Having become more confident in my understanding of what growth mindset is and why it is vital to make a good learner, my aim was to create a classroom atmosphere which encouraged a growth mindset to bloom.
There would be many steps to achieving this.
The first step is to discover what understanding the children have of their own learning. By carrying out a questionnaire with each child pre and post-project I would hopefully be able to demonstrate whether the children's understanding of a 'good learner' has altered as a result of the project.
My aim was to then alter the children's thinking towards a more positive and pro-active approach to their learning where the children would be more active participants in their learning through regular reflection and, ultimately, increase their engagement in their own learning.
One of the main ways in which I was looking to do this was to create a classroom ethos which welcomed mistakes as a vital part of learning. By providing situations where children would be regularly faced with challenge, I was hoping to build resilience in the children. As well as creating these experiences for the children I also felt an important part of this project was providing the time for the children to reflect on their learning and the mistakes that they made along the way in order that they can see the importance that the mistakes played in their learning and also make them comfortable in discussing it with their peers.
After having carried out the project I would consider that there were lots of elements that worked well to help have the desired impact. Through evidence generated from observations, conversations with the children, focus groups and the post-project questionnaire, it was evident that the children felt comfortable talking about mistakes and more children seemed to view mistakes as important parts of their learning. Some children who had previously got worried about making mistakes were now demonstrating a more resilient approach to their learning and felt comfortable in talking about their mistakes.
Throughout the project, many of the children were able to demonstrate or verbalise key Growth Mindset traits. For example, when sharing the story ' I Can't Do That YET!' a boy in the class was able to recognise that we will always come across things we cannot do and what is most important is that we keep trying. I think the use of stories to help illustrate some of the key traits of Growth Mindset worked well with the level I was working with as the children engaged well with these and it generated a lot of great discussion with the children.
Although there were several elements that worked well during the project, if I was to start the project again I would look to change some aspects. Ideally I would have started this project earlier in the year in order to provide more time for the children to engage in the learning behind it and it would also have allowed me more time to try out some different tasks, for example, carrying out '' where I, as the teacher, deliberately did things wrong to demonstrate how to learn from my mistakes.
I think that the children did show an improvement in their understanding of growth mindset and I could see some children had started to change their mindset towards a more resilient and problem-solving one. With more time I feel that there would have been more time for discussion with the children and time for them to reflect on their approach to learning.
Had the situation been possible, it would have been great to have a colleague with whom I could have worked alongside on the project to allow further opportunity to share ideas, experiences and results. Therefore, if I was looking to do this project again, I would look at finding someone to work with to help generate more ideas and insight.
Setting the project up, I was aware that working within a 5/6 week timeframe would be tight in order to do everything that was planned. Much of what had been planned to cover during the project was achieved, however it had been hoped that there would be more time for children to engage in focused partner/group work tasks with follow-up discussions.
The key factors in helping the project stay to schedule was that the planned activities were timetabled into the weekly timetable to ensure sufficient time was provided for activities and follow-up discussions. That being said, a lot of the learning came from conversations that occurred as the children went about their daily tasks during the school day. As well as having focused activities concentrating on developing a growth mindset and encouraging the children to demonstrate the skills we need to have more of a growth mindset outlook, it was important that the children felt this ran throughout all of our learning so therefore I tried to use situations and opportunities as they arose within the classroom to emphasise the key traits of a growth mindset.
It was the case that time was a factor in some of the plans for the project not going ahead. By the very nature of a school day, best laid plans do not always come to fruition and therefore some elements of the project did not happen as planned but considering the 6 week time-frame that was given, a lot was achieved within that. In retrospect, it would have been more beneficial for the project to run earlier in the school year and for a longer period of time to allow more time for observations and data to be collected plus to allow the children to engage in more tasks and activities linked to building a growth mindset.
After collecting evidence from the pre-project questionnaires and focus groups, it was evident that many of the children already had developed elements of a growth mindset, primarily the determination to keep trying when things get tricky.
It was also found that most people in the class preferred to work alone on tasks rather than work with their classmates. Therefore, I slightly adapted the project to incorporate more focus on co-operative learning. We started off with discussing what a good partner looks like. The children were provided with statements which they were asked to sort into 'what a good partner does' and 'what a good partner doesn't do'.
This generated great discussion amongst the children and set guidelines which the children were encouraged to follow any time we were doing co-operative tasks, trying to encourage the children to get the greatest benefit from co-operative learning and ensure that collaboration enhances the children's learning.
Prior to the growth mindset project, I did already speak to the children about the importance of making mistakes and the children had previously discussed what The Learning Pit linking into the visible learning approach within the school. Therefore I feel that this project helped to strengthen this foundation through more focused time and discussion regarding adopting more of a growth mindset.
