grow and, providing those who help them are of a growth mindset, they encourage and foster a love of learning’ Dweck

Please give me feedback it’s in the spirit of Dweck; be gentle this is all very new!