How Might We Promote Growth Mindset, Risk Taking and Perseverance in Teachers?

It has been a while since I have posted a Question Quest post and this is a question I have been pondering a lot lately. This HMW question actually started as a why question:

Why are teachers so unwilling to be uncomfortable when they expect it of students every day?

I have been frustrated to see teachers across the country unwilling to take a risk and push themselves to try new approaches. It seems that it is about getting teachers to feel ok with that uncomfortable learning feeling. To me, discomfort is just a part of learning:

And if we expect students to be ok at grappling with confusion and discomfort while they learn new skills and ideas, shouldn’t we be ok at doing the same?

Earlier this year I wrote about how this applies when implementing changes in schools yet it also applies on a day to day level in our classrooms. I have had numerous conversations with people about this and it seems to be quite widespread. In schools across New Zealand (and overseas) there are a lot of teachers who are just plain unwilling to take that step into the unknown and take a learning risk themselves whilst expecting it of students.

One discussion about this lead to a breakthrough in my thinking about it. Lisa Palmieri reframed my question into a far more optimistic How Might We version of my passive Why question:

How Might We Promote Growth Mindset, Risk Taking and Perseverance in Teachers?

I am privileged to have Maurie Abraham as my Principal here at HPSS. This is a question that he grapples with constantly as foundation leader of a school. As we began at HPSS challenged us to reimagine the secondary schooling experience and he recognises that risk taking and growth mindsets are a crucial part of this. His blog post “Leading at the Edge of Chaos” demonstrates how he tries to lead in a way that inspires the same approach from his staff. He also set a task for staff to set goals based upon the various aspects of a Growth Mindset and we had to reflect on our progress with our critical friends.

Jo Debens also recently focused on a similar HMW question as her moonshot challenge at Google Teacher Academy UK. Her post shows how she is now working on developing a website to celebrate the courage and risk taking of staff and students in her school as a way of creating a culture of confidence in taking risks.

For me right now, the HMW question in the title of this blog is becoming one of the ultimate HMW questions in education. How are you promoting growth mindset, risk taking and perseverance in your school?


7 thoughts on “How Might We Promote Growth Mindset, Risk Taking and Perseverance in Teachers?

  1. A bit like your “lone nut” and “first follower” leadership style perhaps the more of us that model it will encourage others to follow. PD on growth mindsets would be a start……… Just about to “feel the fear….and do it anyway” running a focus group on design thinking with some colleagues. Just watched your hangout which validated lots of my thinking and makes me realise that I MUST make that leap of faith and try a few things. What an inspiring bunch in the hangout. Lucky to have you and Kimberly as neighbours……….

    • Looking forward to it Kat! Feel I have taken a few risks this year and it can be challenging, especially on your confidence. So what helps students and teachers, i.e. learners to take risks? How can I take risks and still feel safe?

  2. I can certainly relate to your post Steve! I think the issue is wrapped up in teacher identity and perception. We are almost conditioned to be experts and fixers and reflection on HMW doesn’t come into every teachers thinking (unless prompted). I agree with the previous comment that you need to walk the talk and model vulnerability. It sounds like your Principal is doing a good job of this (must go back to the other blog post).
    HMW is so much more optimistic and future-focussed than “why” questions. HMW implies movement and “next practice” – why explore why?
    So what are the catalysts for movement to a more growth orientated mindset? Not sure PD on the subject helps. Teachers need to see and feel it for themselves to be compelling. How do we uncover teachers blind-spots and support them to consider HMW?
    Thanks for stimulating this reflection!

  3. OH I can so relate to this! We use (Guy Claxton’s) Building Learning Power framework at school, and have been talking about how as teachers we have to be willing to but these learning dispositions into action – particularly the “scary” ones like adventuring, and how we need to embrace not knowing. We’ve started to look at design thinking, and are planning to embed this more next year, and so far it’s been a really great way to help teachers embrace that idea of not knowing as it gives them a road map and a structure to follow (same goes for students to of course!).

  4. Pingback: Weekly Reads | The Creek Bed

  5. Steve many of my own experiences and research support what you are saying.

    In recent talks, adult learning expert Ellie Drago-Severson gave me some great ways to support educators in their growth: Her work on schools as ‘holding’ environments, in which teachers feel ‘held’ is interesting.

    And at this year’s ACEL conference, Charlotte Danielson discussed the need for an environment of both support and challenge to support teacher growth:

    In my PhD research on professional learning and school change I am finding that transformation is possible when we are uncomfortable within a supportive collaborative environment.

    Adaptive Schools has some great ideas for providing that space of supportive environment which facilitates self-authoring growth, some of which I explored here: .

    Thanks for your post, and the links!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s