Coaching to develop growth mindsets | NCFE

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Coaching to develop growth mindsets

The coaching approach remains a hot topic in teaching and learning. In this piece, we’ll explain what coaching involves for teachers and learners. Then, we’ll explain how a coaching approach can help learners develop a growth mindset.  

Educators must possess emotional intelligence to coach effectively. Emotional intelligence involves self-awareness, being mindful of our reactions, as well as compassionate empathy – basically, showing that we understand the emotions of others, and behaving like it. When educators coach learners (rather than lecture them), they improve the wellbeing of learners by bolstering their desire to learn, improve, empower themselves and reflect on their behaviour.  

Emotional skills like regulation and self-reflection impact on how responsive a learner is to education. When learners possess good emotional skills, they’re more inclined to value their continued development and growth, as they emotionally understand the benefits. Educators must consider the development of emotional skills as they are – arguably – essential for a learner to achieve their full potential.  

Carole Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, considers an individual mindset as the most import factor for progressive change and continued learning. Dweck uses the terms ‘fixed mindset’ and ‘growth mindset’ to describe an individual’s underlying belief about their own capabilities.  

Those with a fixed mindset are predisposed to believing that the scope for intellectual growth is fixed at birth, perhaps determined by biology or fate. In contrast, those with growth mindsets are ambitious, resilient and believe in brain plasticity: yourself as your maker. Individuals with a growth mindset are more likely to be more positively inclined toward lifelong learning.  

Successful education must foster a growth mindset in learners so they believe that they can achieve their goals. Learners will develop their resilience as they come to see failure as only a fuel for effort, and come to understand that hard work reaps rewards.  

One way that educators can impart a growth mindset is through constructive feedback. Feedback should advise further opportunities for improvement, no matter the learner’s level. Learners should always have another goal to strive towards to fuel their aspiration and ambition, so achievement becomes another motivation to continuously improve. Even when learners underperform, they should be positively encouraged to apply themselves toward development. In this light, learning is not a linear process, but one that allows for setbacks and interruption on the way toward personal development.  

Learners with a growth mindset will embrace challenges as they begin to understand the value in reflecting and learning from them. Ultimately, this approach to hurdles nurtures ability, confidence, achievement, and resilience. Overall wellbeing is improved as a result. The Resilience Framework (Oct 2012 – adapted from Hart & Blincow 2007 model) demonstrates how a positive attitude toward learning can influence life as whole, holistically, outside of the education setting. 

Our aim should be to value process over end-product and consider how each individual’s learning needs impact upon their own fulfilment in the education setting. To do this, we must continue to develop innovative assessments, teaching and learning resources.  

Teachers are masters at thinking on their feet and adapting the direction of their delivery depending on the circumstances in their classroom that day. However, the energy and passion that drives people toward the profession can be diminished by a strict focus on the end result – which can be particularly harmful for learners will a fixed mindset. But when teachers inspire learners to think beyond the end result and inspire them to consider setbacks as opportunities for personal development, their inspiration may create a lifetime of aspiration for learners.