Developing a “growth mindset” classroom culture is crucial to your pupils’ success, setting the bar for elements of perseverance and a willingness to overcome obstacles.

Teachers know just how important a good classroom culture is in the classroom. Promoting a positive environment, and a willingness to succeed allows children to combat obstacles in their learning, develop a consistent sense of motivation and (most importantly) strengthens their sense of character.

As such, it is vital to establish what I call the ‘determination to succeed’ as a team effort when meeting your new class.

I know this because of my experience, and the experiences of those around me. Looking back to when I was a child, I remember having to overcome many obstacles. Fortunately, I intrinsically wanted to succeed and (more importantly) had an encouraging, supportive family.

Unfortunately, we all know some children may not have this. Which is actually one of the main reasons I value teaching so much.

Like all good teachers, I value having the opportunity to offer that crucial encouragement at each stage of my pupils’ learning experience.

“Growth mindset” language: perseverance in the classroom

My classroom language (so to speak) is always one of encouragement, support and praise. That’s not to say I am not strategic and don’t reach for the highest of standards, but I appreciate that children will not reach those standards without acknowledgement and confirmation of their achievements along the way.

To me, the teacher’s role in every lesson is to guide children to achieve the best they can. We act like a football coach on the sidelines. Stepping in when a player needs extra support. We weave around the tables, giving fast, efficient and strategic feedback or further challenge where needed.

You will have noticed I have put the words “Growth mindset” in inverted commas. There is a simple reason for this. While I believe the concepts underpinning growth are exactly the right attitude, the “buzz-word” nature of the phrase seems to only skim the surface. There is just more to it.

I do, however, have the term ‘Growth Mindset’ up in my classroom, as a phrase the children can relate to. I also refer to continued ‘determination’ and ‘perseverance’ within daily learning sessions too.

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With that in mind here are 9 ways I make perseverance and a positive mindset part of my daily teaching practice

How to embed “growth mindset” in the primary classroom

  1. Start with, and maintain, an open dialogue. Allow children to express their opinions and allow them to challenge yours. This helps develop their reasoning and critical thinking skills.
  2. Always demonstrate mutual respect to adults and children alike.
  3. Model your resilient attitude. When something goes wrong, adapt and learn from it, expressing vocally, how you are overcoming the challenge. Children will soon mirror this behaviour and eventually develop their own resilience.
  4. Show passion for your teaching – remind the children why a certain skill is important for future careers.
  5. Admit when you make a mistake – show children that adults can make mistakes at times. Equally, make strategic mistakes for children to figure out.
  6. Demonstrate clear boundaries – but maintain a ‘firm, but always fair’ attitude.
  7. Be an active listener, identifying and correcting misconceptions quickly.
  8. Praise where praise is due. It is important not to ‘overpraise’ as we want the children to recognise the result of their hard work and achievement. For example, when they have edited and made changes, praise the final result. They will naturally know they are doing a ‘good job’ because you recognise their hard work with appropriate comments. You know your children well, so you know who needs that extra praise, support and confirmation of their achievements.
  9. Finally, smile and add laughter to your lessons. What we enjoy, we remember!

Kick start culture with a classroom contract

My ace in the hole for kick-starting a classroom culture of perseverance has to be the class contract. This year I asked my new Year 5 class to sign a contract just like the one below, they loved it! See the contract below for yourself:

How to use a classroom contract to promote “growth mindset” perseverance

Using the contract, I explained to the children that throughout the year we would be taking part in activities that would require determination.

We discussed the different forms of determination with clear examples, such as ‘quiet determination’, ‘failing and then trying again’, ‘not giving up on the first, second or third attempt, but persisting until you understand.’

It is worth noting that children do not have to sign the contract. This would defeat the purpose. You should remind children that they ‘don’t have to sign it today’, as it should only be signed when they believe what the words say. ’

One of the children in my class actually had this experience. He wasn’t sure whether or not to sign so I told him he should sign it only if he believes in the contract. He thought about the sentiment and – by the end of the afternoon – he said ‘I like this, I want to try my best, so I will sign on the dotted line.’

True “growth mindset” culture: Mutual respect and discussion

I have been asked about whether signing an agreement is too formal. Actually, I find it makes the children more likely to stick to their word because they have a say in whether or not they sign it. I let them make up their own minds.

This means they felt they could challenge me. That this was a discussion, not a dictatorship. Which is exactly how we should work as teachers. Mutual respect and discussion.

To find out how we develop growth mindset and more, read our blog: 20 Maths Strategies KS2 That Guarantee Progress for All Pupils.

Niomi Roberts , Year 5 Teacher and SLT , England

As a Year 5 Teacher and frequent blogger, Niomi is a strong believer in the power of sharing good practice. She writes about classroom culture on the Third Space blog.