How 1-to-1 tuition can help pupils develop a Growth Mindset

By Valentino Salvato 

Listen to any recording of our 3,500 hours of online Maths tuition each week, and you’ll notice how much interaction there is between tutor and pupil during the lesson. So it's essential that tutors maximise the impact of these interactions and the effect they have on the pupils. One of the principles that we've adopted is a keen focus on helping pupils develop a Growth Mindset through their one-to-one sessions. And it seems to be working. These are just some of the measures we've put in place. 

Embed it in training

From the very start of their Initial Tutor Training (ITT) and throughout Continuous Professional Development (CPD) our tutors are taught the importance of developing a Growth Mindset, and given specific techniques to help children they work with to tackle new challenges with enthusiasm and confidence. While they follow curriculum lessons and a structured plan, tutors are also encouraged to have autonomy over their own work, and choose their own path through a lesson as they feel best suits the learner. 

Effort points

Each pupil is rewarded not for success but for the effort they've put into solving a problem. At the end of each session a tutor will provide online feedback to the class teacher not just about the child’s attainment but also their willingness to learn, and their effort.

Appropriate challenges

We believe the class teacher knows their children best so encourage them to choose exactly which maths topic and at which level we should teach each child. We can help out however for those who are short of time, and suggest the most appropriate next lesson. Every school is allocated an academic manager, usually a former teacher, who can help to provide recommendations for topics and the level to which they think a pupil could work, to challenge them most appropriately.

A safe space to make mistakes

One of the strengths of our one-to-one online Maths tuition is that children who may be less confident in class or worried about making mistakes in front of their peers, are encouraged to take risks, and articulate their ideas with someone they trust to be encouraging and non-judgmental. Then together they can find the strategies that will work.


It’s a truism, but what works for one pupil, won’t work for another. Each child who takes part in Third Space's online maths tuition programme has their own abilities and interests, and we ask teachers to give us as much detail on these as possible. Every pupil has a profile where their teacher can share with us not just the child's current attainment level, but what makes them tick, what fires them up in and out of the classroom. And we use this information to motivate pupils with appropriate maths activities and rewards.

Evidence for Growth Mindset

We're not alone in believing that developing a Growth Mindset can have a strong influence attitude and attainment in Maths. The Changing Mindsets Education Endowment Foundation study looking at its impact in primary schools noted

"the approach was particularly effective in relation to maths teaching, where pupils were more likely to believe they lacked ability and to give up. More widely, schools felt that the approach was effective with pupils who feel that they are poor learners, that education is not for them and who tend to disengage from learning".

Attainment matters too

We’re not naïve. We understand that confidence, and a willingness to learn alone are not enough. You need to see progress in attainment for validation that an intervention or a teaching method is working. So that’s why we track the progress of all pupils, and have seen up to three sub-levels progress in one term for some groups who've been exposed to this approach.

Carol Dweck

The last word on Growth Mindset of course belongs to Carol Dweck, originator and champion in her 2006 book 'Mindset: The New Psychology of Success'.

"For me the best mix is a combination of (a) valuing learning and challenge and (b) valuing grades but seeing them as merely an index of your current performance, not a sign of your intelligence or worth…First and foremost, it must be made clear to students that their performance reflects their current skills and efforts, not their intelligence or worth. In this case, if students are disappointed in their performance, there is a clear and constructive implication: work harder, avail yourself of more learning opportunities, learn how to study better, ask the teacher for more help, and so on.

What has intrigued me most in my 30 years of research is the power of motivation. Motivation is often more important than your initial ability in determining whether you succeed in the long run. In fact, many creative geniuses were not born that way. They were often fairly ordinary people who became extraordinarily motivated…By motivation, I mean not only the desire to achieve but also the love of learning, the love of challenge, and the ability to thrive on obstacles. These are the greatest gifts we can give our students”.

Watch the TED talk for more on Growth Mindset in education

Have you tried incorporating a Growth Mindset into your teaching and learning? Did it make a difference?

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