The Growth Mindset

Taking Risks to Learn & Grow

‘Growth Mindset’—it’s a phrase that, if you’re a member of the St Peters community, you would have heard before. Whether at parent information nights, in staff meetings, on Firefly or during assemblies, the ‘Growth Mindset’ defines St Peters’ approach to education; it’s integral to the College’s position as one of Queensland’s leading private schools in Brisbane. But what does it mean?

The phrase defined

In a 2010 article published in Educational Leadership, Carol S. Dweck (Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University) defines the ‘Growth Mindset’ as one of two ways individuals view intelligence and learning.

“Individuals with a fixed mindset believe that their intelligence is simply an inborn trait—they have a certain amount, and that’s all.” In contrast, “individuals with a growth mindset believe that they can develop their intelligence over time.” (Dweck, 2010).

Dweck states that students who possess a ‘Growth Mindset’ embrace challenges, try new strategies to solve problems and are not put off by setbacks. In short, these students see every opportunity as one to learn and grow.

Theory in practice

At St Peters, we encourage this growth-based view of intelligence. Throughout all Year Levels, our teachers aim to foster resilience—challenges are presented as opportunities to develop new skills and our multiple academic pathways allow students to embrace these challenges, while also completing subjects that interest them.

St Peters is an International Baccalaureate (IB) school and, as Kristin Owen wrote in her October 2019 article, ‘Rethinking risk-taking in the early years’, the ‘Growth Mindset’ is a key component of the IB curriculum. The aims of each IB Programme (including the St Peters Primary Years Programme and Diploma Programme) is to develop learners who are, amongst other things, open-minded, inquiring and balanced risk-takers. But what kinds of risks should they be taking?

Research by Charles Sturt University’s, Mandy Cooke, suggests that educational risk-taking should focus on more than that which is physical (or play-based). Education should be holistic—it should include physical, social, emotional and cognitive risks.

The example Cooke uses to explain this is learning to ride a bike—while the obvious risk is a physical one (falling off the bike), there are other social and emotional risks involved (not being able to ride like the rest of their peers and being scared of failure).

“…Physical risk-taking is really easy to see; it’s tangible. But there are two different kinds of elements of risk—objective risk and subjective risk.” (Cooke in Owen, 2019.)

St Peters & Risks

Holistic learning is at the core of a St Peters education. The College’s focus on the ‘Growth Mindset’ extends beyond the PYP and DP curriculum—it is at the heart of our pastoral care, cocurricular and extra-curricular activities too. At St Peters, students are encouraged to try out as many new experiences as possible. Our staff provide guidance and timetable support when needed but, because most activities, rehearsals and trainings take place on campus, clashes rarely occur.

A St Peters education is well-rounded and our students graduate ready to tackle the challenges of the outside world. During the COVID-19 ‘At Home Learning’ period, this did not change. While it certainly was a different and challenging time, our students were still provided with extra-curricular learning opportunities, online workouts and avenues to perform their musical talents virtually.

Research is showing that schools around the nation are now starting to adopt the ‘Growth Mindset’ approach to learning. As a College that’s long seen the benefits of this, and of providing avenues for risks within a supportive environment, it’s humbling to see that others are following suit.