What we learnt at the KGS Growth Mindset conference

7th November 2018 marked a very exciting day for InnerDrive, as we had the pleasure of hosting our very own Growth Mindset conference in collaboration with Kingston Grammar School.  Our conference aimed to give educators strategies to help students develop a growth mindset. So, what did we learn?


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Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and Director of InnerDrive. At the conference Bradley delivered a brilliant speech discussing what we currently know about growth mindset.

There are two different types of mindsets:

  • A growth mindset where students believe their abilities can be improved through effort and learning
  • A fixed mindset where students believe that their abilities are largely unchangeable.

A growth mindset is desirable for students as it increases the likelihood that when school work becomes difficult, they will persevere, facilitating improvement.

Bradley stressed the importance of a resilient classroom environment. To achieve this:

  • High but realistic expectations from teachers can give students the extra push they need;
  • Student effort (rather than ability) should be praised, as this encourages them to attempt harder tasks;
  • Teachers can give students a sense of purpose by explaining why they're studying this material and how it will help them achieve their future goals.
  • Teachers should emphasise quality of work over speed and encourage reflection to develop strategies for improvement.


Lucy Crehan

Lucy Crehan is author of one of the 2016 Economist Books of the Year – CleverLands. Her experiences working in the world’s highest performing education systems formed the basis for her book and her thought-provoking talk where she shared ideas of what educators in England can take from these systems.

Lucy explained how from a very young age Chinese students are told stories that emphasise the importance of growth mindset. Lucy also suggested that teachers of the same subject come together to create detailed lesson plans that are delivered by one teacher and observed by the others. The observing teachers can look at student reactions to the material and identify areas of the lesson that can be improved.


Dame Katherine Grainger DBE

Rower Dame Katherine Grainger is Team GB’s most decorated female athlete having medalled at 5 different Olympics. Katherine has a truly inspirational story that can teach a lot about performance under pressure and resilience.

Katherine explained how having a growth mindset, allowed her to learn from the narrow loss at Beijing 2008. A growth mindset gives the belief that improvements can be made and that just because you failed once doesn’t mean you will fail again. Setbacks, no matter how small should be assessed to identify issues, as if a number of small issues are corrected this can facilitate large overall change.

Katherine attributed her biggest success, her Gold at London 2012, to a more unified support network. This was achieved by each member having their own specific, personal goals based on what success in their role would look like; together these smaller objectives helped achieve the overarching goal. For teachers it is important that they install belief in their students, that they can achieve challenging but realistic goals as this develops growth mindset.


Edward Watson

Edward Watson is the founder of InnerDrive and co-author of our book ‘Release Your InnerDrive’. Edward’s talk offered educators practical methods to help establish a growth mindset in disengaged students.

Firstly, Edward emphasised the need for students to be aware of the importance of effort. The importance of the type of praise and feedback was also highlighted. Educators should give praise and feedback based on effort rather performance, as this stops the belief that abilities are fixed being installed. Praise and feedback should also be specific and limited as too many points can be difficult for students to process.

Finally, Edward advised that teachers create a classroom in which failure is not blamed on others or viewed as embarrassing, but instead seen as a platform for learning. Encouraging students to develop better self-task, especially when on the verge or straight after a failure, is a key skill in order to do this.


Dr Philippa Busch

Dr Phillipa Busch is a Chartered Child and Educational Psychologist. Phillipa gave an interesting talk at the conference, giving teachers an insight on how to improve attachments, which is important for the development of growth mindset.

One suggestion that Phillipa offered was the use of a visual aid allowing the child to pick a picture that best represents them at the current time. Children with attachment difficulties often find interactions difficult but this is a great conversation starter and gives teachers a better understanding of the child’s thoughts.

Phillipa encouraged teachers to display positive behaviours as children often copy these. This is particularly important for students who do not have secure attachments as it is likely they see improper behaviour at home. Phillipa also urged educators to ‘hold the child in mind’. Home life can be difficult for some children and therefore school should offer a secure environment where they are supported. Teachers can raise the confidence of children who lack secure attachments by telling others of their merits within earshot.


Chris Hildrew

Chris Hildrew is Head Teacher at Churchill Academy & Sixth Form, where he has created a growth mindset ethos. Chris shared this experience in his talk and also in his book Becoming a Growth Mindset School.

At his school, Chris has created a culture where lessons are designed in a way that students come to associate the hard work they put in with successful outcomes. To assist with this, Churchill Academy has placed an emphasis on formative feedback. This has helped reduced negative labelling and fear of failure.

Churchill Academy has also created a grid exploring student’s attitudes towards learning. Across all subjects, teacher observations track attitudes. This has led to better conversations which in turn has driven up student mindsets and performances.


Jonnie Noakes

Jonnie Noakes is Head of Teaching and Learning at Eton College. He is also director of the Tony Little Centre for Innovation and Research in Learning, which conducts school-based research on developing growth mindset.

Research conducted by the centre at Eton showed that implementing a 40-minute growth mindset programme once a week for three weeks can develop growth mindset and improve prosocial behaviour.


Final Thought

We hope that the attendees enjoyed our growth mindset conference as much as we did. We would like to thank all the speakers for their entertaining and interesting talks, Kingston Grammar for hosting, and most importantly all of the wonderful educators that came along. Teachers should always keep in mind the words of Lucy Crehan “If anyone has the power to change a culture, and to change the way that we think about potential, it is educators”.

If you'd like to know more about what was said at our conference, you can download the ebook right here.

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