Taking time to speak to the children through the questionnaires and focus groups while also observing them on specific tasks helped to identify children who demonstrated more of a fixed mindset in their learning. Consequently it then gave me the knowledge of who to target with more focused discussions regarding growth mindset.
As the project was focused on my primary two class, the impact of the project has been quite minimal. That being said, there is evidence that our short project has altered the thinking and attitude of some children in the class.
After analysis of the focus group questionnaire - done pre and post-project - there is evidence that the children have developed a more positive attitude to their learning and feeling more positive when 'stuck' on a problem. A couple of children who had previously said that they would ask me for help were now saying that they would ask their classmates for help, showing that our work on co-operative learning had possibly impacted on their thinking.
The questionnaires also demonstrate that more children considered making mistakes as a sign that they were learning and less children said that it was a sign that they were not doing well in their learning. At the start of the project, almost half of the children said that they would sometimes or always give up when they were feeling 'stuck'. However at the end of the project, it had moved down to only a quarter of the children who said they would sometimes or always give up, showing that now 75% of the children in the class never felt like giving up when things got tricky.
Further evidence is that the children now feel more adept at discussing their learning and are more comfortable reflecting on their learning, starting to use more reflective language where they are focusing more on the learning rather than the finished product, for example, when sharing what had made them a good learner after a challenging maths-based task, some children were using statements like:-
This demonstrates that the children were not being put off by challenging learning but rather reacting to the difficulty they were facing in a positive and pro-active way.
At the end of the project, the children carried out a very challenging task where they had to fit a selection of pentominoes into a set grid.
This was challenging as they had to constantly re-visit the task as they were faced with the pentominoes not all fitting using the sequence that they had selected. Linking back to the project aim where I discussed the importance of encouraging the children to put more value on the process than the finished result, this task allowed the children to build this resilience in their learning and helped to develop that more resilient mindset. As I was observing the children I was able to see that many of the children were remaining positive about the task and as the task progressed they started to work more closely with their partner, talking regularly and trying out different ways. When I spoke to the children at the end and allowed them to reflect on how they had approached the task, many of them were able to identify some key strategies that they had used to help them with the task. Some that were identified were:
It was great to see and hear that the children had not only used these fantastic strategies in their learning but they were also able to identify that they had used them, helping them to be more aware of the process of learning.
Within the focus groups that Miss X worked with at the beginning and end of the project, there was evidence that some of the children had begun to change their mindsets and demonstrating more of a growth mindset.
At the beginning of this course there were two other colleagues who were taking part but, due to different circumstances, they were unable to continue. Therefore I was unable to discuss the progress of the project with others who were following the same course. That being said I did regularly discuss the plans for the project and how it was progressing in the class with my stage partner. As a result of the positive results I had found with Growth Mindset stories and follow-up discussions, she decided to do similar activities within her class. She reported back that the stories had brought about interesting discussions and she was keen to develop activities to continually build on their growth mindset.
Regular discussions with Miss X also allowed me to collect some feedback on the project. As Miss X has many years experience with younger children in the school, she was glad to see the use of story books to support the discussions we were having in class. Further feedback was that the challenges I set the children were age-appropriate but also challenging at the same time which was what I was aiming for. If I was to carry out the project again, some suggested next steps would be to take a more maths-based approach to the activities throughout the project to help develop attitudes towards maths and, consequently, attainment in maths, as identified nationally.
Following on from this project, I hope to undertake further reading on growth mindset and, in particular, find examples of different ways in which other professionals have sought to develop growth mindset in maths. I was very interested in the literature regarding maths as a creative subject and so would be looking to further my awareness of practical ideas of how this can be done and it would then be my intention to bring some of these ideas into my own teaching. I was very interested in Leonard Mlodinow's discussions on elastic thinking and encouraging children to 'think outside the box'. Although there are elements of maths that are considered 'conventional' I am very interested in finding out how to encourage children to use maths in a more creative way but am also intrigued as to how to manage that with the pressures of reaching certain benchmarks by certain points in the year.
For this project I was able to see the importance of taking time to talk to the children about different ways to learn and what it actually means to be a good learner. The project was conducted near the end of the school year. However I can see the benefit of taking the time at the beginning of a school year, as you are getting to know the children, to talk about learning and what we can do individually and as a class to encourage everyone to be a good learner. The use of stories worked well with my Primary two children and I would look to use this again for the younger children. That being said, a next step for me would also be to investigate different ways to explore what a good learner is with the older children.
Mistakes have always been not only welcomed but encouraged in my classroom and this project has highlighted the importance of continuing that practice to allow the children to feel comfortable to challenge themselves and know how it feels to fail in order that they can develop the strategies required to deal with failure.
I found the diagram about the four types of mistakes useful as it was good to break it down. Moving forward, my next step would be to make this visible in my classroom to help encourage that regular discussion with the children about making mistakes.