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Curriculum Catch-Up - Academic Risks

At a previous assembly, Mrs Krehlik showed our students the schools strategic directions from 2022 to 2024 as well as the master plan from 2022 to 2031. The first focus area of our strategic directions is ‘A Culture of Academic Success’. In this article, I want to talk to you about one part of that. We want to cultivate a school wide environment where girls feel safe to be themselves and take appropriate academic risks. The term academic risk in itself is interesting, and it can easily be misunderstood. I guess what I am saying is we want your daughters to feel comfortable in knowing what making mistakes really means. I think it is most easily illustrated by asking you to count in your head from 1 to 10. Try it now. Hopefully, you were able to do that, and you scored 100% on that little test. However, nothing was learnt. Quite simply, to learn, we need to be challenged to work outside of what we already know or can do. This means we need to be comfortable with making mistakes, as long as we learn from them. We need to be comfortable being uncomfortable. This way of thinking is all about growth mindset.

The terms ‘fixed mindset’ and ‘growth mindset’ relate to your core beliefs about your abilities. According to Carol Dweck who came up with the terms, students with a fixed mindset “believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits.” Alternatively, in a growth mindset, students “believe their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work - brains and talent are just the starting point.” It comes as no surprise that students with a growth mindset tend to academically outperform their peers with a fixed mindset.

I am not saying that everyone has the potential to become a world champion sprinter. Instead, I am saying that outside of certain disabilities, everyone can become a faster runner if they choose to be. It will not magically happen of course. You need to believe you can be better and then do the hard work of training to be better.

Girls are more likely to have a fixed mindset, especially when it comes to mathematics, which contributes to the persistent gender gap in girls’ interest in the subject. This gap emerges in the middle school years, but studies have shown girls’ schools mitigate the declining interest. This is due in part to classroom collaboration, but also because girls’ schools help students develop a ‘can do’ attitude. At girls’ schools, students are more likely to take healthy academic risks, learn through their mistakes, and build resilience. This is what we want for your daughters.

We want to teach our girls to think “even though I’m not able to do it yet, I’ll tackle the challenge.” The result will be that our Old Girls will go into the world with greater confidence in their academic and leadership skills knowing their goals are attainable.

This weeks article is based in part on a blog from:

Dr John Fry

Deputy Principal - Studies



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