The growth mindset in key stage 2: Part 3

Written by: Ross McWilliam | Published:
Image: iStock

In the third part of his four-part series on growth mindset approaches to teaching in key stage 2, Ross McWilliam looks at whole-school strategies to involve pupils, staff and your parents

In this, the third part of this series on implementing the growth mindset at key stage 2, I want to focus on a whole-school strategy that caters for key stakeholders of pupils, parents and staff, implementation across school, and how we can monitor progress at school and at home.

A whole-school strategy

Integration of key stakeholders is crucial if any sustained success is to be achieved, such as higher grades, better attendance and behaviour, greater development of lifelong non-cognitive skills (including thinking strategies and resilience) and increased parental support. So, how can we engage the key stakeholders?

The staff

When it comes to the growth mindset, overlook the needs of staff at your peril. The secret is to not only get staff onside, but to demonstrate to them the benefits of growth mindset approaches to pupils – and also to themselves. There are various ways to start this planning process – here are some examples:

  1. Ask for volunteers for a cross-school working party on growth mindset. The aim is to review current growth mindset thinking and evidence of success. A simple SWOT analysis will yield tangible benefits to the school, but will allow for individual differences and needs.
  2. The review findings can then be shared with all staff to iron out theoretical and logistical issues.
  3. It may be a good idea to see growth mindset policy in another nearby school and see the impact it has had.
  4. There may be a reasonable need to pilot growth mindset across a nominated class or classes, perhaps with a targeted focus group. This will allow for changes and improvements on a smaller scale before roll-out across the whole school.
  5. This may be the point that parents are informed of the pilot, and perhaps asked for their views. Ownership by parents is key and they should be at the centre of growth mindset change, perhaps with their own growth mindset support group.
  6. The growth mindset programme then needs to be reviewed consistently with all key stakeholders against the nominated success gains.
  7. To raise the profile of growth mindset among staff, staff mentors can be appointed to facilitate learning and start the liaison with parents.

The pupils

Ideally, there should be no extrinsic rewards for this, but it can be pointed out that taking responsibility with roles and working as a team are great qualities to develop.

  1. As with staff, it may be a good idea to ask for growth mindset volunteers from key stage 2, especially if a mentor system is eventually incorporated.
  2. Raise the internal profile of the group by holding meetings in the headteacher’s office with a combination of within school time and outside school time meetings.
  3. As with the staff, guide pupils to identify the benefits of a growth mindset approach. Crucially ask for their ideas, especially about implementation and potential barriers.
  4. Once a provisional plan is agreed, perhaps take this to individual class groups to canvass wider feedback, and “buy-in” support.
  5. Maybe start off with an enrichment day/carousel delivery using some of the ideas already mentioned.

The parents

There is no one way to engage parents. The best starting place is to list what the school already does and then create a wish list with a central involvement from parents. Prompts could be: where communications take place, setting their own agenda (ownership), simple home growth mindset language and feedback wordage, presence at parents’ evenings, and year 6 transition.
Implementation across the school

The first task is to agree and clarify the five growth mindset components so that everyone knows what is involved (from understanding the five areas and then “drilling down” to understand how each can be implemented). As discussed in part one of this series, the five components are:

  1. No negative self-bias in working out challenging situations (I can’t do maths, I am rubbish at school).
  2. Taking a risk with learning using a trial and error approach (with teacher support to create a positive learning environment where learning is the whole-class priority and nobody is belittled for a silly question or wrong answer).
  3. Getting support, guidance and feedback from others.
  4. Using purposeful effort and perseverance/resilience to find a solution.
  5. Not comparing to others or a fear of being judged.

A visual growth mindset presence not only makes an impact, but is a constant reminder/aide memoir for pupils and staff – for example, classroom displays of posters, logos or mottos where space is identified for pupil contributions which “grow” the displays.

Common pupil areas such as entrance hall, assembly hall, dining areas are ideal (one school I know in Wigan has quality framed pictures and images in the school dining areas).

There can even be weekly “changeable” noticeboards where news items are shared demonstrating growth mindset and featuring specific growth mindset news examples – i.e. for PE/SEN you could feature the Rio Olympic/Paralympics or other sporting events, or for English, JK Rowling’s latest projects, and so on.

Growth Mindset Mentors

This is an excellent idea that allows pupil ownership and allows mentors to take responsibility for facilitating growth mindset. You might even develop the idea of pupil growth mindset champions! Think about outside role-models too. This could comprise various role-model school visitors who tell their stories of success achievement within a growth mindset context. Former pupils can create a connection and real relevance for existing school pupils – i.e. if they can do it, so can I. And the school motto is important too – a phrase I use often is “Success Comes In Cans” and this could be a school slogan on its own or to collectively group the above ideas.

A policy audit

Your school’s growth mindset journey may well want to be reflected in your relevant school policies. Hymer & Gershon (2014) call this a “find and replace” exercise where fixed mindset language is replaced (or at least added to) with growth mindset language and growth mindset objectives. See the table below, which is adapted from their 2014 Growth Mindset Pocketbook.

Fixed Mindset OvertonesGrowth Mindset Overtones
Intelligent, more able, highly ableSkills, more skilled, highly skilled
Level dataNot yet or success-not-yet
Gifted and talented (policy)Highly achieving as a result of non-cognitive skills
Extrinsic rewardsIntrinsic recognition
Results, grades, performance dataLearning and progression in the five growth mindset components

How to monitor progress at school and at home

Buy in from pupils may be a continual challenge as the benefits of growth mindset may not be as immediately gratifying for some. Awareness and identification feedback of short and longer term positive change is crucial. Examples of this could be:

  • A reward system that caters for all abilities. Therefore, growth mindset can be integrated into existing reward systems or be a standalone project. One example is KASH (Knowledge, Attitude, Skills, Habits). Knowledge could be grades and academically focused, but Attitude and Skills could be a series of growth mindset actions recognised by staff during class, school or extra-curricular work. Habits are these growth mindset actions demonstrated over time.
  • Class Pings are a simple yet effective way to buy in class support. Covertly or overtly, growth mindset points are scored by the class for growth mindset language and demonstration of the five components. Targets are set which should be incremental but realistic (high expectations is growth mindset territory). I have known teachers to ring a bell when a point or ping is scored.
  • School growth mindset recording and tracking ideally should be integrated into existing feedback systems (economies of scale) to reduce workload and to be seen as integral rather than a bolt on activity. Collating the growth mindset feedback is a task in itself, but it can be integrated into existing reward systems.
  • Collecting evidence can be done both overtly and covertly, but always look for immediate feedback – i.e. during or at the end of each class. There is a danger with extrinsic rewards (according to Professor Carol Dweck, growth mindset’s creator), but some school sub-groups may well need something tangible and immediate.
  • Pupil diaries: when pupils own their learning (by identifying and recording), ownership of growth mindset is so much more effective. Their recordings can be counter-signed by staff/parents when pupils record their own growth mindset moments. This could even be peer marked.
  • Gantt Chart: these charts can be used to measure progress over time. Weeks could be designated according to the five components – which can be simplified to Challenge, Effort, Practice, Feedback and Resilience. These can also be used at home and/or school.
  • Ross McWilliam is a speaker and author. Some ideas in this article have been taken from his new book The Amazing Journey Of CUPPA – His Quest to Find the Five Secrets of the Confident Mindset. It features several role models for talent and intelligence with video links. Visit or email

Growth mindset

The final part of this four-part series will publish in Headteacher Update’s March edition, due out on March 9, 2017. To read parts one and two of this series, published in September and November 2016, go to

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