A growth mindset is helping students at Domremy College Five Dock to power through challenges.
Part of positive psychology, a growth mindset is a belief that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work, while those with a fixed mindset avoid challenge and believe qualities like intelligence or talent are fixed traits that wholly determine success.
The school first adopted a growth mindset philosophy three years ago to help girls improve Maths skills. It has grown through professional development for teachers to be part of all subjects and school policies, and promotes wellbeing and reduced anxiety.
No one ever says to you that you can’t do something. It’s always: ‘Try a different way’.
“It’s our learning philosophy now,” said Principal Vivienne Awad. “A growth mindset is used to help students become more resilient and confident about who they are in life and what they can achieve in the classroom. Any program that allows our girls to feel more comfortable with challenge and persistence is doing so much for their wellbeing, because society has done a very good job of telling girls they can’t in many areas.
“Bright girls often mistakenly think that they must have a growth mindset because they’ve always been good at Maths in the primary years. These girls can develop anxiety in the senior school when the work is difficult and they are not familiar with how to manage the struggle, whereas some who have been challenged by it find a growth mindset quite liberating because they go ‘Wow, okay I can get better at this’. Your brain isn’t a small hole in your head that you can only fill with certain information. It’s this ever expanding muscle that can grow as you use it.”
Students are familiar with a bicycle analogy that encourages them to ‘wobble’.
“We tell the students that wobble factor is where learning happens,” Ms Awad said. “If you’re too cruisey, the work is too easy. If you’re falling of the bike the work is too hard, so it’s about providing the girls with an appropriate level of challenge, really good feedback and different strategies so that they know working harder means working differently.”
Domremy students tell: What is the best thing about a growth mindset?
Jasmine Cascio, Year 11:
“It gives you an opportunity to acknowledge that you have help around you. The teachers encourage you not to give up – they give you more questions, more help. I don’t just apply a growth mindset at school. I apply it when I’m at work and at home.”
Alyssa Intili, Year 11:
“For me a growth mindset is just acknowledging that something is challenging then being open to towards growing your knowledge within that area. The best thing is that even your peers are encouraging each other to persevere and push on. No one ever says to you that you can’t do something, just give up. It’s always: ‘Try a different way. How can we get this to work for you?’
Kayla Rail, Year 9:
“I find it really difficult to put myself in that mindset, but it can be quite helpful. If you get distracted in class and miss a bit of content you start to panic. You just have to get into a relaxed mood and think ‘I can’t do it yet’. Having a growth mindset in an already nurturing school atmosphere makes it a really great place to learn and to grow. The teachers are about helping every single person not just those who struggle. They target everyone, including the high achievers.”