In early September, Middle School Curriculum Co-ordinators were given the opportunity to undertake James Anderson’s workshop on The Growth Mindset Toolkit. The term ‘Growth Mindset’ and ‘Fixed Mindset’ have become buzzwords in education since researcher Carol Dweck recognised them as contributing factors in academic achievement. Schools have invested time and energy into exploring the concepts and professionally developing their teachers on these two mindsets. Recently, however, there has been doubt raised about the effectiveness of this. James, a renowned Growth Mindset expert, believes that to make a difference, teachers need to shift their focus from teaching about Growth Mindset to teaching for Growth Mindset.
By attending this workshop, I was challenged by James to think critically about my own mindset and how I may inadvertently communicate my set beliefs and understandings to students, in turn affecting their mindset growth. Growth is the operative word, as at any given time, we are actually on a continuum rather than having a growth or fixed mindset. To encourage learning in our students, James proposed that we need to focus on developing in our students the necessary skills to become agile learners. An agile learner is someone who not only understands they are capable of growth, but who also understands how to achieve that growth. By incorporating the concepts of Growth Mindset, the Habits of Mind and Virtuous Practice in our everyday classroom interactions we are giving our students the tools they need to become agile learners. With these tools, we encourage them to challenge themselves and move from their comfort zone “This is easy”, through their performance zone “This is my current best”, to reach a zone where real learning occurs “I’m working on mastering this”.
James’ workshop challenged me in a number of ways, particularly in how I assess the non-academic components of students’ learning. It has encouraged me to look beyond the Growth vs Fixed Mindset concept and adopt a larger toolkit to help my students become agile learners, developing a sense of agency for their own learning.
Andrea McGuken- Head of Library and Information Services