Implementing Mindset Theory in the Classroom and the Staff Room

Notes (slide number in brackets) from IH Online Conference webinar, 19th May 2017.


  • (3) Mindset is a simple idea discovered by world-renowned Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck.
  • Result of decades of research on achievement and success.
  • (4) Summary of the key characteristics of growth and fixed mindset. I will refer back to this theory throughout the sections on practical tips.


  • (5) GRAPH Switching to a growth mindset can change student confidence and attitudes.
  • (6) GRAPH Switching to a growth mindset can improve student performance.
  • (7, 8) I applied Mindset Theory to my feedback in my previous job in Albacete, Spain in the 2015/2016 academic year, with positive results on student attitudes and subsequent performance. I wrote about this in the November/December issue of IATEFL Voices.

HOW? Part 1 – Classroom

  1. (10) Feedback

(11) ##Highlight EFFORT, FAILURE, CRITICISM on table##

  • I hope I’ve convinced you that it’s well worth bringing mindset theory into your classroom. So how? One very simple and easy way is through *feedback*.
  • So what does growth mindset-focused feedback focus on?(12) 1 – EFFORT, rather than talent.
  • We often give talent-orientated praise by accident, but even if it’s positive, it can be really damaging in the long term. Promotes laziness and a belief in natural ability over hard work.
  • Research supports this.
  • 2 – PROCESS or STRATEGY, rather than result.
  • This can be positive and negative. It means that students will know exactly how they arrived to a certain result, and therefore how they can make changes to arrive to a better result.
  • Just a grade is useless. It tells you nothing specific on how to improve next time.
  • 3 – Use the word YET with negative feedback. Three letters can transform motivation.
  • No hope → There is another chance in the future.

(13) ##Participant work## – 6 feedback comments. Which 3 foster growth, which 3 foster fixed? (14 – answers)

2. (15) De-stigmatising mistakes

(16) ##Highlight FAILURE on table##

(17) – Setting the bar a little too high now and again.

  • Krashen’s i plus 1, opening Ss to future steps, encouraging the effort and no negative reinforcement for failing.
  • (18) – Foster a general attitude. In my classroom. Ss will gradually become less afraid of failure, more afraid of not trying.
  • Practical application – poster in my classroom. 

3. (19) Goal setting

(20) ##Highlight INTELLIGENCE, OTHER PEOPLE’S SUCCESS on table##

  • Every student has a different goal and level. But feeling of wading through the swamp of EFL an making little forward progress fosters the impression that ‘I’m just no good at English’ i.e. intelligence is innate and not improvable, and may bring about jealousy as they look up from the swamp they are struggling through to see classmates flying by overhead.
  • (21) Ss often feel they don’t make progress because they haven’t followed the SMART rules of goal-setting…Sports Psychology section of A-Level PE and Daniel Barber and Duncan Foord’s ‘English Teacher to Learner Coach’.
  • SMART ## Participant work ## – What does each letter stand for? (22 – answers)
  • (23) Practical application of SMART – New Year’s/Term’s Resolutions with SMART goals.
  • (24) Growth Journal. Level increases in baby steps. Ss they can progress and intelligence can change when they see this in action. By the end of the month I will be better able to…

HOW? Part 2 – Staff room

1. (25) Teachers’ beliefs on intelligence

(26) ##Highlight INTELLIGENCE on table##

  • (27) Before we can hope for growth mindset among out students, we must demand it from ourselves and believe that students are in charge of their own intelligence.
  • “I can’t teach young children”, “I can’t teach Upper Intermediate and above”. Many teachers won’t leave their own comfort zone but expect learners to.
  • Teaching = setting an example. Ss will mirror the teacher’s convictions. This could mean learning a language – a key advantage a non-native teacher has over natives. More on that issue here.

2. (28) Observations and PDIs

(29) ##Highlight FAILURE, CRITICISM on table##

  • (30) The resilience and ‘bounce backability’ we hope for from our students isn’t always mirrored in our own attitudes to feedback.
  • Problem 1 – Don’t practice what we preach. Not the right example for Ss, even if they don’t find out. For instance, do you choose a difficult class to be observed and try hard to improve it with the feedback (growth mindset), or do you pick an easy class and hide from any possible criticism, and any possible improvement (fixed mindset)?
  • (31) Problem 2 – Our teaching doesn’t improve if we don’t take in criticism and make alterations for the better. Ss – Don’t get an evolving and improving teacher. Teacher – Stagnation. Disenchantment with teaching profession.

3. (32) Attitudes to colleagues

(33) ##Highlight INTELLIGENCE, OTHER PEOPLE’S SUCCESS on table##

1Healthier team atmosphere

  • (34) Imagine atmosphere where anyone’s success is perceived as a threat e.g. a student’s comments to management that they are really enjoying the class. Fosters poisonous atmosphere.
  • Instead – celebrate others’ successes. As Growth Mindset believes that ability is not fixed, others’ success means a chance to find out specifics of what they did and try to incorporate it into your own approach e.g. new activities, classroom routines.

2 – (35) Management — Teachers and New — Experienced staff relationships.

  • Fixed Mindset – Born leaders, born followers. The managers have the gift, the teachers should follow.
  • Growth Mindset – Anyone could rise up the ladder if they wanted to and then put in the time and effort.
  • So instead of a top-down hierarchy, foster a co-operative system, where managers are there to make decisions, but everyone’s input is valued. First year teachers have something to teach 30-year veterans of EFL from their unique perspective, as long as the veteran believes that their ability is still malleable. Visa versa too, although this is already the status quo.
  • Practical application – staff meetings, mentoring schemes, peer-to-peer observations.

2 thoughts on “Implementing Mindset Theory in the Classroom and the Staff Room

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s