Te Uku School students recently spent half a day with a camera crew for a news item on growth mindset, a philosophy of teaching that schools are adopting to improve educational outcomes, which aired on Story on Tuesday evening last week.

The school was approached by TV3 after coming on board with the alternative way of thinking just over a month ago.

School principal Rachel Allan says it’s a concept she has been interested in for some years, and, in April, teachers at Te Uku had a two-day workshop on growth mindset with consultant and trainer James Anderson.

The school is embarking on a two or three-year action research project into the educational outcome of the new teaching method.

Growth mindset, which is a simple idea discovered by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, is the belief that everyone’s most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work, and teaching this view creates a love of learning and resilience that is essential for accomplishment.

The focus is on learning, not the outcome, says Ms Allan.

This is different to a fixed mindset, where people believe intelligence or talent are fixed traits, and that talent alone creates success, without effort.

“It’s not a programme, but a way of thinking,” says Ms Allan, who had decided that a new approach was needed at the school to try and lift the writing achievements of some of its students.

“We are not getting the gains (in writing) with our lower students that we would like.”

However the philosophy is being applied to all areas of education.

“This is going to have an impact across all learning at the school

“It’s a huge project and one that we are really excited and motivated about.”

Using growth mindset, children are able to choose what they want to learn, with students currently learning how to do the Rubik’s Cube, or a new instrument or language. Students are also asked what they feel they need to know more about in subjects such as maths, and have the choice to opt into different workshops.

Ms Allan says it’s about giving students more voice and choice, and the goal is to have self-directed learning fulltime at the school.

The school has applied for money from the Ministry of Education’s Teacher-led Innovation for its research project, which will focus on the outcomes of growth mindset in the subject of writing.

Ms Allan says the school wants to instill a love for learning in all its students.

“What we know about kids is they can think that if you have to get help in your learning then you are dumb; if other kids know it and you don’t then you are dumb. If a family member says I was good at maths, then you assign that competence to your child.

“There are huge factors that affect learning.

“We are all born with a brain, people aren’t born more intelligent than others.

“Everyone has the same capacity to learn, but there are environmental factors that will influence your intelligence.

“It’s striving for your goals, following your dreams – you just can’t expect to get there without the effort.”

And it’s telling the kids that the “challenges of learning are good”. “When we meet challenges we are learning.”

Ms Allan says the teachers have, so far, only had positive things to say about how the students are responding to the new mindset.

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