How to help your pupils become Great Learners

How to help your pupils become Great Learners

How to spot a Great Learner

  • Their curiosity is addictive
  • They’re willing to put in the time and effort needed to learn
  • They don’t give up easily
  • They ‘get’ that everything isn’t fun – some things are less interesting than others, but they have to be done
  • They do find some things daunting, but realise even if they fail at something, they’re learning
  • They’re not frightened to change the way they think when they learn something different
  • They never stop asking questions
  • They like to share what they know

Does this fit the bill with any of your pupils? You may find it fits the bill with a number of your colleagues too – it’s a key trait in many good teachers.

What they have is a growth mindset. They’re open to new learning and new possibilities, and they’re not being held back by the fear of failure.

How to help your pupils get a growth mindset

Have you ever told yourself that you simply can’t do something you’ve never tried before? Perhaps it’s running a 5k race, writing a book, or giving a speech in front of hundreds of people.

Why do you say that? It’s because of a fixed mindset. Some people have a fixed mindset about everything – they don’t like being out of their comfort zones and believe their skill levels are fixed. Others have a fixed mindset about certain parts of their lives – they may well be open to new learning at work but believe they’ll never be able to play an instrument.

People with a growth mindset view the things they’ve never tried before as a challenge and feel failure is feedback.

Many of us were praised for achieving things. While every parent has done it, it reinforces that fixed mindset. We feel we achieve a certain level of skill, and that not to achieve it is a failure. We may have even been told we were “the best” at something – then realised later we probably aren’t!

If we want to instill a growth mindset in our pupils, we need to encourage effort and praise the process rather than the results. It’s also OK to give constructive, kind criticism to help our pupils improve. We should also be specific in our encouragement.

It’s useful to think of our brains as a muscle, and this kind of encouragement as exercising that muscle to help our pupils develop a love for learning and become resilient.

Here are some examples of growth mindset reactions:

Your pupil comes to you with a painting. A fixed mindset response would be: “That’s great – you’re so good at art.” A growth mindset response would be: “I really like the way you’ve drawn this man. Why did you decide to put him on an island?”

Your pupil gets all the maths questions right. A fixed mindset response: “100% – that’s brilliant!” A growth mindset response: “You worked really hard on your maths this week, learning about fractions, and that meant you got all the questions right. You should be really proud of yourself.”

Have we whetted your appetite for learning more about growth mindsets? Our courses give you much more detail and many more techniques. Book a place at our Growth Mindsets and Great Learners Conference in Blaenavon on September 20.

Download the online course ‘Boost your child’s motivation, self-esteem and resilience: the secrets of effective praise’ at the discounted rate

NSM Training & Consultancy provides expert training for headteachers, teachers, and school staff. Read more about the work here:

The company was established by international education consultant and teacher Nicola S Morgan. She developed a reputation for excellence in dealing with the most difficult pupils and now runs training courses for schools and parents and is a published author in the field.