Proudly Primary has been filled with so many exciting and insightful talks. We were proud to have a few of our own Highbury teachers to conduct some of the breakaway sessions – one of which was presented by Michelle Jones. 

Michelle spoke about “Growing a Growth Mindset”. She started off her session by asking each group of delegates to complete a complex puzzle, with only some of the tables being able to solve them. She then asked how it made everyone feel to be competing to solve the puzzles in such a short time. Answers ranged from “frustrated and anxious” to “I can do this”.

With this in mind, we were asked to understand mindset as a way of thinking controlled by each individual’s emotional responses to challenges.

Michelle then went on to describe the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. In a fixed mindset, people believe their qualities are fixed traits and therefore cannot change. These people document their intelligence and talents rather than working to develop and improve them. They also believe that talent alone leads to success, and effort is not required. Alternatively, in a growth mindset, people have an underlying belief that their learning and intelligence can grow with time and experience.

“If you have a fixed mindset, you will avoid challenges,” says Michelle. “If you don’t take the challenge, you can’t fail. Children live up to their labels – they would rather be labelled as naughty than stupid.”

Michelle goes on to explain that we should be using the language of gaming in the classroom. With gaming being a relevant topic for many learners, it is important to resonate with them. When playing games, there is no risk of permanent failure, and children need to learn that in life there is no permanent failure either, instead, there is learning and growing.

Applying a Growth Mindset is broken down into the following categories:

  1. Non-Threat
    Create a classroom culture. Let your classroom be one of the safest places for children to be out of their comfort zone. 

  2. Student Input
    Give learners a choice and a voice to promote ownership and motivation.

  3. Embrace Differences
    Just as there are different strategies for mastering a video game, teachers should give students space to strategise ways to master different challenges. 

  4. Intrinsic Motivation
    Video games encourage intrinsic motivation – there is no reward at the end other than reaching the end. Players are in it for the fun of the challenge. Help your students discover what motivates them.

  5. Learning From Examples
    You, as the teacher, are the greatest example and model of living in a growth mindset.

  6. Constant Feedback
    Dings, bells and tones are consistently informing players of what’s happening. Children gain greater value from consistent feedback from teachers and peers. Remember to praise the process rather than the person. 

  7. Scaffolding
    Video games build on one challenge after another, increasing difficulty – this creates a clear path to mastery.

  8. Create Healthy Competition
    Games and competitions create camaraderie, increase engagement and promote learning. 

  9. Cheats
    In gaming, there are all sorts of cheats to give players a boost. Children have multiple tools at their disposal. Teach them how to access their tools with tips, tricks and strategies. 


“Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy” – Robert A Heinlein

Thank you to Michelle Jones for sharing your amazing research, and we can’t wait to see our students flourish with a Growth Mindset