The aim of the project was for pupils to understand the link between effort, resilience, and attainment. The project would ultimately allow pupils to view their learning as a journey where mistakes will be made but can be used to improve. Teachers across the whole school would need to understand the relationship between the ethos within their classroom, the learning environment they foster and attainment. This had been identified as a whole school improvement priority. Giving young people space and a nurturing environment should lead to less anxiety surrounding learning new skills, improving their resilience and attainment.
The project aim was for pupils to understand the link between effort, resilience, and attainment. To achieve this, at least one staff member from each curricular area had to embrace and embed growth mindset strategies (e.g., learning zones, making challenge the new comfort zone, and celebrating mistakes) into their daily teaching practice. This was achieved to some extent. All teaching staff within the collegiate learning group were fully onboard and did embed these strategies into their classroom practice. However, one In-service day training session for the rest of the staff, was not sufficient to achieve this aim across the wider school. Although the CLPL session was highly rated and all teachers felt it was extremely valuable, they have not yet had the space and time to embed growth mindset strategies into their classroom practice.
In future, it might be a good idea to have regular training sessions, where all staff are reminded of and report on the use of growth mindset strategies. This would be an excellent opportunity for continuing professional development in this area and learning from each other. It might also have been useful for pupils to be more aware of what growth mindset was from the outset of the project. More work to ensure that pupils fully understood the difference between a fixed and growth mindset would have helped them fully buy into why these strategies were being implemented and the benefits of embracing a growth mindset.
The project stayed within the timelines initially set. The collegiate learning group met every six weeks. One session had to be cancelled due to strike action, which meant that they never met up for 12 weeks, putting the project on hold temporarily. Strike action also caused an In-Service day that was intended to be used as a growth mindset training session for the whole staff, to be repurposed for other priorities. Lastly, at the beginning of the project a parental engagement session on growth mindset was not planned. However, as the term and project progressed, it became clear that getting parental involvement was essential for growth mindset to permeate the whole school culture and ethos. This was therefore added to the project plan. Having flexibility within the project plan was essential to overcome these changes and ensure its overall effectiveness.
The structure of the project was for those in the collegiate learning groups to read up on a particular growth mindset strategy, discuss it and try it out in an S3 class, before moving onto the next strategy. The strike action meant that more time was spent exploring the strategy of celebrating mistakes, as teachers had 12 weeks to embed this into their practice. The strategy of ‘making challenge the new comfort zone’ was discussed six weeks later and the final strategy of ‘praising the process and not the outcome,’ had to be completely removed from the plan. This will be picked up next year when the group will be reformed. Due to strike action, the date of the In-service training day also had to change. It was rescheduled and reduced from a full day session to a morning session only, requiring a reduction in the materials that were to be covered. Lastly, a parental engagement session was added to the plan, but this did not impact on any other actions initially planned.
The vision for the project was for pupils to understand the link between effort, resilience, and attainment. Evidence gathered at the end of the project suggested that there had been a positive impact on learners, staff, and the culture within the school. Firstly, all staff across all curricular areas had a training session on growth mindset and the associated strategies to deploy. Thus, all staff have a better understanding of growth mindset and how to implement this within their classroom practice. In all departments, there were staff members actively working to shift the culture of the school.
Secondly, pupils felt the shift towards a growth mindset culture as many staff members implemented it within their classroom practice. They experienced more consistent language and began to shift towards being more confident to answer questions and to get things wrong, seeing this as a crucial part of learning. Some classes saw pupils more eager to answer despite the fear of making a mistake, more comfortable using resources (e.g., show me boards) to display answers, and keen to take part in no judgement peer assessment activities. Many pupils felt more likely to challenge themselves as staff had been pushing this concept and they now understood failure or making mistakes as part of a normal learner journey.
Overall, the language we were using across the school shifted towards growth mindset. Quite often you heard a teacher say, “just remember you are not there yet, but these mistakes are good to aid your progress.” Changing a school culture is a challenging and time-consuming process, but there was a definite shift towards rewarding effort and resilience and not solely rewarding academic achievement. This is demonstrated by awards such as “most improved” or “most resilient learner,” planned for the next annual awards ceremony.
Before the project took place, staff were asked to fill in a questionnaire on what growth mindset strategies they currently used. None said they used the concept of learning zones and performance zones, 60% said they used the concept of celebrating mistakes or trying to reduce learner anxiety around making mistakes, and around 30% said they embraced challenge within the classroom and made it the norm.
After the In-service day training and the collegiate learning groups had taken place, a new questionnaire was sent out to assess the impact of these activities. Around 80% of staff had introduced the learner zone concept and remarked that “this has had a huge impact on the learners within my classroom. They now feel more comfortable to make mistakes and see that this is a normal part of learning and should not be embarrassed by it. Something so simple, like changing the language of your classroom has made such a difference.” In addition, around 95% of staff had introduced the concept that mistakes are good, and they did not shy away from pointing these out to their pupils. Lastly, 65% of staff were trying to implement challenge strategies regularly to their classroom practice (e.g., such as using pupil mentors to lead part of the lesson). Furthermore, after the In-service day training, 100% of staff said that their knowledge of growth mindset had improved and 100% felt that introducing these growth mindset strategies would have a positive impact on learners, helping to build their resilience and reduce their learner anxiety.
After the parental engagement workshop, parents were asked to evaluate the session. One comment said “an excellent and informative session. I will be taking these strategies home with me, and I am hopeful they will help with my daughter’s overall confidence with her learning.” This demonstrated that the session was effective in raising awareness of growth mindset and the positive impact it could have.
The S3 pupils were also given electronic questionnaires to fill in prior to the start of the project, and again at the end. The change in responses, after a period to allow the growth mindset strategies to bed in, was positive. Particularly striking was that 30% of pupils said that they never or rarely volunteered to answer a question in class before the project. This fell to 8%. Pupils were also asked "how confident do you feel answering questions in class?". Those that responded not/only sometimes confident fell from 50% to 20%.
Most colleagues agreed that this project was a success, and the impact could be seen in our classroom practice. The concept of growth mindset is now being spoken about across the school and is “beginning to permeate the school’s culture and ethos.” One colleague commented after the In-service training that, “I feel that many of these strategies should become deeply rooted and embedded into my practice. I thoroughly enjoyed the sessions. Very informative and well run.” Other comments regarding the pace of the project were that “more time is now required to try out all these strategies and observe what impact they can have.” It will be crucial that we do all we can to embed the practices discussed and colleagues felt that “growth mindset needs to be constantly revisited in order for it to have a lasting impact.”
Next steps are to introduce additional growth mindset strategies into the school. Another In-service day training session will take place and focus on the concepts of ‘praising the process and not the outcome,’ ‘ability grouping versus flexible grouping’’ and the ‘role of assessment in adopting a growth mindset.’ Once all strategies have been shared, time will be given to embed some of these strategies into our school’s regular classroom practice. More work will also be undertaken to strengthen our pupils and parents understanding of growth mindset. This will take the form of a series of PSHE lessons on the topic of resilience, building confidence and the part growth mindset plays in this. Another parents information evening will be held to raise further awareness of growth mindset and the strategies the school are currently using to minimise learner anxiety. Growth mindset is to be added to next year’s School Improvement Plan and the wish is for all departments to add it to their Department Improvement Plan and continue to embed these strategies. Finally, the collegiate learning group will be reformed and the work of sharing best practice on the implementation of growth mindset strategies will continue.