The aim of our project was to give children the opportunity to develop life skills to be independent, follow routines, mix with their peers, and have the confidence to keep trying if they don’t succeed. We wanted children to understand that making mistakes can be a positive thing for learning and progressing. We hoped that they would adopt the word ‘yet’ as they approached a new skill or challenge and understand that if they put effort into something then they could achieve different results in the end. This new growth mindset and experience should help the children to develop better problem-solving skills, confidence, and resilience.
We believe we have achieved most of the aims of our project and have seen a change in our target groups. We did this by working with pre-school children who we had observed struggling to try new things, giving up easily and relying on adult support. These children were observed showing a lack of independence and confidence, poor concentration on a focused task or unable to regulate emotions. We selected ten boys and six girls for the project and secured their parents approval.
At the start of our project, we noticed that as the children used the resources they almost immediately asked for help, said they were stuck or didn’t like the activity. We took note of when they worked on their own or used teamwork to help with the activities, how often they said these words and/or phrases, as well as their reaction to the games. We used open ended questions and tried to positively encourage the children to try different strategies and to keep on trying. When an adult was asked for help by a child, they encouraged them to try again themselves before intervening. We were then able to repeat the activities and compare the results.
Overall, we stayed within the timeline of our original project plan, with the help of support from management. This meant we had time set aside for our project to be carried out, to make observations and for data to be collected and evaluated. However staffing issues, the time of year and the children’s attendance patterns did impact our sessions. Knowing that the target group was moving on to school, meant that we had no option but to finish on time. It would have been great to have had a longer time frame with the groups to allow more collaborative working, but due to the age of the children this was not possible because focus and concertation was limited.
The main adaptation we had to make to the project at short notice was due to staffing issues. We had to change the location of the group to outdoors, which meant that a larger number of children had access to the resources, and they were all extremely interested in what was going on. This was great but did change the dynamic of the group, as the target children were more distracted and less likely to join in as they wanted to play with their friends instead.
It would have been favourable to carry out the sessions over an extended period. It would have been interesting to see if this made a difference to the outcome of our project. In future, we would also make certificates for the children for completing the project and an achievement wall to support them on their growth mindset journey.
Our growth mindset project has had a positive impact on our children, staff members and the centre as a whole. We measured the frequency of growth mindset behaviours displayed by the children as they took part in our activities. The graph below shows that there was a peak in week three as a different resource was introduced, one which most children were familiar with from home or at nursery. This shows that the children were more confident trying with this particular resource (K’nex). Overall, there is an increase in growth mindset behaviours in the children as the weeks progress.
Before the project, the children would often give up easily, not see tasks through or be disheartened by the result and become upset. After the project, staff members noticed that more children were able to complete tasks, showed greater confidence and higher self-esteem knowing that they had tried their best. When the children moved onto primary school, we had feedback that they were willing to try new activities and work together and that things were going very well in both classroom and outdoor learning. Many of the children in our target group received a certificate for demonstrating a growth mindset early in their P1 class. During our project, we also noticed that the target group of children were having a positive influence on the younger children in our playrooms, passing on some of the growth mindset attributes through play.
Fellow staff members have also been impacted by the project. They have certainly taken the ‘praise the process not the outcome’ language frames into their practice with the children. Our display wall has also encouraged staff to ask us more questions about growth mindset and to think about next steps for children in their learning.
Through observation and discussion with colleagues, we targeted the children who were of preschool age, were reluctant to try new things, continually asked for adult assistance, played alone and/or gave up easily. During our observations, we listened to the comments the children made and noted them, as our way of measuring the impact of the project. We also gave parents/carers access to a Thinglink which helped introduce them to growth mindset (see below) and created a wall display for staff to become familiar with it too.
We had hoped to see an increase in growth mindset behaviours over the project’s timeline. We observed and noted any comments from the children and separated them into fixed and growth mindset. We also listened to comments in the playroom on a day to day basis and spoke to the children’s keyworkers throughout the process. The opinion of parents and carers was also sought, to see if they had noticed any change in the children at home or in the nursery. All this information was used to evaluate the success of the project and determine if there was anything we could improve.
As previously mentioned, our fellow staff members have certainly taken on board the ‘praise the process not the outcome' language into their practice with the children. Having our display wall was amazing for team learning, as it encouraged staff to ask us more questions about growth mindset. The display wall documented the journey with photos and speech bubbles to increase awareness of the project, and was accessible for children, staff members, families, and visitors to our centre.
An example of the observation sheet that we used to take note of the children's behaviours and reactions during the activities is shown below.
Below is a photograph of some of our children receiving their growth mindset award in when they moved onto P1.
The project has led staff to change their language and to reflect on their practice more. Staff are now more likely to look at the statements used by pupils, and when they find a task easy, encourage them to take next steps in a more challenging direction. Our learning wall has helped with this also, as it highlights the process and the journey to a growth mindset, including the language a staff member can use to aid this. Overall, all feedback from staff has been positive and encouraging, and they want to learn more about growth mindset.
In hindsight, it might have been beneficial to have a training session with all staff before beginning the project, to convey growth mindset messages. This would have given staff members more confidence to use the language and be aware of the research behind our project. It was encouraging to hear from our management team that the project linked well to the centre’s improvement plan, as we all work together to develop our professional skills and knowledge. This growth mindset project provided an opportunity for working with our Early Years colleagues, supporting them to support young children to understand that mistakes are positive and help us to learn.
Our next steps are to increase staff awareness by sharing our experience and the results of the project. We will be directing more people to the Thinglink, to easily access information on growth mindset. We would also like to continue to track our target group’s development to see if more of them will receive a growth mindset award from their new schools in the future.