Do we really have a growth mindset?

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The ladder of life is full of splinters, but they always prick the hardest when we’re sliding down.

Samuel Clemens

I spoke at a Growth Mindset conference with Olympian and sports journalist Matthew Syed today. Needless to say, he got star billing.

I took the view that whilst we may all profess to value a growth mindset in pupils we have a very fixed mindset to teaching and education. Syed made the point that there are important differences between how the aviation industry and surgeons treat failure. When an aeroplane crashes, airlines go to great lengths retrieve the black box flight recorder in order to find out what happened. They learn from any mistakes that were made and go to great lengths to avoid the possibility of the same mistakes ever happening again. Surgeons, by contrast, are prone to dismiss patient deaths. They say things like, “It was just one of those things.” Or, “There was nothing that could be done.” In this way mistakes are perpetuated and surgeons carry on killing people in the same ways. The implication was that aviation has a growth mindset whereas surgery has a fixed mindset.

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