Complex problems are never solved by simple solutions. Improving learning and exam grades whilst at school are arguably two of the most complex problems, with many interacting factors combining to impact on how well students do. Meaning, we need to help students do more than just perform well - we need to help them thrive. The question is: how?
You have most likely heard about growth mindset, one of the most popular psychological theories in education. Based on the idea that our our skills and abilities aren’t set in stone, it’s been linked to better student grades by a range of studies from around the world.
This already makes it a great way to help students improve. But psychological development is not done in isolation - a strategy aimed at improving one thing can also improve another. Improving self-talk in students is a great example, as it also helps improve their mindset, resilience, creativity and concentration. Clearly, many psychological elements cross over and interact - and growth mindset is one of them.
So, what skills do we want students to grow with their growth mindsets? What can growth mindset combine with in order to improve performance?
How to develop a growth mindset: some resources
Before we figure out what to grow with it, we need to help students develop a growth mindset in the first place. We’ve written plenty about this subject, so here are some blogs you might find interesting:
- How do you actually develop a growth mindset?
- Questions that encourage a growth mindset
- The language of growth mindset
- Strategies to develop a growth mindset
- Growth mindset: stories & science, a 7-part series of blogs full of real-life stories to inspire your students.
All of these blogs also have free posters you could use to teach your students about mindset in a more engaging way.
Growth mindset and… motivation
Researchers in a fascinating study, alongside developing their mindset, asked students to write down how doing well at school would enable them to achieve their goals and contribute to wider society. They found that this improved student motivation and increased the chances of them completing Maths, English and Science courses.
This could be a good activity to do in your classroom. Future success has consistently been found to be a great motivator, more so than fear or rewards.
Growth mindset and… autonomy
Autonomy is having a sense of choice and control over what one does. Too little can be suffocating, too much can take away focus - students need a balance. In a recent study of over 2000 students, researchers taught students how to develop a growth mindset and let them choose how they should be rewarded for attendance. Increasing their autonomy led to an improvement in persistence and school grades.
The holy grail of education is to help all students become independent learners eventually. Some great ways to encourage this include teaching them about effective time-management, encouraging collaboration, helping them set effective goals (and make solid plans to get there)… and many more.
Growth mindset and… memory
Simply put, growth mindset is the belief that people can get better. It only makes sense that developing one would lead students to believe that they can learn new things.
Teaching them effective approaches to revision is a tangible strategy to do so. First, they need to know what doesn’t work and, unfortunately, it’s the student favourites: recent reviews have found that re-reading or highlighting key phrases are particularly weak techniques.
On the other hand, there is more and more research confirming the impact of strategies such as:
- Retrieval practice - This simply involves generating an answer to a question. It can take the shape of quizzes, past papers, flash cards… and many more. This forces students to revisit material before they forget it, strengthening their memory of it.
- Spacing - When it comes to revision, a little but often trumps a lot at once. Spreading their revision over longer periods of time helps students remember more, for longer.
- Interleaving - The act of mixing up revision topics instead of blocking them together. While it sounds similar to spacing, it isn’t the same: all interleaving is spacing, but all spacing isn’t interleaving.
These are just the best examples, but there are many other strategies. Read our guide to the best ways to revise to find out more, or visit the InnerDrive Online Academy for one-hour CPD sessions that will teach you everything you need to know.
Believing you can improve and develop skills is a firm foundation for future learning. Combining this attitude with the motivation to get better, a sense of choice and tangible strategies to improve student memory can give students a better chance of thriving both at school and in their exams.
You can find even more of our resources and tips about growth mindset in schools on our handy guide page.