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Promoting a Growth Mindset: Attainment V Ability

In teaching we come into contact with a wide range of learning abilities and attainments, but what do these terms actually mean and denote? When we measure our students’ progress we are actually dealing with both concepts and we need to have a clear understanding of what they really mean.

When we refer to a learner’s ability, we are referring to what level they are at right now, at this moment. It is quite a closed or fixed label which implies there is no room for change or improvement so we need to alter our language away from a fixed mindset towards one of a growth mindset. This type of label imposes limitations on our learners, even if we didn’t intend to and can even lead to demotivation. Students may think that this “ability” is all they are capable of achieving so don’t feel encouraged to shape and evolve in their learning and they remain with a fixed mindset about their progress.

Instead, we need to refer to our learners as “currently attaining”. This type of language has a more open implication, which suggests this is where the learner is working at right now but with effort and practice they will be able to move forward to a higher ability. They are not fixed at this ability but actually are only currently attaining it right now. This type of language is growth mindset language and contrary to the above label, this one is motivating and inspiring.

We could demonstrate through “The Attainment Ladder”.

As you can see, the image shows a struggling learner, but with extra support and encouragement, the learner moves to improvement and progression.

Take a look at your learners; what are they currently attaining? Is there anyone who would benefit from the image of the attainment ladder. We need to encourage a growth mindset amongst our learners where we believe that intelligence and talents can be improved through effort and learning.

Attainment not ability.

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