Growth Mindset and Mindfullness in the Arts.

Growth Mindset and Mindfullness

Growth Mindset and Mindfullness seem to be everywhere at the moment, as it should be in my opinion. I wrote a blog post in June about the rise of mental health issues in children in our current society. I spoke about how Drama and the Arts can be a cathartic process to help deal with problems and anxieties. But I also spoke about how we need to be careful how we approach new topics that may have issues related to the ones our students are experiencing and to be aware of that when planning content. You can read that blog here.

More recently though I was asked about how I promote and develop the Growth Mindset in the classroom. I found that a hard question to answer initially because what happens inside the drama classroom isn’t necessarily about the room itself or the routines we do but more to do about subject itself.

What is the Growth Mindset?

So I thought I’d share my thoughts on it but first I wanted to share with you a video that I’ve found very useful to just define and help shape what the Growth Mindset is in my thinking.

How do you encourage young people to develop high standards and expectations of themselves in a healthy manner?

I always ensure that students work to the best standards and expectations that they themselves can work to. To be the best they can be. In practical work they are reminded to create quality rather than quantity, that they should aspire to focus on something small to make sure that they can do it well, before moving on to anything else. They are encouraged to create material that they would be proud to share with each other and potentially with others, be that peers, parents or visitors.

How do you develop a sense of independence in your students?

Producing good quality artwork is essentially an independent activity that requires maximum effort. A drama performance for example is an abstract concept, it is something that only exists in the time and present. To create it, one had to go through a complex process where one’s own thoughts and ideas needs to be communicated and transposed into action. At the heart of that process has to be the student acting on their own, even if they are within a group, they must act (and I use the word not in the sense of acting but in the sense move taking an action) on their own to suspend their own disbelief and ‘become’ the character or role that they are going to portray. That action by the students cannot be done to them, only they can do it.

So we have to create a set of conditions within which students feel comfortable and confident to take that independent step. Conditions such as creating an atmosphere of trust, ownership of the work and a non-judgemental attitude towards the way we work.

How do you use modelling and scaffolding?

Modelling is one of the central pillars of creating good art and performance work. Not just teacher but peer modelling is second nature within the subject. One of the most common phrases you’ll hear in the Drama Studio for example will be “Steve (or whatever the name of the student is), say it like this…” after which they students will then demonstrate and model a way of saying that line.

Creating art is a communicative process build upon the foundations of sharing, modelling, scaffolding and helping each other to achieve the ultimate goal of performance.

As a teacher, that modelling is, and has to be, central to the role. The teacher has to be able to suggest and demonstrate alternative ways of performing or presenting whatever the student to trying to create.

How do you deal with failure?

Creating artwork is full of failure. In the process, probably 90% of the time you are getting it wrong! In creating a drama performance for example you are making a product for an audience that will communicate specific attitudes, information, personalities and so forth. It is impossible to get it right first time and every time. It is about the response to the failure, to question and reflect on why the performance isn’t achieving what you want it to and how that is going to be addressed and developed.

It is sometimes very difficult not to take drama very personally for it is full of failure, and indeed criticism, but one must embrace that in order to not just complete the learning journey but to start it!

How do you approach mastery of skills?

Practice, repetition and mastery is core to creating artwork. To complete the circle, one’s work will only be the best it can be if it is practiced and repeated until it is mastered. This is the essence of the rehearsal process, and one which is often the most difficult to master. Many Year 7’s when faced with 20 minutes to create a performance in Drama and dance or a composition in Music, will come to their teacher after 5 minutes and say they’ve finished. They may have finished the idea of the performance and even acted the performance out once or twice, but they will not have improved, developed or mastered it.

The consequence of that is failure because they won’t have a performance that they are pleased with or proud of. This is a key skills that we try to impart through the Key Stage 3 curriculum, is that only good will come from rehearsal.