The curriculum is there for a reason, set to prepare children for the challenges and demands of the modern world that lie ahead. But underlying the curriculum runs the question of what is education for? Is it to fill children’s heads with facts, is it to socialise them for a world of work, or is it a place to teach them the skills to navigate a complex and ever- changing world?
One idea which has been gaining momentum over the last few years is Carol Dweck’s work on the important of mindset. A mindset is a set of assumptions, methods, or notations that is so established that it encourages people or groups to continue to adopt or accept prior behaviours, choices, or tools. The idea is that the stories you tell yourself (as well as the things you believe about yourself) can either prevent change or allow the development of new ideas and skills.
After studying the behaviour of thousands of children, Dr. Dweck coined the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset to describe the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence. When students believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger. Therefore they put in extra time and effort, and that leads to higher achievement. When they are given an opportunity to contribute and to be part of a learning community, they are able to experience the value of their contribution and their part in the learning process. This can prove the basis of life-long learning.
One way in which we can achieve growth mindset is to broaden the scope of children's learning through enquiry and the exploration of ideas, using processes such as P4C. Children learn that their ideas have value, and that the ideas of other people have value too. Professor Michael Hand has made a case for philosophy being included as part of compulsory education on the basis that it introduces aspects of a good education, such as ethics and politics, in a way that no other subject can. But it can also do so much more than this.
Peter Worley, chief executive of the Philosophy Foundation reminds us, “Philosophy emerges from humans being human, and some would say that it emerges from one of the features that, like cooking and storytelling, sets us apart from other animals: namely, contemplation.” Philosophical discussion, enquiry and debate demand awareness which in itself leads to self-conscious, self-aware monitoring and control of one’s own learning.
Encourage critical thinking and social awareness in one fell swoop, by signing up to the 2017 Tolerance Day programme at www.toleranceday.org. You can also enter our journalism competition for the under 11’s and win a workshop at the Guardian Education Centre.
This article first appeared in the September issue of Education Today