Growth Mindset is based on the science of Neuroplasticity: the ability of the brain to change and grow throughout a lifetime. If we look at the words ‘Growth Mindset’ we can break them up to help understand what they mean. To grow is one of the functions of all living things: plants, animals, people. Mindset is the way our mind is set on something. It changes the way that we look at the world. If you have a growth mindset it means you believe you can change and improve things. It lets us see challenges as opportunities to learn and grow. It means we develop resilience and don’t give up when we find things hard. People who have a fixed mindset don’t believe they can get better at things, so they give up more easily and don’t practise to get better. This is why neuroplasticity is so important: it proves, if we practise something, we all have the ability to improve.
Until quite recently, scientists believed the brain became fixed after the teenage years, but now we know it continues to change even into old age. This means everyone can improve at anything at any time. To get better at something, we have to practice and deliberately think about the new things we are learning. This is what Dan Willingham describes in his research and this is something all adults who work in Oasis learn about to help them to ensure all our children develop a growth mindset.
We have designed the way we teach our subjects and lessons to help our pupils practice the key things they need to know until it is deep their long-term memory. Our students can then link it to things they learnt before, and to new learning to build their knowledge and understanding of the world and be change-makers in it.
This idea of “thinking about thinking” is called ‘metacognition’. Lots of scientific research has shown that students learn best if they can think about the way they learn things. This is key as it shows how important it is for our children and young people to understand their own learning.
We plan for this in our curriculum using knowledge organisers to show how learning is mapped out over a subject or unit and by using a strategy called ‘retrieval practice’ to make sure we keep deliberately remembering things we have learnt, to stop us forgetting them. As well as this, we use our 9 Habit approach to character development to help our children and young people reflect on how their learning impacts on their own character to make the most of every opportunity and become the best version of ourselves through growth.
In Oasis we actively promote and practice our habits: being compassionate, patient, humble, joyful, honest, hopeful, considerate, forgiving and self-controlled. When we are learning new things, it can be challenging when it is hard or doesn’t work first time. By looking at which habits we need to use to help us overcome challenges, and then practising this until we achieve our goal, we strengthen the connections in our brains. This means we learn more deeply with knowledge entering and staying in our long-term memories.
This isn’t just our children and young people either, as we are all still learning throughout our whole lives. Everyone in our organisation uses the 9 habits, adopting a growth mindset, to be the best version of ourselves so we can support one another, serve our communities and create transformation change for the future.
Dweck, C., 2017. Mindset by Carol Dweck. London, United Kingdom: Robinson.
Willingham, D., 2009. Why don't students like school? : a cognitive scientist answers questions about how the mind works and what it means for the classroom. San Francisco, CA : Jossey-Bass.