ONE TO ONE IMPACT – How to develop a Growth Mindset for learning when working with individual students

Have you ever despaired of making progress with students because they are determined to believe they are ‘not good at this’ or ‘don’t get it’ or even worse ‘can’t be bothered’ to challenge their brain?

Attend Jackie Beere’s Growth Mindset 2017 workshop

When children start school they are full of hope and wonder, curiosity and resilience but once they start comparing themselves with others and engaging with the emotional rollercoaster of assessment and performance indicators, the inner dialogue of fixed mindset can take hold: ‘I don’t want to get it wrong’, ‘He’s better than me at maths’, ‘I hate making mistakes’, ‘I’ll never get this’.

Carol Dweck’s research on what makes successful learners shows us that this type of fixed mindset thinking is a barrier to achievement for all types of learners – from those that have special challenges – to those labelled in early life as ‘very able’. Any child can plateau because they become hooked on getting it right, rather than challenging themselves and taking the risks required for learning. Dweck’s description of a child with a ‘growth mindset’ is a learner who loves to struggle and believes that hard brain-work actually makes them more intelligent. Getting it wrong is not a signal of failure but a chance to learn how to get it right. Not only that but having a growth mindset also requires a determination to be open to change and new challenges in the rest of our lives. This attitude can be learned and developed at any stage of life, so our job, when working one to one with children, is to help them see seemingly impossible challenges as opportunities to learn and to help them believe that change is possible.

When working one on one with children you can really make changes to their mindsets.  Not only by giving your expertise, but by modelling a growth mindset yourself and using a coaching approach that will help transform their thinking. Frame feedback as questions like those below to help them become more self-aware, own their own change and practice challenging their own thought processes that may be holding them back.

  • What do you think is the best thing about this piece of work?
  • What have you tried before that worked well?
  • What would happen if you tried doing that a different way?
  • How have you learnt something from that mistake?
  • What else can you use to try to get this right? What else… What else?

Growth Mindset Checklist

Sometimes we don’t realise that words we think encourage and praise can actually undermine children’s potential to become the best learners they can be. Every word or action sends a message. Are you sending messages that support them to grow as resilient learners?


Here are my 7 top tips for helping pupils develop a growth mindset:

1. Model growth mindset yourself by showing them you struggle too. Give examples such as your struggle to master spreadsheets, dancing, singing, speaking French – show them you are still a learner. Ask for their feedback about YOU and what is working and not working.

2. Avoid over praising when it isn’t deserved. Save your praise for real effort and progress.

3. Give feedback that is kind, helpful but very specific and scaffolds real improvement. Most importantly, ensure they RESPOND to it

4. Celebrate the struggle and make sure they edit, review, reflect, redraft many times as part of a learning journey towards the very best outcome. There is only ‘excellent’ and ‘unfinished’ work. Use strategies to make this fun such as coloured pens, highlighters, mini post its, tablets, Prezis, flipcharts, whiteboards etc. etc.

5. Help them find new learning strategies that suit their brain. So often children have tried over and over again to learn in the same way and it doesn’t work. There are so many different ways to help them remember and learn new things. Please see my book on learning to learn ‘The Learners Toolkit’ (Crown House Publications) which has many lessons for primary or secondary students that help them find new ways to learn.

6. Teach them about their brain and how it grows stronger with more challenge and opportunity. This may require you learning more about the brain in books like ‘The Private Life of the Brain’ by Susan Greenfield. However this is also covered in ‘The Learners Toolkit’

7. Help them think on purpose as if they love learning and doing the hard stuff. See my book ‘Grow’ chapters 8 and 9 for more on this and for practical ideas to try.

Developing a growth mindset amongst both pupils and staff in your school makes everyone better learners and create a culture of aspiration.  You can learn how to do this in Jackie Beere’s popular training course Growth Mindset 2017.

Further reading

  • Beere J – ‘Grow, change your mindset, change your life, a practical guide to thinking on purpose’
  • Beere J – ‘The Learners Toolkit’ and The Primary Learner’s Toolkit’
  • Greenfield S – ‘The Private Life of the Brain’
  • Curran A – ‘The Little book of Big Things about the Brain’
  • Dweck C – ‘Mindset: The Psychology of Success’
  • Hymer B – ‘The Growth Mindset Pocket Book’’
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