I guess one of the hardest questions to think about when starting a blog is 'where do we start?' Life takes you down so many paths that we don't want you (the reader) to take a diversion off our growth mindset journey before we've even begun. So we're going to focus on where our initial journey was born and those early months of growth but also gridlock. We would say the turning point for us, as teachers, was back in 2016, when we were asked as middle leaders, (Gemma KS2 and Liz KS1) to lead the development of either Growth Mindset or The Habits of Mind across our school. We outlined both principles to the teaching staff and after various discussions a unanimous vote towards The Habits of Mind was concluded.
Eager to get things rolling, we began to develop a strategic plan in which The Habits could begin to be developed. The theory created by long-time educators Arthur Costa and Bena Kallick, involved developing the children's understanding of and enabling them to access a toolkit of 16 universal skills or characteristics, that over time, would promote successful lifelong learning both, within the classroom and in the world beyond it.
The Habits of Mind are:
1. Persisting 2. Managing impulsivity 3. Listening with understanding and empathy 4. Thinking flexibly 5. Thinking about your thinking 6. Striving for accuracy 7. Questioning and posing problems 8. Applying past knowledge to new situations 9. Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision 10. Gathering data through all your senses 11. Creating, imagining, innovating 12. Responding with wonderment and awe 13. Taking responsible risks 14. Finding humour 15. Thinking interdependently 16. Remaining open to continuous learning
After weeks of research and developing our initial plans, we hit our first 'bump in the road.' As whilst we recognised certain characteristics our children in school needed support with, as a focus to start with, (persistence, taking a responsible risk, managing impulsivity) we felt there was something amiss. Especially when we began to think about our reading and research around the theory behind developing The Growth Mindset.
Our concern highlighted that if we were to focus alone on the habits as a 'toolbox', the learner (adult/child) who had predominantly a fixed mindset belief, focus and mental attitude would see the habits as something that only intelligent people have. And because they believed certain skills and talents are defined at birth, the habits alone would not provide a pathway for future learning; in fact this could have the opposite effect and magnify the fixed mindset someone already had.
We began to see that developing the Growth Mindset was like the motorway, the foundation for learning. The Habits of Mind were like the trucks on the motorway. Each one a characteristic to hook into as and when needed. Without the foundation, the trucks were in gridlock, which is exactly what we felt as middle leaders. Our challenge was informing the Head, SLT and all the staff that we needed to HALT, REVERSE, ABOUT TURN and like some deranged rally driver, change our direction, to develop our knowledge and self awareness of Growth Mindset before anything else.
Luckily for us, at the same time as we were needing to change the mindset of our staff to move in a different direction, the Habits of Mind Institute were also recognising that some schools were struggling with developing an impact with Habits of Mind because their efforts were being undermined by the kind of Mindset culture already within the schools and the teachers’ own Mindsets. Subsequently in July 2017 they stated,
“A Growth Mindset has always been at the heart of the Habits of Mind. In fact, we don’t believe you can have success with Habits of Mind without a Growth Mindset.”
BOOM! Not only could we believe how this statement appeared a few weeks after our own thoughts at that time, but also, how it was much easier to change the direction of other people's thinking because of this statement. Which is rather exasperating when you're 'leading,' but your own work and opinions don't often provide the weight needed to influence others. Which I'm sure, is something that many middle leaders out there have experienced.
And so our Growth Mindset Journey began, albeit 9 months later. Nonetheless, we knew that through our own self reflection and challenging what could have been a 'tick box' exercise, this was going to be a far more substantial experience for the staff and children.