The Power of Growth Mindset and Habits of Mind
22nd September 2022
‘Good habits formed at youth make all the difference’.
HOM: Creating, Imagining and Innovating
The Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 BC) was interested in how humans could live a good and successful life and he observed that it involved the acquisition of particular virtues of character. He identified virtues such as courage, patience, generosity, friendliness as important characteristics that would benefit not only an individual, but society as a whole. However he recognised that we can’t change our behaviour just at the drop of a hat. But change is possible, eventually. Moral goodness, says Aristotle, is the result of habit. It takes time, practice (like a musical instrument) encouragement and good role models from whom to learn.
The ’Habits of Mind’ which are written into Wychwood student planners are distinctively Aristotelean. They are a set of dispositions or behaviours, identified by Art Costa and Bena Kallick that help students successfully approach problems and challenges in the classroom and everyday life. Developing good ‘Habits of Mind’ will help us become good students. The aim is to ensure that these dispositions are developed so that when students are faced with an answer that they do not immediately know, they display these characteristics in order to manage the situation ‘intelligently’.
At school the development of these Habits of Mind help shape many aspects of school life and opportunities to practice such skills and to learn from role models who exemplify them, lie at the heart of much that we aim to do.
Coupled with this is our aim to develop students with a growth mind set (Carol Dwek 2025). A growth mindset is a mindset that we can grow and improve our abilities, the opposite of a fixed mindset which may stop us from even trying. If we have the belief that we can improve (which we can), we’re more likely to put in the effort actually required to learn and grow. That does not mean that everyone has the potential to achieve top grades in everything with the right amount of effort (a damaging mindset), but that from whatever our starting point we can make steps forward in learning and our personal development.
This is of course good news! And it is also backed up by science researcher and writer David Robson in his recent book ‘The Expectation Effect’. In this he makes a clear case for how expectations shape our experience in many aspects of life and can be self-fulfilling prophecies, for better or for worse depending on those expectations. We can bring about change, not through ‘magical’ thinking but by reframing our thoughts which change our habits and behaviours.
The challenge for us all is to develop a more ‘can do’ as opposed to a ‘can’t do’ attitude particularly in those areas we may find more personally challenging. And quite often those challenges may be linked to negative messaging or low expectations which have become internalised over time. If our young people can develop good habits of mind snow, it really can make a difference to their ability to learn and develop greater resilience in an ever-changing world.