Take the School Mindset Quiz! Does your school have a growth mindset, conducive to the idea that ‘intelligence’ can be learned and outcomes are not pre-determined? Or does it have a fixed mindset, by focusing on achievement instead of the process of learning and perceiving any outcomes as set in stone?
1. Does your school avoid or embrace challenges?
If your school avoids changes, it tends to make decisions that reinforce the status quo. Whether it’s class structures, timetables, assessments or positions in the leadership team, your school sticks with things as they are. Change would be disruptive, it would get people off side and, really, things are going well enough just as they are.
On the other hand, if your school embraces challenge, it’s open to trying innovative practices and programs. It does so knowing that challenge brings risk and that staff and students will need to be supported through any significant change. When taking on a new challenge – related to student learning, staff development, the canteen or whatever – your school sets out a plan to collect multiple sources of data in order to evaluate its efficacy.
2. Does your school give up easily or does it persist in the face of setbacks?
So maybe your school is open to tackling new initiatives. If it doesn’t go in strategically, however, it’s likely to give up quickly when things start to go pear-shaped. The old adage – ‘by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail’ – is quite apt for your school.
In a similar vein, note the school that starts something new and doesn’t expect success. Instead, are voices of excuse-making that proclaim, “such-and-such piece of evidence-based research won’t apply to us because our kids are different.”
In contrast, if your school mitigates risk it is setting itself up to cope with and prepare for inevitable setbacks.
3. Does your school see effort as fruitless or does it see effort as the path to mastery?
New programs? Student learning? Strategic change? Bah! Your school is struggling to keep its head above the water. Any actions that the leadership team does take merely serve the needs of a fragmented staff body. Staff meetings tend to be oppressively hopeless, dominated by ever-competing voices and topics as useful as the staffroom clean-up roster and photocopying budgets. No acknowledgement is given to those agenda items that perhaps deserve priority-status. The word accountability never gets uttered.
On the flip side, if your school sets ambitious goals for student learning that are premised on staff buy-in, collaboration and professional development, it is perceptively positioning itself on a path to mastery. At staff meetings topics might include formative assessment, action research plans or Marzano’s high reliability strategies. On tables comprising mixed staff groupings you will see student data, work samples, professional readings and post-it notes.
4. Does your school ignore useful negative feedback or learn from criticism?
So your school learns from criticism. In practice, this means it listens to a range of stakeholders and willingly makes important changes to the school based on this. The conglomerate group of stakeholders might include parents, community groups, the ‘Region’ (i.e. the regional office of the Education Department), but primarily students. Feedback and ideas could be gathered in relation to uniform, school policies, reports or potentially even curriculum and other topics that actually impact student learning.
Or, your leadership team might ignore any voices other than its own and those of a few key ‘insiders’. It acts purely based on its own agenda. Feedback (positive or negative) is unnecessary.
5. Does your school feel threatened by or find lessons in the success of others?
At your school, collaboration is the name of the game. Your leadership team prioritises any opportunity to learn from success stories and provides space for that learning to be shared. Staff frequently visit other schools and bring back ideas on assessment, positive behaviour strategies, alternative curriculum structures and using google apps for education. Within its own walls, your school values and celebrates success. Your leadership team openly embraces the collaborative expertise of staff and creates structures to formalise continual learning and a culture of risk taking.
Or your school does none of this. It views staff as professionals (some of whom are good at their job, others who are not), capable of doing whatever is needed to support their classes. Teachers are left alone and work in relative isolation.
How your school fares
Score of 1-7: The Fixed Mindset
Hmmmm. The leadership team’s approach at your school is either authoritative (setting their own agenda and listening to select voices only) or laissez faire (leaving teachers to make a range of decisions for themselves, which then detracts from the ultimate goal of working to improve student learning outcomes).
From the mouth of Carol Dweck (almost): schools that “have a fixed mindset but… are well prepared and do not encounter difficulty can do just fine”. When difficulties do arise, the fixed mindset school will fail to recover.
Score of 8-13: The Fence Sitter
From the mouth of Carol Dweck (almost): “changing [schools’] mindsets [from fixed to growth] can have a substantial impact on their grades and achievement test scores”. Say no more.
Score of 14-20: The Growth Mindset
Congratulations! Your school is led by a team that is perceptive, adaptive and reflective. Your leadership team engages in consultative practices, demonstrating trust and empathy. It is prepared to take on short term risk and challenge for the longer term benefit of student learning.
From the mouth of Carol Dweck (almost): “When [schools] believe that their [student learning outcomes] can increase they orient toward just doing that, displaying an emphasis on learning, effort and persistence in the face of obstacles”.
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