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Growth Mindset

The first step in developing independence in learning is creating the right learning culture and mindset. Much research has been carried out by Carol Dweck and others into how students regard their successes and failures and whether they attribute them to their ability or effort. What has been found is that what matters most, in terms of learning potential, is whether we see ability as fixed or growth. People with a fixed mindset will only tackle tasks which they know they will succeed at whereas people with a growth mindset see effort as the way to improve and achieve. They therefore see intelligence as expandable, don’t give up when things are challenging and learn from feedback and mistakes. This mindset has an impact on a child’s learning potential, motivation and level of independence. This growth mindset is developed through lessons, assemblies and school clubs. Children are consistently encouraged to keep trying because that way they can achieve their goals.


The way a child is praised can also help to reinforce a fixed or growth mindset. By only praising ability and outcomes (you’re so clever, you did that so quickly,) a child will become more fixed in their mindset. They may become worried about losing their ‘smart label,’ only approaching tasks they can do and become nervous about making mistakes. On the other hand, children who are praised for their effort (you tried so hard, you kept going when you didn’t succeed,) will develop a growth mindset approach. This will help them to see mistakes as part of learning and see themselves as improving because of the effort they put in. When you practise something, you literally strengthen the neural pathways in your brain. This allows for quicker cognition and more accurate processing. That is why children shouldn’t say ‘I can’t do it’ but instead ‘I can’t do it yet!’ Through making mistakes and seeing learning as a journey, pupils at Westdene become more resilient and confident.


Learning Characteristics

The other factor that can help children become confident, resilient, independent learners is by making their learning more visible and understandable. By using the learning animals, children can clearly understand how they are learning not just what they are learning. These animals represent different ways to learn new things and improve. The children in all classes hear a story written by Year 6 children, about a bear (the learner) who faces many obstacles and difficulties on a journey. He calls upon the help of his animal friends and their skills to aid him. We encourage children to call upon these skills in their own learning on their own journey. By linking these animals to learning objectives and reinforcing these characteristics in assemblies and whole school events, the children at Westdene can clearly articulate how they have become better learners and apply these skills to new learning. This helps to create a culture of lifelong learning.


Learning Animal   Learning Characteristic
Giraffe I can take pride
Lion I can be courageous
Cat I can be curious
Bees I can work in a team
Owl I can plan and concentrate
Spider I can make links
Tortoise I can persevere
Elephant I can support others
Unicorn I can use my imagination
Chameleon I can improve and change



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