The aim of the project was to help contribute to an increased understanding of growth mindset and its importance in the development of young people, across all teaching and support staff in our school. We wanted to help staff move beyond a theoretical understanding of growth mindset, to having clear knowledge of practical measures they could use in their classrooms to help learners develop their own growth mindsets. We also planned to communicate the importance of growth mindset to parents and assist them in using strategies at home, which would support the work being done in school. Finally, we wanted to ensure that the formal implementation of growth mindset training for school staff was not limited to one year and that growth mindset would become a key part of the School Improvement plan.
We were immensely proud of the work done to increase understanding of growth mindset and its applications. Whilst this must remain an ongoing focus for it to become embedded in the day to day interactions we have with pupils, we have still achieved many of our initial aims.
Improving practical implementation
This has been achieved through the work of a group of twelve colleagues from various departments. The first session of the group focused on the theory behind growth mindset and asked members to share their current understanding of growth mindset, before using the Mindset course materials to augment this. Crucially, this session also focused on what growth mindset wasn't, discussing the concept of a false growth mindset. Subsequent sessions focused on practical applications, also drawn from the Mindset course, such as performance versus learning zones, process praise, embracing challenge, and celebrating mistakes. Each group member tried out these practical steps before the next meeting of the group. A professional discussion was had at the start of subsequent sessions on the impact of these methods. The work of the project was also shared with the departments of colleagues on the working group. We augmented the work of the project group with a two-hour CLPL session delivered to all teaching and support staff. This session was very well received.
Empowering parents to use growth mindset strategies
We ran after school sessions on growth mindset for parents, which proved to be successful. Parents were given three specific areas of growth mindset that they could use with their children, celebrating mistakes, embracing challenge, and praising the process. Parents embraced this new notion of praise, with one saying, "I definitely tell my child she is clever all the time. This has made me think about how I phrase my praise and I will let her know I am proud of her effort more in future". We would like to reach more parents with initiatives like this, as the event was only attended by 18 parents.
Adding growth mindset to the School Improvement Plan
The Head Teacher has agreed to a continued focus on the development of growth mindset in learners in next year's improvement plan. The final wording of its inclusion is yet to be decided, but the current proposition is "To continue to integrate growth mindset and resilience strategies into teaching and learning practices across all departments."
Broadly, we were able to stay within the project timelines. We established a firm timeline through discussion with the Head Teacher at the start of the year, and key dates were put into the whole school Quality Assurance calendar. Knowing these dates in advance, made it easier to plan when to prepare for each part of the project. The biggest barrier to staying on track, was balancing the project requirements with professional commitments. We found it hard to find the requisite time to complete delivery of the project, though we were given CLPL days to complete the written sections which was invaluable.
We were able to adhere closely to the initial vision of the project. Collegiate learning groups were all delivered on the days set out in the Quality Assurance calendar and the whole school CLPL session was delivered as planned. The evening session for parents was delivered on time, as was the final interview with the Head Teacher.
Among the 12 staff members working in the collegiate learning group, there was a clear improvement in the understanding that growth mindset is not an amorphous concept that teachers should simply be aware of. There is much clearer recognition that as practitioners we can deploy strategies that will directly and consistently contribute to the development of growth mindset in our learners. A selection of quotes from interviews with members of the group demonstrated this:
"I now see that with modifications to strategies I already use in class, I can be helping pupils develop a growth mindset in almost all of my interactions with them."
"I no longer feel that I am just simply telling pupils that they should all have a growth mindset. I see that it is something I can actually help them to have through the way I teach them."
"I can see that a big part of why pupils are often afraid to contribute their ideas to class discussion is because they feel they are performing. Letting them know that most of the time in class they are learning has helped them to overcome this fear."
The wider school community also has a deeper understanding of what growth mindset is, what growth mindset isn't, and how it can be promoted in day to day teaching and learning. This was a clear benefit of the whole school CLPL session. The project aimed to equip teachers with practical tools that could be used in a classroom environment to promote growth mindset, and at the CLPL session teachers were given 11 of these, including:
While at an early stage, the project has begun to help parents understand the importance of growth mindset. Although attendance was low, the attendees we spoke with provided some positive feedback. Many parents had heard the term ‘growth mindset’ and had a rudimentary understanding of what it was. But having it explained to them in an educational context (and being provided with some advice on how to help their own children develop growth mindsets at home), helped them think about future interactions with their children and the type of language they should be using to help increase their confidence.
