In which I launch my Growth Mindset education manifesto

In order to promote a growth mindset amongst students, teachers should:

  • Eliminate the use of extrinsic motivators, like:
    • Target grades;
    • Graded learning outcomes;
    • Summative marking;
    • Reward points;
  • Promote intrinsic motivation, using:
    • Modelled exemplars;
    • Clear success criteria;
    • Formative (comment-only) feedback;
    • Praise, linked to work ethic and success criteria.

However, this might be impossible to reconcile with whole-school policies. Therefore, at the school level, the development of a growth mindset requires a whole-school policy of:

  • No target grades (or at least, of not sharing of target grades with students);
  • Formative (comment-only) lesson observations;
  • Formative (comment-only) marking reviews;
  • No performance-related pay in which teachers’ salary progression is contingent upon their students’ exam results.

Again, this might be difficult to reconcile with national educational culture that insists on regular summative assessments of schools based on annual exam results and regular inspections. Therefore, in order to encourage a growth mindset across the educational sector, political parties should commit to two specific policies:

  • Abolish school league tables;
  • Comment-only Ofsted inspections.
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What Russian tennis tells us about talent | Living and teaching in Spain

The Echo Chamber

Is talent innate, a birthright awarded to the lucky few, or is it something that we all have if it is developed correctly? Given the right experience and opportunities can we all excel?

What Russian tennis tells us about talent | Living and teaching in Spain.

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Growth mindset: What interventions might work and what probably won’t?

Evidence into Practice

Whether discussed under the guise of ‘resilience’, ‘grit’ or ‘character’, there appears to be a great appetite for psychologically manipulating pupils’ personalities or their attributions about school. One concept which has particularly captured the imagination of teachers and school leaders is ‘growth mindset’: the idea that children who possess incremental theories of intellect (a growth mindset) appear to achieve better grades than those who possess an entity theory of intellect (a fixed mindset).

The claim that there are attributional differences between pupils which can affect their experience of school and their academic outcomes is well supported. You can read a bit more about some of the psychology behind the idea of a ‘growth mindset’ here: Growth Mindset: It’s not magic

However, accepting that these key attributional variables exist still leaves at least two important questions that school leaders and teachers should be asking before seeking to implement ‘growth mindset’ interventions…

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Life without lesson observation grades

Class Teaching


In April 2014 we stopped grading lesson observations.  This post looks at why we did it (and why every school should) and what we’ve noticed since.

Why we stopped grading lesson observations

  • Judging a teacher on a 30 minute snapshot of their work is ridiculous.  It ignores the other hundreds of hours they spend in the classroom (and out of it) that makes a huge contribution to the outcomes that their students achieve.  Would you call Pele a poor footballer because of this miss, or acknowledge his greatness based on the 1281 goals he scored in 1363 games?

  • If we are serious about being a ‘growth mindset’ school, how can it be right to label our teachers in this way?  Instead, why don’t we focus on useful, formative feedback?  By grading teachers, we are suggesting that only ‘requires improvement’ or inadequate’ teachers need to get better, which again is not…

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Try Harder


Like many schools, we’ve been embedding growth mindset into our school culture over the last couple of years. Although I find the overarching message an attractive and useful one, I’ve been persuaded by a couple of blogs about how honest we’re being with children when we talk about there being no such thing as talent. In particular, @disidealist makes the difficult case for excluding genes and background factors in the equation:

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David Didau (@learningspy) questions whether we practise what we preach; how many school leaders allow their teachers to have a growth mindset?

To balance this, @leadinglearner sets out a sensible approach to embedding GM into the classroom.

All of this was largely academic, for me, until a parents evening that I had last week. The conversation went something like this:

“Robert has made really fantastic progress so far this year, you should be really proud of yourself.”

“What do…

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Assessment Without Levels – The story so far

Class Teaching

In May 2014 we were awarded a DfE Innovation Fund to develop a method of assessing without levels in KS3.  We saw this as an opportunity to reclaim purposeful assessment and so came up with our ‘Growth & Thresholds Model’ which is outlined here.   The system has now been in operation with Y8 since September, so I thought it would be timely to share how it’s been going.

The whole process has required a shift in thinking for staff, parents and students.  Rather than focusing on a predetermined end-point and how to get there i.e. an end of key stage target level, we are focusing on their starting points and then how to move them on – without their progress being ‘capped’ by a target.  We do this by scaffolding their learning through four thresholds, towards excellence.  The idea is that all students will aim for excellence.  This principled approach to assessment…

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A defence of the fixed mindset

The Echo Chamber

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The growth mindset has been so universally heralded as ‘a good thing’ that it’s in danger of becoming one of those memes we think withrather than about. A number of commentators have been critical of the way mindset theory has been uncritical adopted and unthinkingly applied, but what if growth isn’t always good? What if sometime we might be better off to be ‘fixed’ in our attitudes and beliefs?

This is something that has been simmering away on my back burner for months, but then I encountered the following passage in the philosopher, Daniel Dennett’s magnificent (and very witty) treatise on the human mind, Consciousness Explained:

[T]here are a range of possibilities , settled by evolutionary processes: some elements of the system of representation can be – indeed must be – innately fixed, and the rest must be ‘learned’. While some of the categories of life that matter (like…

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Growing Gritty Learners — Love Learning Ideas

The Echo Chamber

37 ideas to grow gritty learners 

‘Character education’ is currently being offered as the latest panacea to Britain’s persistent education gap (see here).

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Why is a Growth Mindset so difficult to maintain?


Nurture your Growth MindsetI am great believer in the view that the way in which we view intelligence and ability can have a major impact on achievement. So-called ‘implicit theories of intelligent’ have managed to reach a much wider audience through the continued efforts of Stanford University Professor Carol Dweck. Unfortunately, Mindset theory has been over-marketed during the past few years with a multitude of authors using it in order to make a quick buck. Nevertheless, the theory remains sound and easily understood using just two publications: Dweck’s Self-theories and her quintessential Mindset.

Despite being a fervent supporter of Growth Mindset, I don’t always practice what I preach. In my own school the theory has never really taken off (despite significant training for some staff a few years ago) but despite this I always try and encourage it in my own students. However, there are certainly times when I drift from fixed…

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Do we really have a growth mindset?

The Echo Chamber


The ladder of life is full of splinters, but they always prick the hardest when we’re sliding down.

Samuel Clemens

I spoke at a Growth Mindset conference with Olympian and sports journalist Matthew Syed today. Needless to say, he got star billing.

I took the view that whilst we may all profess to value a growth mindset in pupils we have a very fixed mindset to teaching and education. Syed made the point that there are important differences between how the aviation industry and surgeons treat failure. When an aeroplane crashes, airlines go to great lengths retrieve the black box flight recorder in order to find out what happened. They learn from any mistakes that were made and go to great lengths to avoid the possibility of the same mistakes ever happening again. Surgeons, by contrast, are prone to dismiss patient deaths. They say things like, “It was just one of those things.” Or…

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