Maritime Academy Trust

Maritime is a charitable education trust with schools across London and the South East.

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A Growth Mindset

Nightingale Growth Mindset - Our Journey So Far


Growth Mindset is an approach to teaching which promotes mindset as being more important than initial ability in determining the progress made by pupils in their mathematical understanding. Pupils with a growth mindset will make better progress than pupils with a fixed mindset.


Pupils with a growth mindset

  • Believe that talents can be developed and great abilities can be built over time
  • View mistakes as a learning experience
  • Are resilient
  • Believe that effort creates success
  • Think about how they learn


Pupils with a fixed mindset

  • Believe that talent alone creates success
  • Are reluctant to take on challenges
  • Prefer to stay in their comfort zone 
  • Are fearful of making mistakes
  • Think it is important to 'look smart' in front of others
  • Believe that talents and abilities are set in stone, you either have them or you don't



Renowned Stanford Psychologist Carol S. Dweck is considered a leading practitioner within the field of developing mindsets.  In 2008, Dweck published findings on her study into the way in which mindsets affect pupils’ progress in maths and science.  Psychologists Blackwell, Trzesniewski, and Dweck (2007) followed 373 students across the challenging transition to 7th grade (Y6 to Y7).


“At the beginning of the year, we assessed their mindsets, along with other motivation-relevant variables, and then monitored their math grades over the next two years. Students with fixed and growth mindsets had entered 7th grade with equal prior math achievement, for the impact of mindsets does not typically emerge until students face challenges or setbacks. By the end of the fall term, the math grades of the two groups had jumped apart and they continued to diverge over the next two years” (Dweck, 2008)


Analyses showed that the divergence in math grades was mediated by several key variables. First, students with the growth mindset, compared to those with the fixed mindset, were significantly more oriented toward learning goals. Although they cared about their grades, they cared even more about learning. Second, students with the growth mindset showed a far stronger belief in the power of effort. They believed that effort promoted ability and that was effective regardless of current level of ability. In contrast, those with the fixed mindset believed that effort was necessary only for those who lacked ability and was, to boot, likely to be ineffective for them. Finally, those with the growth mindset showed more mastery-oriented reactions to setbacks, being less likely than those with the fixed mindset to denigrate their ability and more likely to employ positive strategies, such as greater effort and new strategies, rather than negative strategies, such as effort withdrawal and cheating. Thus, students’ beliefs about their intelligence played a key role in how they fared in math across this challenging school transition. When students believe that their intelligence can increase they orient toward doing just that, displaying an emphasis on learning, effort, and persistence in the face of obstacles (Dweck 2008).


Over the course this academic year students at Nightingale Primary have been learning about growth mindset in a variety of ways.  In October through to November our focus was on developing children’s understanding of how the brain works. Children were taught about how new learning is formed within the brain and most importantly that the only true learning comes with effort, encouraging the view of mistakes as learning experiences and perseverance as essential to overcoming problems.  Here are some images of our journey during that time accompanied by some Brain videos created by Year 6.




In November our school assemblies focused in on inspirational stories written by various authors on how to deal with mistakes and overcome obstacles. We initiated our assemblies with a tremendously inspirational story called The Dot by Peter Reynolds. This was followed by watching a short animation of the story. 



In this award-winning story of self-expression and creativity from Peter H. Reynolds, illustrator of Ish and the Judy Moody series, Vashti thinks she can't draw. But her teacher is sure that she can. She knows that there's creative spirit in everyone, and encourages Vashti to sign the angry dot she makes in frustration on a piece of paper. This act makes Vashti look at herself a little differently, and helps her discover that where there's a dot there's a way.




This assembly was followed by a powerful book entitled I Can’t Do This by K.J. Walton.  This book is an imaginative story about a character called Fortitude. As his name suggests, he represents the courage needed to face the challenges we all come up against in life. It’s a journey that considers how they might tackle the 'I can't do this' moments they will inevitably encounter using the key word YET. This assembly demonstrated to children they shouldn’t fear a challenge and embrace the ideology of I can’t do this YET! With effort and persistence they can overcome almost any challenge. 


Our next assembly focused on the importance of resilience and effort.  We used award-winning author and illustrator Ashley Spires’ book The Most Magnificent Thing. Spires created a charming picture book about an unnamed girl and her very best friend, who happens to be a dog. The girl has a wonderful idea. She is going to make the most MAGNIFICENT thing! She knows just how it will look. She knows just how it will work. All she has to do is make it, and she makes things all the time. But making her magnificent thing is anything but easy, and the girl tries and fails, repeatedly. Eventually, the girl gets really, really mad. She is so mad, in fact, that she quits. But after her dog convinces her to take a walk, she comes back to her project with renewed enthusiasm and manages to get it just right.




