On Wednesday 19 January, education gurus Dr Jo Boaler and Cathy Williams of Stanford University will celebrate the achievements of 200 Scottish teachers, acknowledging their effort, commitment and ‘mindset’ during the pandemic.
Dr Boaler is one of the most influential educators in the world. Referenced as one of eight people “changing the face of education” by the BBC, she is the author of 18 books, including the global bestseller Limitless Mind: Learn, Lead and Live Without Barriers and is a White House presenter on women and girls.
The teachers have all taken part in Mindset Teams, Winning Scotland’s professional learning programme to help education professionals develop a ‘growth mindset’ culture in their schools. The group includes cohorts of teachers from North Lanarkshire, the Northern Alliance and the South West Educational Improvement Collaborative. In addition, 71 teachers took part via the Education Scotland STEM fund programme.
Helping children develop a growth mindset gives them a priceless gift – the desire to continually learn and improve throughout their lives. The catch-all term for decades of robust psychological research by Boaler’s Stanford colleague, Dr Carol Dweck, a ‘growth mindset’ enables children to:
Dr Boaler is a leading proponent of growth mindset, particularly in maths, a subject where many pupils experience nervousness or anxiety. Alongside Williams (watch our interview here), Boaler founded the educational resource Youcubed, which has helped 250 million students in 140 countries to become more confident in maths using a range of approaches including growth mindset.
Teachers taking part in the Mindset Teams programme report an increased desire to succeed in their pupils after learning about growth mindset. They say pupils rely less on ‘natural intelligence’ and more on effort, and seek out more challenging work to test themselves. When pupils get answers wrong, they persevere until they figure it out.
These attributes are invaluable as Scottish education recovers from the pandemic, as one participating teacher points out:
“I believe mindset is essential for Scottish children. Building children's confidence in their own abilities is crucial right now. The break in a lot of children's learning, especially those who didn't engage in online learning, will add to the challenges faced. Confidence has taken a knock and I have recently seen quite a few children just give up.”
Meanwhile, biology teacher Chris Bappoo of Banff Academy in Aberdeenshire, said: “Growth mindset is really important for stimulating curiosity and helping deal with setbacks. The techniques teach [pupils] them that their learning is fluid and they can evolve over time.
“Some of my colleagues told me they saw a clear improvement in their own classrooms from many of my pupils who had been schooled in growth mindset, particularly those who had previously been reluctant to get out their textbooks and start the class. It has really given so many pupils a renewed vigour for learning.
“Ultimately we want to produce pupils who are confident and curious in their learning - and that’s what growth mindset does.”
And an East Renfrewshire teacher said: “This project has allowed growth mindset to permeate the classroom ethos. Children understood that it was great to make a mistake and learn from it. They were willing to take on new learning and challenges, to have a go at something that might have previously scared them. Furthermore, the children were able to support each other in their learning and were encouraging their peers to succeed, often helping them if need be.”
Grant Small, impact and delivery manager at Winning Scotland said: “It’s amazing to see how many teachers are taking part in Mindset Teams. If each teacher helps just one class develop a growth mindset outlook, that means around 4,500 Scottish pupils will benefit from the effort and commitment these 200 teachers have made.”
In April 2021, Winning Scotland will launch a new professional learning programme, Applied Growth Mindset: building confidence and resilience in schools. The course will include exclusive keynotes and content supplied by Dr Boaler, Dr Dweck and bestselling author Matthew Syed. For more information visit: winningscotland.org/applied-growth-mindset
List of cohorts taking part in Mindset Teams