Envisioning an ‘A’ Student: Developing a Growth Mindset

The first chapter of the Academic Success Formula is written by Alex Scotchbrook, a Tutor Doctor Education Consultant, with a passion for helping others develop a love of learning. Throughout the opening chapter, Alex discusses the importance of students developing a growth mindset, and uses case studies to illustrate the importance of mindset when it comes to effective learning.

When a student is struggling in school, it’s often assumed their academic abilities aren’t up to scratch or they’re not putting in the effort. However, there’s usually a lot more to it than meets the eye. In fact, parents regularly tell us how they know deep down something more could be done to make the learning experience for their child easier, and we agree. Yet, it’s still common practice to focus on grades, whilst the approach to learning is forgotten. Here at Tutor Doctor, we believe the true goal of tutoring goes way beyond achieving a specific grade. Even though it’s still important, helping students build their own positive strategies and develop a progressive attitude towards learning is what will really lead to their own personal fulfilment.

Toby, a bright ten-year-old with a love for cricket, had developed a genuine fear around the subject maths and couldn’t even say the word out loud. Suffering from ‘glue ear’ for the first three years at school, he had missed out on important learning foundations early on, and couldn’t speak, or even try to solve a simple maths task. We started helping Toby by explaining to his whole family the ‘building block principle.’ The analogy showed how every school year is a new layer of the wall and each year kids build a new layer upon the foundations of the previous. Each brick is essentially an idea or concept that is learnt, and it’s normal for kids to miss a few, often leaving permanent gaps. Toby and his family soon understood that it wasn’t his ability causing problems – he was just missing a few foundations, which could be built back up. Instead of diving into traditional maths tutoring, we started by playing cricket with Toby, covering the foundations of numeracy as we played. Through positive role modelling, effective encouragement and enjoyment of learning, Toby’s mindset changed towards maths. He finally had enough self-belief to see his potential, get over his fear of maths and continue with the learning process.

At Tutor Doctor, we recognise that a student’s mindset is often hindering their ability to learn successfully and see their full potential. We strive to help develop a ‘Growth Mindset’, which is essentially an engaged and motivated attitude towards learning. In fact, Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck, carried out a study on thousands of students to investigate just how much of an impact mindset has on motivation levels, grades and overall performance at school. With two groups of students, one received brief training on ‘Growth Mindset’, whilst the others were just regular students. The results really honed in on just how powerful the mind is, with each group showcasing astonishingly different beliefs in regards to learning.

Dweck discovered that ‘Fixed Mindset’ students had a very rigid belief system when it came to learning.

  • You’re clever or you’re not
  • Some people are just inherently bright
  • If you get it wrong, you’re not that clever
  • Some people can do it, some people can’t

Interestingly, ‘Growth Mindset’ students had a much more flexible and positive attitude towards learning.

  • Everybody can learn
  • The learning process involves trying new things
  • Making mistakes is normal and an important part of learning

Dweck’s findings reflect the importance of students having a ‘Growth Mindset’, and how it develops a healthier and more positive approach towards learning. It’s all too easy for students to believe or to be told that there is a right and wrong way to learn and achieve, which is de-motivating and limiting. Every student should be encouraged to challenge themselves, realise they have so much potential, believe in their abilities and know that making mistakes is essential in order to grow and learn. There really is so much more to education and academic success than being an ‘A’ student.

With every single student being completely individual, whether that’s due to circumstances, influences or learning style, we know there’s never going to be a one-size-fits all solution. However, what we do know is that many students aren’t going to benefit from conventional approaches to teaching and that quickly fixing a grade isn’t going to fix anything else. Instead, we need to help students alter their habitual response towards learning using new methods and looking at academic success from a different point of view. Realising that anyone, including themselves, can be successful if they put their mind to it is just the beginning. Developing a positive outlook towards learning, growing, changing and making mistakes is the key when it comes to being the best they can be. Nothing more, nothing less.

“Success is already inside everyone, waiting to come out.” Alex Scotchbrook

Purchase Tutor Doctor’s book – Academic Success Formula: How Ordinary Students Get Extraordinary Results here.