Growth mindset describes an attitude towards learning. People with a growth mindset believe that their intelligence isn’t fixed and that they can always improve and learn more if they really apply themselves and allow enough time. This attitude is very similar to children’s natural curiosity and interest in finding out more about the world as their cognitive skills develop, which is reflected in Little Scientists’ educational approach.
We believe that inquiry-based learning and the educational pillars of our program can play a key role in developing a growth mindset for these reasons:
1. Passion for learning
When we find things out for ourselves, we develop a passion for learning. Children want to discover the world around them and hands-on inquiry-based early STEM education taps into this natural curiosity. Inquiry-based learning starts with a question followed by a journey of discovery to find the answer. The process can take us directly to a solution or meander through a whole heap of other questions. It’s exciting. It’s discovery. It’s a magical journey. Googling the answer to a child’s question is not going to help them develop a lifelong passion for learning.
2. Embracing failure
It may seem strange that one of our reasons why inquiry-based learning promotes a growth mindset involves failure but we feel it’s one of the most important reasons so we’ve popped it right up here near the top.
Inquiry-based learning is all about asking questions, acknowledging our lack of knowledge and then going out there, exploring and discovering. Failure is part of the process. If children aren’t given the opportunity to fail, they aren’t given the opportunity to pick themselves up and try again. That willingness to fail and persevering in finding out what works and what doesn’t is part of the Little Scientists Inquiry Cycle. The willingness to try things out, fail and try something new is a very important part of growing and learning. This process helps us recognise how we can improve and shows us that we can.
3. Looking at challenges
Facing up to challenges becomes easier when we know that we can have another go if we fail. A mistake becomes simply a learning opportunity, and we need to learn to embrace those challenges. Confronting challenges becomes easier with practice so it is great to lay the foundation in early childhood and provide children with age-appropriate challenges.
4. Strategies for finding solutions
Strategies for learning and strategies for problem-solving are part of a growth mindset. If we believe we can improve with effort and/or a different strategy then that is a growth mindset. How do we convince ourselves and our children that this is true? Allow them (and ourselves) the opportunity to experience it. Practise different problem-solving strategies. Look for ways of solving challenges. Make problem-solving a part of the children’s everyday lives. Can’t reach something that’s rolled under the sofa? Make a contraption to grab it. You can’t ride your scooter and carry your teddy at the same time? You could design a passenger seat for the teddy.
Inquiry-based learning, metacognition and co-construction are the three pillars of our educational approach. Metacognition is thinking about your thinking. I like to think (see what I did there?) of it as being mindful of your own learning. As you and the children go on a journey of discovery, take time to think about how you are making those discoveries. Develop your own strategies for learning and problem-solving. Discuss them. It will help embed that growth mindset and help it grow.
Life is co-constructed. We learn from others and from solving challenges and problems together. We work with others to build our life experiences. Practice is the key and helps us form relationships with our peers and teachers. Learning to help others and asking for help in a positive environment is a vital part of developing a growth mindset. Early childhood settings are perfect for this.
Article author: Hayley Bates
National Certifications Coordinator
This passionate mathematician and former science teacher will inspire you with her enthusiasm for inquiry-based learning and her determination to provide high-quality hands-on and fun professional development.