Why a growth mindset is essential in teaching learners with special educational needs

Why a growth mindset is essential in teaching learners with special educational needs

Professor Carol Dweck’s groundbreaking 2006 work, Mindset: The new psychology of success, has forever changed the way we look at education. In her book, Dweck elaborates on what she calls the “growth mindset”, as opposed to its antithesis, the fixed mindset.

Based on two decades of research, Dweck advocates an approach that encourages a passion for learning over a hunger for approval, as she believes that innate ability needs to be combined with sustained effort in order to achieve the greatest possible success.

The growth mindset vs. the fixed mindset

Dweck juxtaposes a fixed mindset approach (where people believe an innate ability equates their success) with one that incorporates a growth mindset (where success rather comes from learning, training and hard work).

Educators strive to develop a growth mindset in the learners they teach by not just focusing on the basic abilities, intelligence and talents of learners, but letting the spotlight fall on the development of their innate abilities through sustained work and learning.

In other words, a learner’s success is not based on how smart or talented they are, but rather on how they persist in developing the abilities they already have.

A practical approach to the growth mindset

In classrooms, teachers who adopt a growth mindset-based approach to learning will take specific steps in their teaching methods.

For example, an educator who incorporates the growth mindset in their teaching strategy will encourage learners to focus on the way they are working towards success in their studies, instead of simply praising them, based on their intelligence.

When teaching, a teacher would praise learners with the words, “well done, you’ve worked very hard”, rather than saying, “well done, you’re very smart”.

Dweck believes that encouraging a growth mindset in learners is especially important, as this will, to a large extent, dictate the approach they have to challenges, obstacles, criticism, effort, and the way they measure themselves with regards to the way other people perform later in their lives.

Using this approach, a learner who, for instance, faces challenges in achieving specific outcomes, will not feel like a failure with sub-standard abilities and levels of intelligence. Instead, the child will view the initial failure as a motivational factor and challenge that can be overcome with persistence and sustained hard work.

The growth mindset and LSEN teaching

Learners who have cognitive and developmental challenges can benefit greatly from a growth mindset-based approach to learning. This is because, just like in the traditional and mainstream school set-up, the innate intelligence and abilities of learners tend to vary greatly. Basing a teaching approach on things like intelligence reinforces an idea of lagging behind peers, instead of believing one is on a journey of lifelong learning which embraces challenges, obstacles and even failure as a natural part of the developmental process.

At Sparrow Schools, we value this approach to learning above all others, as we are convinced that this is the best way to equip our learners with the drive and persistence required to become a contributing and successful members of society.

Carol Dweck’s philosophy is also the doctrine we have adopted as a part of the way we empower and encourage our learners to become the very best version of themselves – not just while they are learners in our school, but also when we allow them to spread their wings outside of the security of the school system.

Leave a Reply