This project was undertaken by three staff members of our school, our Principle Teacher working with primary 4 learners, a class teacher working with primary 6 learners and a class teacher working with primary 3 learners. This write-up focuses on the experience with the primary 3 children.
When deciding upon the aim of the project, we had to consider an area that was relevant to all three classes, that worked across both First and Second Level of the Curriculum for Excellence and that would blend both learning around science and learning around growth mindset. After research, it was decided that we would focus on the relevance of science learning and help learners to understand why it is part of their curriculum. We would explore the perception of gender in this area and make learning relevant by looking at related jobs that learners might have in the future.
The overall aim of this project was therefore to increase positive perception, mindset and understanding towards the relevance of science learning in the future of learners.
Overall, the project did have a positive impact on learners, by helping them to develop a growth mindset towards their learning of science and to understand the relevance of this learning for the world of work.
A focus on growth mindset has been established in our setting over several years through our school improvement programme, Visible Learning, developed by Professor John Hattie. The lessons delivered around growth mindset in this project, were designed to recap previous learning and knowledge. This knowledge was evident in the baseline questionnaire from the primary 3 class, where most learners were able to discuss that children are not simply born with a science knowledge, rather that it is something that can be learned.
The science element of this project consisted of three lessons around jobs that the learners did not already relate to the science curriculum. These included police officers, fashion designers and bakers/chefs, which drew upon interests within the class to help promote engagement. The aim was to change views and help the learners understand that the people who have these jobs would need some scientific knowledge and understanding.
It was evident, in Primary 3, that this aim had been achieved. In the initial baseline questionnaire, 25% of learners felt that police officers and fashion designers used science learning in their jobs and only 21% believed that bakers/chefs used science learning in their jobs. At the end of the project, 96% of learners now felt that police officers would use science learning in their job and 100% of all learners answered that fashion designers and bakers/chefs would use science learning in their job.
We also asked learners what job they would like to have and if this job involved science. Initially, only 17% of learners felt that their desired job required some element of science knowledge. Once this questionnaire had been repeated, 83% of learners then felt that science learning was relevant to their desired job.
We were not able to complete our project plan within our first estimated timeline. Due to staff absences, our project was delayed significantly as we did not want to progress at different times and stages, to ensure that the data was comparable amongst classes and to allow us to work together as a team. In January 2022, we were able to plan our project and gather the baseline data. This took a couple of weeks of discussion and we each established roles and tasks to be completed to start our project. We devised various lessons around growth mindset and how science might be involved in different jobs. Once these resources were ready, we decided we could complete two of these lessons each week for the next three weeks with our classes.
After we had completed these lessons, we decided to include an additional three lessons. This was to help enhance the learning around growth and fixed mindset with all learners and to explore the idea of gender within the three chosen jobs. The addition of these lessons added an extra two weeks onto our project, after which the learners completed the baseline questionnaire again to assess for any changes in the data.
After the initial lessons had been completed, it was determined that an additional three lessons should be made. This was to help enhance the learning around growth and fixed mindset with all learners. The team also wanted to know if learners could apply the learning from the three jobs that had been explored, to different jobs that had not been studied in class lessons. Finally, a lesson around gender in different jobs was added. Once each class had completed all the lessons devised, learners were asked to complete the initial baseline questionnaire again to assess for any changes in their views and perceptions. The addition of these extra lessons was beneficial to our project as we were able to explore the above areas in more detail with the learners.
This project has changed the perceptions of many learners in Primary 3, and the other two classes involved in this project, in their views and understanding of why science is a part of the Curriculum for Excellence.
Learners in our school already had a good understanding of what growth and fixed mindsets are, largely due to the Visible Learning school improvement programme. This new growth mindset project has been great for our school, as this has helped our learners to develop a growth mindset towards science for both the children and staff involved, an area not previously focused on. The children have been able to change or improve their understanding around why science is a part of Curriculum for Excellence, why its learning is relevant to them and might be relevant for more future jobs that they had originally thought.
The first lesson based on a job looked at police officers and learners had to solve a ‘crime’ that had been committed in our school. Forensic evidence had been left for learners to explore and they ultimately had to decide who had committed this crime. Afterwards, learners were able to understand that they had been using chemistry and forensic analysis and concluded that future police officers should be learning science in school.
The second lesson looked at fashion designers. Learners were asked to design a new jacket to be manufactured and sold as a part of their school uniform. Learners took part in experiments to determine which materials would be best to use to make a jacket that kept children warm and dry in all weathers. Pupils used thermochromic paper to test which material was the best for insulation and used water to determine which material was the best for waterproofing. Learners concluded that this learning was in fact scientific and that future fashion designers need to learn science in school.
The final lesson was planned around when bakers/chefs might need scientific knowledge and understanding. Learners were given two recipes from the presenter of ‘The Great British Bake Off’ and were asked to test which recipe was best. Learners understood that the addition of yeast worked best in the recipes and that there were elements of chemistry here. They were also given the opportunity to make ice cream without using a freezer and again used chemistry to cause a chemical reaction with salt and ice. Ultimately, learners again concluded that future bakers/chefs needed to learn science when they are at school. These lightbulb moments were very gratifying to witness.
We decided to add in another lesson to determine if learners could themselves apply this understanding of the relevance of science in jobs, to jobs that we had not explored. Learners were asked if some of the jobs they identified in their baseline questionnaires would require people to learn science in school. The responses were very positive, and pupils could explain that, yes, science would indeed be relevant for some of these jobs.
Another additional lesson was to explore the gender element of jobs. Learners were asked in the baseline survey about who they felt might take up these jobs, men, women, or both. Learners were taught that there is in fact no restriction on jobs and that everyone has equal opportunities in job fields. Originally, most learners felt that both men and women could be police officers or bakers/chefs and that fashion designers were mainly men. These perceptions altered slightly by the final questionnaire, however, we feel that this topic could be developed further in the future.
In this project, a questionnaire was completed with learners before lessons were delivered and immediately after. We made sure that these questionnaires were child-friendly and could be understood by learners working within both First and Second Level of Curriculum for Excellence. In Primary 3, learners were read each question together, whereas classes with older children could complete this independently. Each question was devised together to ensure that there was comparable data between the initial and post questionnaire, to successfully measure any differences. The results of these questionnaires are discussed in the section above.
During a staff meeting this project was shared with all other teaching staff in the school. The aim of this project and all data collected were discussed. Colleagues were interested in the growth mindset element given their heavy involvement in the Visible Learning school improvement plan over the previous five years. The science element brought a different light to our professional development around growth mindset. Colleagues were directed to all the resources that have been developed and used throughout this project and have been encouraged to explore these with their respect classes. Given that we were approaching the end of the school year, it was anticipated that these resources might be used more in the upcoming school year. Overall, colleagues responded well to the resources created, especially as they were developed with the different levels of Curriculum for Excellence in mind.
We have a few next steps planned that could deepen the implementation of this project within our school setting. We will try this project with new classes in the next school session, to see if the data would change from year to year. As a team, we would hope that our colleagues will understand the relevance and importance of our project and want to try and use the resources to repeat it in their own classes. This would give us more comparable data across stages. We also want to further explore the element of gender within jobs and examine the specific reasoning for why learners associate certain jobs with men, women, or both. We feel this is very important to ensure that there are no ceilings put onto learners’ aspirations for their future. Finally, we feel that this approach to learning could be taken with the other seven subject areas of Curriculum for Excellence, to help learners understand that there is a relevance to all their learning and their future aspirations.