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Closing the mindset gap!

How do we increase the attainment and confidence of our learners across Scotland? Closing the literacy and numeracy gaps in Scotland is clearly a hot topic at the moment given the publication of the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) figures.

While there is no overall magic bullet, I believe that by creating agrowth mindset culture within our schools; we can do much to improve children’s attainment and mental health.

Let’s focus on the issue of closing the attainment gap. The link between attainment and poverty is well documented in education research, including the Joseph Rowntree report on closing the gap. However, working to support parents and teachers to embed a growth mindset culture transcends social class. It does so by raising the bar of expectation, in a way that is realistic, based on credible feedback that is supportive, friendly and person centred. Having increased confidence, resilience, appetite for learning and understanding by working hard and practising different strategies can bridge the deficit when there may be little aspiration or value attached to education in the family home.

So, how do we make it practical? Growth mindset has the potential to act as a way of supporting vulnerable learners by working on their resilience and using a growth mindset to increase appetite and engagement with learning and allowing those who have reached a good command of a subject to achieve mastery while enabling everyone to improve. Teachers can fulfil this role as well by thinking about the language they use in class and how they differentiate work for pupils – thinking through their own judgements that are applied to student potential (such as avoiding the use of ‘sets’ at too early a stage; using mixed ability groupings to encourage learning, peer learning opportunities, etc).

Mindset activities within the school should be included within school plans but not necessarily as a separate area for improvement. Think what can growth mindset can do within the context of literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing. Standing back and looking at all activities that happen within the school can create the opportunity to think about teaching and engagement strategies that help learners to seek help, understand their intelligence is not fixed and that everyone can improve in their education.

We need to pay attention to transition points, to language, to the curriculum and in ensuring that everyone across the school community is working hard to promote growth mindset consistently and based on a plan that is right for your particular school and community.

So, what are you going to do today to make mindset real within your school for your pupils, fellow staff and parents? Comment below if you are using mindset to help attainment in your school.

John Paul

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