Does your school have a growth mindset when it comes to change?

By Peter West
March 1st, 2016

Want your tech rollout to be successful? First, you need the right mindset

Most educational organizations want to improve teaching and learning by leveraging technology. The terms blended learning and its subset, flipped learning, are touted extensively as useful educational goals.

However, there are a number of fundamentals that need to be in place in order to increase the likelihood of organization wide success. This contrasts with the success of the “lone experimenters”; the innovators and early adopters who will implement change no matter what the environment is like.

Fundamentals fall into a number of categories. I will consider one — mindset — in this article. Two previous articles examined infrastructure and leadership.

Believe it or not, there are some mental attributes required for change in the classroom to occur successfully. This is not an exhaustive list, but it contains some major points.

While reading these points, rate yourself, and then your perception of the total “mindset position” of your organization, on a scale of 1 (Poor) to 5 (Excellent). This may not be easy, but all that is needed is a “gut feel.” When you read the points, plot your results on the following graph.


  1. Belief that education needs to change
    1. Does the person believe that some educational practices that have worked in the past need to change in order to enhance learning? If so, there is something to work with and change is more likely to occur.
    2. If the person believes that traditional teaching approaches have worked well for them in the past, and nothing needs to change, then it is less likely that discussion of and training in alternative approaches will actually create changes to methodologies.
  2. Willingness to change; to move beyond traditional approaches
    1. Even a person who believes that education needs to change has to then be willing to change.
    2. The person has to be prepared to set aside time to improve skills and understanding of what is required.
    3. As an example, many people believe they need to become fitter, yet are not prepared to act on this belief by actually taking part in a fitness program.
  3. Degree of technical knowledge and understanding of technology
    1. Leveraging technology to enhance learning requires a reasonable understanding of technology.
    2. It also requires a reasonable skill set.
    3. People with a reasonable depth of understanding and a range of skills can efficiently update their skills and approaches to learning.
    4. People with a limited skill set and level of understanding have a lot to “catch up” in order to leverage change successfully.
  4. Subscribes to organization wide direction
    1. How well does the person accept the need for organization wide guidelines? (As compared to “I will do what I want to do”.)
    2. Consistent and structured organization wide change has an opposite – ad hoc change by individuals. As is often the case, there needs to be a combination of the two. An organization needs consistent change within certain organization wide guidelines, while still encouraging the “experimenters” to flourish.
    3. As an example, many franchises are successful as they have clear organizational guidelines that all must adhere to. Owners have some latitude within these guidelines.
  5. Willingness to upskill/get involved in professional development
    1. Is involvement in professional development and training programs taken willingly and with reasonable enthusiasm, or is it something that has to be done because it is mandated or expected?
    2. People who are involved and reasonably enthusiastic are likely to implement the changes; people who attend because the “have to” are less likely to implement change.

An individual

A person with a mindset ready to support change in the classroom would score 5 in each of these areas. The resulting graph would look like this.

Mindset Graph 2 - individual - Peter West

A less than optimal result follows.

Mindset Graph 3 - individual - Peter West

The total mindset component of the organization

While the previous graphs are for an individual, a graph reflecting the “total mindset state” of an organization would be similar. As mentioned, these ratings are a “gut feel” and may not be accurate, but they would provide an indication of the readiness of the human component of your organization.

Instead of a 1 to 5 scale, we can use a percentage scale. If 100 percent of your staff would rate a 4 or 5 on the points raised in this article, your organization is in an enviable position and the graph is shown below.


A less than optimal graph is shown next.

Mindset Graph 5 - organization - Peter West

Change is a human situation

Of the three areas covered in this series of articles to date (infrastructure and leadership are explained in previous articles), the mindset component necessary for organization wide change is the most difficult to come to terms with. There are a number of issues.

  1. We need to first become aware that the move to change educational practice by leveraging technology eventually becomes a human situation, not a technological situation. Once all of the appropriate technology is in place, it is the people and their mindsets who will make the changes work.
  2. Once we become aware that the evolution of education requires people, we need to find some way to determine who is prepared for the journey from traditional practice to pedagogies that positively leverage technology.
  3. Change can be uncomfortable and it may create anxiety and tension in some individuals. Thus, we need to find some way to either assist staff that rate a 1 or a 2 on some of the characteristics mentioned to change to a 4 or 5, or we need to assist them transition to an environment that suits their characteristics.
    On an organizational level, failure to do this reduces the pace of change or creates pockets of innovation along with pockets of resistance to change. On an individual level, it can produce tension, frustration and stress.

The well planned, well researched, structured and thoughtfully implemented introduction of technology can positively transform learning, and being aware of the factors that impact this implementation is essential for success to occur.

About the Author:

Peter West is Director of eLearning at Saint Stephen’s College in Australia. He has over 15 years’ experience leading K12 schools in technology enhanced education, particularly blended learning using online learning environments. He can be reached at or at