Fostering a ‘philosophy of growth mindset’

Profile: Coláiste de Lacy, Ashbourne Co Meath

Rose Ugoh and Isabella Pentony at work on the Ashbourne Ecological Survey.

Rose Ugoh and Isabella Pentony at work on the Ashbourne Ecological Survey.


Principal: Principal Janice Corrigan


Coláiste de Lacy, Ashbourne (LMETB) have worked with Graham Powell in developing their approach to learning and teaching.

The school is the driver and central hub in a “Five School Project”, involving ongoing teacher collaboration with 4 other schools (Laytown, Cavan, Celbridge, Ratoath).

The school includes an Irish language unit (Aonad lán Gaeilge; Gaelcholáiste De Lacy) which provides all subjects to Leaving Certificate level, through the medium of Irish.

Principal Janice Corrigan says the school opened in 2014 up with 39 students in prefabs but is rapidly expanding with students now up to fifth year.

The school takes an innovative approach to learning as it tries to foster a “philosophy of growth mindset” among students with no streaming of classes and allowing students take more responsibility for their own learning.

“We tell students, try not to say I can’t do something - say instead, if I work hard I’ll get there. We try and nurture a growth mindset in our students in line with the school ethos. We don’t stream classes - we value effort and hard work.”

Corrigan says the teacher becomes a coach or a facilitator of learning rather than a conveyor of knowledge.

Teachers take an approach where they focus not just on the content of their classes but how they are also delivered. The same applies to students - it is not just about what the students are going to learn, “how the students are going to learn”.

“We explicitly teach the first year students about leaning and give them a vocabulary around learning and teach them about the brain and positive learning habits. If you came in and spoke to second years and asked them what they learned, they would also tell you how they learned it,” she says.

For Corrigan, it’s all about BLP or building learning power.

“It comes down to a philosophy of a growth mindset and taking responsibility for your own learning. To support that, we have one hour lessons and no bell at all in the school,” she says.

All students have iPads and teachers use split screen to show how their students are going to learn.

“Our awards programme would be based on effort - so it’s hard work, kindness, not just academic success.

The school has a “no hands up policy,” Corrigan says, as it does not always benefit everybody and can encourage “passengers who let everyone else answer for them. Everyone gets a shot and there’s no sitting back - it’s engaged learning.”

In first year, students take part in an enrichment week to take in these types of learning.

“In Ireland we have traditionally put the cart before the horse - putting subjects in the cart and the horse pushed it. We’re trying instead to develop the horse as a learner. After that, once they develop as a learner they can fill in the rest with subjects,” she says.

Teachers also get to do peer observation where they observe each other in the classroom.

“They also work together in triages where they go in and visit each other’s lessons. They see what works for different students. We don’t have traditional tutor system - we have a clan system - we divide the teacher by students - from all years - meet them during the week then Friday do a weekly review where they reflect on their learning journey during week,” she says.