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Here at Tutora, we want to promote the best advice possible, so we ask the experts. Here, Jackie Beere OBE, a former Advanced Skills Teacher and Headteacher, now a teacher trainer gives her top tips and advice to anyone working in a one-to-one setting with children.
Have you ever despaired of making progress with students because they are determined to believe they are ‘not good at this’ or ‘don’t get it’ or even worse ‘can’t be bothered’ to challenge their brain?
When children start school they are full of hope and wonder, curiosity and resilience but once they start comparing themselves with others and engaging with the emotional rollercoaster of assessment and performance indicators, the inner dialogue of fixed mindset can take hold: ‘I don’t want to get it wrong’, ‘He’s better than me at maths’, ‘I hate making mistakes’, ‘I’ll never get this’.
Carol Dweck’s research on what makes successful learners shows us that this type of fixed mindset thinking is a barrier to achievement for all types of learners - from those that have special challenges - to those labelled in early life as ‘very able’. Any child can plateau because they become hooked on getting it right, rather than challenging themselves and taking the risks required for learning. Dweck’s description of a child with a ‘growth mindset’ is a learner who loves to struggle and believes that hard brain-work actually makes them more intelligent. Getting it wrong is not a signal of failure but a chance to learn how to get it right. Not only that but having a growth mindset also requires a determination to be open to change and new challenges in the rest of our lives. This attitude can be learned and developed at any stage of life, so our job, when working one to one with children, is to help them see seemingly impossible challenges as opportunities to learn and to help them believe that change is possible.
When working one to one with children you really can make changes to their mindsets. Not only by giving your expertise, but by modelling a growth mindset yourself and using a coaching approach that will help transform their thinking. Frame feedback as questions like those below to help them become more self-aware, own their own change and practice challenging their own thought processes that may be holding them back.
(More coaching questions are available on my website at www.jackiebeere.com)
Sometimes we don’t realise that words we think encourage and praise can actually undermine children’s potential to become the best learners they can be. Every word or action sends a message. Are you sending messages that support them to grow as resilient learners?
Model growth mindset yourself by showing them you struggle too. Give examples such as your struggle to master spreadsheets, dancing, singing, speaking French – show them you are still a learner. Ask for their feedback about YOU and what is working and not working.
Avoid over praising when it isn’t deserved. Save your praise for real effort and progress.
Give feedback that is kind, helpful but very specific and scaffolds real improvement. Most importantly, ensure they RESPOND to it
Celebrate the struggle and make sure they edit, review, reflect, redraft many times as part of a learning journey towards the very best outcome. There is only ‘excellent’ and ‘unfinished’ work. Use strategies to make this fun such as coloured pens, highlighters, mini post its, tablets, Prezis, flipcharts, whiteboards etc. etc.
Help them find new learning strategies that suit their brain. So often children have tried over and over again to learn in the same way and it doesn’t work. There are so many different ways to help them remember and learn new things. Please see my book on learning to learn ‘The Learners Toolkit’ (Crown House Publications) which has many lessons for primary or secondary students that help them find new ways to learn.
Teach them about their brain and how it grows stronger with more challenge and opportunity. This may require you learning more about the brain in books like ‘The Private Life of the Brain’ by Susan Greenfield. However this is also covered in ‘The Learners Toolkit’
Help them think on purpose as if they love learning and doing the hard stuff. See my book ‘Grow’ chapters 8 and 9 for more on this and for practical ideas to try.
Jackie will be running her ‘Growth Mindset Workshop’ in Manchester on 13th October and London on 3rd November. You can find out more and book your place, here.