Fostering a growth mindset

I feel this is a topic I’ll be returning to again and again. This time its in relation to a session at the Teach First Summer Institute on gifted and talented students.

Techniques to foster a growth mindset:

  • Don’t talk about ability; talk about persistence.
  • Create a climate where failure is good
    • No-one takes the mickey.
  • Pick out what it is that students are doing well e.g. arguing eloquently about uniform – and build on this.
  • See them outside the classroom and praise their efforts there.

Check for understanding

Teach Like a Champion Technique 18: Check for understanding

Gather data constantly and act on them immediately (hard to do but important)

  • Consider answers to questions as data sets, and ask enough times to get a reasonable sample, across known skill levels.
  • Respond to right answers with how and why follow-ups to ensure you spot false positives.
  • Don’t rely on self-report
  • Use monitoring to assess the number and type of errors being made by students.
  • When errors are identified, you can respond in several ways:
    • Reteach using a different approach
    • Identify and reteach the problem step
    • Identify and reteach problem terms
    • Slow the pace and reteach
    • Reteach in a different order
    • Identify and reteach to specific students

Break it down

Teach Like a Champion Technique 16: Break it down

As soon as you recognise an error, reconceptualise the original material as a series of smaller, simpler pieces, and ask a question to make a link at the appropriate point in that series.

  • Make the smallest hint possible that enables a correct answer. But tension with speed.
  • Challenging to get right – it helps to anticipate and plan for potential trouble spots, and to use consistent types of follow-ups, such as:
    • Provide an example
    • Provide context (perhaps a previous learning episode)
    • Provide a rule
    • Provide the missing (or first) step
    • Repeating an answer back to a student
    • Eliminate false choices

Name the steps

Teach Like a Champion Technique 13: Name the steps

Subdivide complex skills into component parts and build knowledge up systematically.

  • Give each step a name so that it can easily be recalled.
  • Key components of naming the steps:
    • Identify the (fewer than 7) steps with clear and crisp language and post on the wall.
    • Make them sticky by naming them and perhaps creating a mnemonic.
    • Build the steps with students.
    • Use two stairways – discussing both the current problem and a generalised form (both the problem and the process of solving these sorts of problems).

Marking and feedback

Great couple of posts from the ever-inspirational headguruteacher: Marking in Perspective and Making Feedback Count. Lots of good stuff in them but the key point that stands out for me is making time for and creating a culture in which students act on feedback. The mantra of ‘closing the gap’ is a great one – closing the gap between the work that has been done and the work that could be done at a higher level with the benefit of feedback.

I will add this into my list of habits to develop in the classroom – I can feel a Friday skills lesson or similar coming on!

It also further strengthens my desire to have a space for ongoing dialogue in pupils’ exercise books – perhaps a space in the first few pages at the start of the book?

Finally, the resource below provides a range of practical tips for closing the gap – brilliant.


Teaching Mathematics Ch 8: Reflections on mathematical investigations

Maths investigations clearly have huge benefits; the example in the book was of a Happy Numbers investigation. The open-ended approach not only allows for differentiated approaches, but also encourages mathematical thinking and the development of process skills.

In planning for an investigative task in the classroom, I clearly need to plan carefully the scope of the task, and also the scaffolding I will provide to learners who are stuck, or are struggling for ideas. For example, I might include a list of approaches that students could take to get started on the task, as well as a ‘hints’ table if they are stuck.

Assessing performance on a task like this clearly requires a more considered approach than simply ticking correct answers and giving feedback. I need to consider what approaches a pupil has taken (which may not be explicit – thus I probably need to award marks for clarity of presentation as well as outcomes) and how they might improve their approach. However, this seems to accord closely with good practice in assessment anyway, so I don’t think it should put me off!