Our final book for assemblies on mistakes was aimed at teaching children failure is the pathway to success. The Girls Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett was the ideal story to convey this message. The story focuses on Beatrice Bottomwell who has NEVER (not once!) made a mistake.  She never forgets her math homework, she never wears mismatched socks, and she ALWAYS wins the yearly talent show at school. In fact, Beatrice holds the record of perfection in her hometown, where she is known as The Girl Who Never Makes Mistakes. Life for Beatrice is sailing along pretty smoothly until she does the unthinkable: she makes her first mistake.





In January Nightingale began its journey in artistic mindsets led by our year 4 teacher Mr. Gardner. Throughout the year Mr Gardner will be going into all year groups to teach children about the artistic mindset. What is an artistic mindset? Many people, children and adults, believe that being creative is something you are either born with or without. Being able to draw, paint, sculpt and create is often attributed to ‘natural talent’.

At Nightingale, we believe that creative skills are not inherited but can be learned through practise and hard work. Great artists, such as Picasso and Van Gogh, had to spend many years learning and making mistakes in order to develop their own abilities. We want to instil this culture across our school, so that all pupils believe they can develop and improve, no matter their current skills.

When asked, many children will say, “I can’t draw and I’ll never be able to!”

Mr Gardner took a class of year 6 pupils for a sketching lesson. Firstly, the pupils were asked to sketch a face, simply from memory and within a short period of time. Then, the class learned more about the importance of ‘seeing’ what you want to draw. Their second attempt at a portrait was using visual images of faces within a longer space of time. The class began to realise that, with more focus and better ‘seeing’ skills, they were able to immediately improve upon their initial sketch.

Whilst many artistic skills take a long time to master, this lesson helped the class to understand how ability is not fixed and can grow and blossom.

Check out the gallery of before and after images to see these improvements.





In March, we embarked into our Mathematical mindset project within KS2.  Mathematical mindset focuses centrally on how we have changed our approach to teaching maths. Our teaching approach develops pupils’ mathematical skills and confidence without having to resort to memorising procedures to pass tests, making mathematics more engaging and interesting.   This is done with an equitable teaching approach where all pupils work in focused groups of four and are accountable for each other’s learning.  Children are given open-ended, group worthy tasks that illustrate the importance mathematical concepts, allow for multiple pictorial representations and a variety of solution paths.  When students are placed into groups they are also given a particular role to play, such as facilitator, team captain, recorder/reporter or resource manager (Cohen & Lotan, 1997). The premise behind this approach is that all students have important work to do in groups, without which the group cannot function. Each group member is responsible for one another’s competence, pushing children to tackle difficult problems with the support of their peers. When children are working on a group problem, the emphasis is on effort over ability and that hard work is required before true mathematical growth can occur.  Below are some picture and video samples of problems that children have overcome.

 The basis for our approach is founded upon the research of Stanford Professor Jo Boaler, entitled In Theory Into Practice, (2006), in which she compares the progress and attainment of three schools.; two of the schools using the traditional methods of teaching maths and Railside School using mixed ability reformed grouping methods.  

“During the four-year study we collected a range of data, including approximately 600 hours of classroom observations, assessments given to the students each year, questionnaires and interviews. Railside School was more urban than the other two schools, with more English language learners and higher levels of cultural diversity.  On tests given to the students each year, the Railside students started at significantly lower levels than students at the other two schools but within two years they were achieving at significantly higher level…  Students at Railside were also more positive about mathematics and took more courses. Importantly, inequities between students of different ethnic groups disappeared or were reduced in all cases at Railside whereas they remained at the other schools… At Railside the teachers employed additional strategies to make group work successful. They adopted an approach called complex instruction, designed by Liz Cohen and Rachel Lotan (Cohen, 1994; Cohen & Lotan, 1997) for use in all subject areas. The approach aims to counter social and academic status differences in classrooms, starting from the premise that status differences do not emerge because of particular students but because of group interactions” (Boaler, 2006).



We will be conducting a survey on growth mindset to help inform the work we have done thus far as a school and provide us with further insight on our next steps.

We will also meet with parents to discuss our journey and discuss ways we can help Nightingale’s pupils develop a growth mindset.