At Latymer Upper School, our approach to learning is based around the needs of the individual learner.

In one sense our approach is traditional; we believe the bedrock of education lies in the acquisition and understanding of knowledge, concepts and skills related to specific academic disciplines or co-curricular activities. 

However, we believe that learning involves pupils’ development of more generic skills and dispositions, which we refer to as ‘Habits’, involved in intellectual endeavour and study. These include; inventiveness, problem-solving, critical thinking, curiosity, collaboration and teamwork.

In addition to these is the development of our ‘Habits of Heart’, by which we mean character education. These qualities include; courage, resilience, reflection and meta-learning (a pupil’s reflection on how they learn), personal and social responsibility (including leadership), concern for others and a disposition to service. Habits of Heart can only be realised when we help pupils develop positive attitudes to learning. So, developing a growth mindset is fundamental.

We took the seminal work on growth mindsets from Carol Dweck, as our initial inspiration. Then, we invited Professor of Psychology in Education, Barry Hymer, to lead our staff training programme in 2016. We wanted teachers to incorporate a growth mindset approach in their lessons and for them to introduce it to pupils at the earliest opportunity by teaching them about its benefits from Year 7 onwards.  

“We want our pupils to develop positive attitudes to learning”

To evaluate the effectiveness of our mindset teaching our Head of Lower School designed a six-part growth mindset course for our Year 7s.  Alongside a team from Harvard University, we designed a research project that enabled us to assess its impact on our pupils. Half the year group received the course in their first term and the other half acted as a control group (they received the course later in the year).   

The course was found to have a significant effect on each of the three growth mindset variables measured: mindset about intelligence, mindset about one’s own intelligence, and mindset about personality traits. In other words, pupils who took the course experienced significantly greater increases in growth mindset than pupils who did not receive the course. Those who were taught the course showed a shift in their attitudes about effort and mistakes; an increase in their knowledge about how the brain learns; and a more growth-minded understanding of personality traits.

Less expected were various other positive effects: an increase in pupils’ prosocial attitudes, specifically shown in their willingness to help their peers; a decrease in stress levels; and, a decrease in academic self-handicapping (in order to provide an excuse in case of failure).

The positive endorsement of our approach has enabled us to continue teaching pupils about growth mindsets and refine our methods of so doing. Our teachers have growth mindset in the forefront of their minds whilst planning and teaching lessons. The growth mindset Latymer Upper has adopted means that our entire community is always seeking to improve and to learn.