Developing A Growth Mindset In The KS2 Classroom: 10 Key Principles And Your Classroom Contract
Developing a growth mindset in the classroom even in Key Stage 2 is I believe is crucial to your pupils’ success, setting the bar for elements of perseverance and a willingness to overcome obstacles.
Teachers know just how important a good culture is in the classroom. Promoting a positive environment, and a willingness to succeed allows children to combat obstacles in their learning, develop a consistent sense of motivation and (most importantly) strengthens their sense of character.
As such, it is vital to establish what I call the ‘determination to succeed’ as a team effort when meeting your new class.
I know this because of my experience, and the experiences of those around me. Looking back to when I was a child, I remember having to overcome many obstacles. Fortunately, I intrinsically wanted to succeed and (more importantly) had an encouraging, supportive family.
Unfortunately, we all know some children may not have this. Which is actually one of the main reasons I value teaching so much.
Like all good teachers, I value having the opportunity to offer that crucial encouragement at each stage of my pupils’ learning experience.
To me, the teacher’s role in every lesson is to guide children to achieve the best they can. We act like a football coach on the sidelines, and our teaching strategies are the tactics we use to help our ‘players’ succeed.
Growth mindset just happens to be the current term that we use so that’s what I use in my class but even without Carol Dweck, the principles of perseverance, resilience and learning from failure are powerful ones for life.
More on growth mindset:
Getting Growth Mindset Right - 15 Simple Steps for Primary Teachers and Leaders
15 tested, practical ways to embed growth mindset, including a free poster and our top recommended growth mindset reading list
10 tips for growth mindset in the classroom
I’m not suggesting that I always get these right, but these are the principles that I aspire to in my classroom as a KS2 teacher.
- Start with, and maintain, an open dialogue. Allow children to express their opinions and allow them to challenge yours. This helps develop their reasoning and critical thinking skills.
- Use the language of growth mindset openly together with terms like determination and perseverance.
- Always demonstrate mutual respect to adults and children alike.
- Model your resilient attitude. When something goes wrong, adapt and learn from it, expressing vocally, how you are overcoming the challenge. Children will soon mirror this behaviour and eventually develop their own resilience.
- Show passion for your teaching – remind the children why a certain skill is important for future careers.
- Admit when you make a mistake – show children that adults can make mistakes at times. Equally, make strategic mistakes for children to figure out.
- Demonstrate clear boundaries – but maintain a ‘firm, but always fair’ attitude.
- Be an active listener, identifying and correcting misconceptions quickly.
- Praise where praise is due. It is important not to ‘overpraise’ as we want the children to recognise the result of their hard work and achievement. For example, when they have edited and made changes, praise the final result. They will naturally know they are doing a ‘good job’ because you recognise their hard work with appropriate comments. You know your children well, so you know who needs that extra praise, support and confirmation of their achievements.
- Finally, smile and add laughter to your lessons. What we enjoy, we remember!
Kick start growth mindset culture with a classroom contract
My ace in the hole for kick-starting a classroom culture of perseverance and growth mindset in KS2 has to be the class contract. This year I asked my new Year 5 class to sign a contract just like the one below, they loved it! See the classroom contract below for yourself:
Collaborative and cooperative process
Using the contract, I explained to the children that throughout the year we would be taking part in activities that would require determination.
We discussed the different forms of determination with clear examples, such as ‘quiet determination’, ‘failing and then trying again’, ‘not giving up on the first, second or third attempt, but persisting until you understand.’
It is worth noting that children do not have to sign the contract. This would defeat the purpose.
You should remind children that they ‘don’t have to sign it today’, as it should only be signed when they believe what the words say. ’
One of the children in my class actually had this experience. He wasn’t sure whether or not to sign so I told him he should sign it only if he believes in the contract.
He thought about the sentiment and – by the end of the afternoon – he said ‘I like this, I want to try my best, so I will sign on the dotted line.’
Nobody ever said that developing a growth mindset would be instant…
Discussion and mutual respect around growth mindset
I have been asked about whether signing an agreement is too formal. Actually, I find it makes the children more likely to stick to their word because they have a say in whether or not they sign it. I let them make up their own minds.
This means they felt they could challenge me. That this was a discussion, not a dictatorship.
Which is exactly how we should work as teachers. Mutual respect and discussion. How you use growth mindset in the classroom may not be the same – this is simply what worked for me!
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