Growth mindset in ECE
The concept of mindsets in education refers to the attitudes people hold about their learning ability. People with a fixed mindset believe that their intelligence and ability are innate and fixed, and there’s not much they can do to change that. In contrast, people with a growth mindset believe their abilities and intelligence can be developed and improved through perseverance, good strategies and support from others. This does not mean that there are not differences in capability between people, but rather that people can increase their intelligence through the right learning strategies and effort. It is important to teach children to identify when they have thoughts and responses that are characteristic of a fixed mindset and help them replace them with more growth-oriented thoughts and behaviours.
True learning often can be uncomfortable and often challenging. It involves faltering, confusion and disorientation. The most productive learners are not necessarily more intelligent than others, but they are more willing to endure these feelings of being lost or confused. A growth mindset helps children develop constructive behaviours for learning, such as making an effort and trying new strategies, whereas a fixed mindset can foster negative perceptions and patterns of helpless responses, including a loss of enjoyment and motivation, and a lack of effort and persistence.
There is a growing evidence base to suggest that skills, behaviours or dispositions such as self-efficacy, perseverance and resilience (which underpin a growth mindset) do influence learning. Much of the evidence on growth mindset has been focused at the school level, and it demonstrates the impact that a growth mindset can have on children’s achievement at school.
The following strategies can support the development of growth mindsets among young children:
- Ensure that you, as the teacher, have a growth mindset and have high expectations for all children
- Talk with children about seeing challenges as opportunities to grow their brains
- Create an environment in which everyone is on the look-out for problems that are opportunities to grow their brains, and effort and struggle are celebrated
- Value having a go, finding different ways to approach challenges, and making mistakes
- Praise behaviours and attitudes such as challenge-seeking, focus, strategy use, hard work and persistence, rather than the products of children’s efforts
- Do you have high expectations for all children?
- What do you do when a child makes a mistake, experiences difficulty or wants to give up?
- How do you talk to children about growing their brains?
- How do you encourage and support children to be resilient and make an effort?
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