An Example of a Growth Mindset K-8 School

St. Alphonsa Catholic Elementary (K-8) School in Ontario, Canada has embraced a growth mindset culture in all academic content areas, especially in math. Principal Mark Cassar first learned about mindset from professional development he learned from Jennifer Vieira, the board’s Math Coordinator at the time. Jennifer’s research and development of the co-learning and co-teaching stance was pivotal in furthering a better understanding of growth mindset. Much of St. Alphonsa success is a result of the staff’s application of this work. This PD was also delivered to administrators through attended the board’s Math and Wellbeing initiative. Capacity building was a pivotal aspect of this work. Mark furthered his learning on growth mindset through Jo Boaler’s Mathematical Mindset book, her TEDx talks, and the youcubed website. He embraced the brain science and mindset messages. Mark introduced his staff to these strategies and resources and co-constructed a plan with staff to help students embrace a growth mindset approach to their learning. Mark believes in leading by example and developing a co-learning stance with staff where no one is an “expert,” but instead all are willing contributors who learn with, and from others. As a staff, they agreed that students need to see their administrators and teachers as co-learners too and that mistakes are a part of learning. Based on their learning, a new K-8 school opened focused on integrating these ideas for students in their approach to teaching and messaging. The school has been open for almost three years now and students are experiencing a ‘mistake friendly environment and are developing positive self-beliefs – that they can learn anything.’ (Boaler, 2019). Administration, parents, staff and students are encouraged by the results of their growth mindset implementation. Students are comfortable making mistakes, learning math together, sharing ideas and working through problem solving with multiple strategies in mind.

Video of Student Interviews

Jo interviewed a range of students from age 7 to 10 and asked them about their experiences with maths and the school’s approach.


This is an extract from Jo’s new book (Limitless Mind: Learn, Lead and Live without Barriers, Harper Collins-2019) describing the assessment changes made at the school:

The teachers at the school realized something important – that it is hard to tell students that mistakes are really useful for learning, but then penalize them in tests for every mistake they make. Mark captured the effect of such testing when he said: “Here’s a question, it’s out of 20, you already start with 20 but the second your pencil touches paper and a mistake is made, all you see is you lost a mark. The anxiety builds and the learning stops because it’s too late to do anything about it…and it just becomes about the mark.” The teachers still assess students but instead of giving an unhelpful number, and penalizing mistakes, they give what I often describe as the greatest gift teachers can give students – diagnostic comments on ways to improve, based on a leveled rubric. Mark said that at first the students looked for a number and that was all they cared about, which is often the result of a performance culture, (rather than a learning culture). But now students see the rubric, they understand where they are in their learning, and they read the teacher’s comments to know how to improve. This change in assessment is the ultimate way to share with students the message that growth and learning is what you value, and that you can help them improve with guidance. (Boaler, 2019)

Example Rubrics

Thank you to the following teachers from St. Alphonsa for sharing their rubric samples with us: Magda Wajzer, Chana Sousa, Maria Castrucci, Shawn Evon, Noralee Yarra, Jackie Crowley, Natalie Pileggi, Megan Venditti.

Making Change

If you would like to get more information about St. Alfonsa’s approach contact the principal, Mark Cassar at

You can also visit the school’s webpage at:

If you would like your school’s approach to be featured on youcubed, email