Assisting the Head Teacher to include growth mindset as a key part of next year's School Improvement Plan, has been a real win. Helping her visualise ways in which teaching and learning could be modified across the entire school to organically include elements of growth mindset learning was a great outcome of the CLPL session. As a result, growth mindset will be a feature of the School Improvement Plan in the years to come.
At the end of the CLPL session, teachers were asked to complete a questionnaire to gauge the impact of the session. Twenty teachers responded, lower than we would have hoped. However, the results for each question are as follows:
Question 1: After the growth mindset session, has your knowledge and understanding of growth mindset improved? In response, 19 teachers answered "yes”, and one answered, "not sure". This was an overwhelmingly positive result and indicated that one of the key aims of the session had been achieved.
Question 2: Do you feel that growth mindset will have a positive impact on our young people? Again, 19 respondents answered "yes" with one answering "maybe". This was satisfying as it was important that staff left the session with a clear belief in the important part growth mindset can play in the development of young people.
Question 3: Overall, did you find the session on growth mindset useful and a valuable experience? This question provided a similar response, with 19 respondents answering "yes" and only one answering "Not sure".
Question 4: Which of the growth mindset strategies covered in the training session do you think will make a positive impact? As a key aim was to equip teachers with practical steps to improve the growth mindsets of learners, we were particularly keen to understand this. Every respondent felt that at least one of the strategies would be of benefit to pupils. Many respondents thought that process praise would be beneficial (8), the demarcation of performance and learning zones (12) and making challenge the new comfort zone (14). These responses were similar to those of parents and informed our thinking on how to approach the inclusion of growth mindset in next year's improvement plan.
On the same questionnaire, teachers were given the opportunity to leave any other feedback. The following teacher response was echoed by several teachers: "I feel that many of these strategies are deeply rooted and embedded into my practice, only minus the labelling. I did enjoy the sessions though. Very informative and well run." The fact that teachers felt they had been using many of the strategies without connecting them to growth mindset was interesting. This will inform our growth mindset work over the next few years, aiming to help teachers to see the commonality between the various strategies they use to develop pupil resilience and confidence.
Finally, we interviewed the Head Teacher on the impact of the project. She described the CLPL session as "the best CLPL session she had ever seen" and spoke about the high levels of participation and motivation she observed among the teachers who participated. During the interview, we finalised plans for growth mindset to included in our School Improvement Plan next year. This proves our success in raising the profile of growth mindset and its importance.
The vast majority of feedback received from colleagues has been positive. A key message is that teachers are more aware of the importance they play in developing a growth mindset among young people, not just in terms of lesson content, but in terms of every interaction we have with them. As one colleague explained: "The language used in preparations for challenging work is vital in improving pupil engagement in more challenging tasks. Their effort and application in the task itself can be affected massively by the language we use to introduce and feed back on it." Another frequent piece of feedback received was around the benefits of growth mindset for pupils after they leave school. A member of Senior Management explained that they were "concerned that young people are leaving school without necessary skills for success in life, such as presentation, problem solving, collaboration, and creative thinking skills,” but remarked that they now fully believe the development of growth mindsets can help equip pupils with many of these vital transferable skills.
Some feedback from colleagues was helpful when considering what our next steps should be in the implementation of a wider growth mindset strategy. One teacher suggested that we "look at the existing communications we have in the day to day life of the school and how growth mindset ideas could be incorporated into those." Another suggested that "growth mindset strategies could be incorporated into behaviour management conversations with students." It was good to receive suggestions like this, as it indicated that the work done on the project had led colleagues to consider ways in which growth mindset was so much more than a series of tools to be used in classroom contexts, but that it could be integrated into almost all interactions we had with pupils.
We view this project as a starting point in the journey towards making growth mindset an integral part of the life of the school, both in and out of the classroom. Our Head Teacher has agreed that “to continue to integrate growth mindset and resilience strategies into teaching and learning practices across all departments" will be an item on next year's School Improvement Plan. We will support this by leading three more CLPL sessions on growth mindset across the next academic session. We will also continue to include parents in the wider dialogue around growth mindset, with sessions aimed at parents of S1 and S2 pupils to be arranged for early in the new term.