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Theory into curriculum practice: applying and infusing research around mindset into school cultures

Starting in 2010, a growing number of English schools and local authorities have chosen to take part in a self-funded and research-led one-year intervention framed around the Standford academic Professor Carol Dweck's theory of mindset. Each intervention comprises a series of facilitated action research enquiries conducted by members of staff in the participating school, but providing opportunities for ongoing academic oversight and presentation of empirical research evidence, and exploration of tools and strategies for promoting growth mindsets. Typically each intervention involves a half-day presentational input to all school staff around the educational implications of mindset theory, followed by 4-5 face to face contact days with a subgroup of staff who are introduced to the principles and practice of action research and supported in their enquiries. This input is spread over the course of a school year.

These interventions have their origins in the efforts of Professor Barry Hymer of Cumbria University to contribute to non-deterministic practices in the field of  'gifted education' - a field which is traditionally couched within a dominant 'ability'-focused and test-and-place paradigm. Concurrent with a reduction in funding streams for 'gifted and talented' pupils in recent years, schools have a greater opportunity currently to assert their own values in their provision for all pupils, and many schools see Professor Dweck's work as having great potential to shift attention from concepts such as 'identification' and 'ability' towards concepts such as 'provision' and 'challenge'. Whilst many teachers use mindset interventions as an opportunity to extend their own learning around such concepts as 'giftedness' and such practices as grouping by perceived 'ability', others use the architecture provided by mindset theory to explore their own practice in such related areas as challenge, the operationalisation of  'effort', meta-cognitive review and feedback strategies, the experience and reframing of 'failure', and the co-creation of distributed (whole-group) growth mindsets. Data arising from individual action research enquiries are now being collected with a view to creating meta-analyses of teachers' professional development in the field of mindset.

Barry Hymer, Professor of Psychology in Education, University of Cumbria in Lancaster, Bowerham Road, Lancaster LA1 3JD. Email