The aim of my project was to develop a growth mindset culture in my S1 class during a block of gymnastics. Having returned after 2 years of interrupted learning I found that pupils attitudes to learning were very different and that during challenging activities pupils lacked confidence and resilience in class and in particular if they thought that they would fail at something they would avoid the task. By providing target setting opportunities and encouraging pupils to climb the challenge pyramid during gymnastics, which is a particularly challenging environment for many pupils, I wanted to see if I could use growth mindset strategies to develop the confidence of the pupils to encourage them to challenge themselves and to understand that mistakes are part of the learning process and should be embraced to develop their skills.
Following the completion of my project I can say that my project had a positive impact on a number of the pupils within my case study. Importantly for this project I chose to deliver this through the challenging activity of gymnastics and based on the data gathered and the feedback from pupils this has proved to be an excellent activity to embrace growth mindset. From the results it is clear that growth mindset has had an impact on the pupils, with an increase in the number of pupils who agree that mindset is not fixed. In addition to this there is an increase where pupils indicate that they want to challenge themselves in class to do better and only 7% of pupils indicated at the end of the project that they would not challenge themselves to try new skills, which equates to only 1 pupil in the class. Based on the pyramid challenge chart that was used in class throughout the project this data mirrors the mindset that was displayed in the class on a daily basis and the change in mindsets as we progressed through the activity. If time allowed I would run this project for a prolonged period of time, possibly around 10 weeks to allow the pupils to have more time developing there mindset through gymnastics. The timing of the project was hampered slightly by the senior exams in the facilities and I had to adapt my project around this, therefore I would have to timetable gymnastics earlier in the year. I believe that this was an ideal activity to use for my project as it is an activity that none of the pupils within my group take part in outside of school, therefore it allowed me to use skills and challenges that catered for all of the pupils and gave everyone the opportunity to explore growth mindset and put it into action. A further improvement I would make is I would more visual aids within the teaching area highlighting key words and phrases of growth mindset to further prompt the pupils through the activity.
I was able to stay within my projected timeline, due to the nature of the curriculum and the number of classes within the department I had to ensure that my project was delivered in the timeframe as we were moving onto a new rotation of activities. Due to the nature of the PE curriculum this was a driving force to ensure that I did work to my specified timeline. My planning was key to ensuring that I had my project prepared for my gymnastics block of work and that I had my project plan created for this block of work starting. Also working collegiately with the others in the growth mindset group allowed me to meet the deadlines for all units in preparation for planning and carrying out my project. Having others in the group was a motivator for completing tasks on time and it also provided a support network to review progress.
The only change made to the project following the start date was that I did not collate the pupil videos into an iMovie because as we moved through the project some pupils indicated that this is not something they felt comfortable with. Otherwise the planning that I had done prior to this meant that the project was able to run as expected.
During this project it was clear to see that growth mindset had a positive impact on a number of the pupils within the class. During the introduction to growth mindset the class discussion was very informative, especially with regards to how pupils perceived mistakes and in turn challenges. During these initial discussions it was clear that pupils perceived mistakes as failure and measured their success based on mistakes. Through the growth mindset research and some of the videos, in particular the sporting examples of the cycling and skiing, this evoked meaningful discussion about the learning process through making mistakes. This allowed me to really focus on how mistakes and challenge go hand in hand. One of the most successful impacts of my Raise the Bar project has been how pupils are motivated to challenge themselves and are willing to accept that they will make mistakes along the way. This has directly impacted on their confidence levels within class.
In addition to this I have found that my own pedagogy has evolved through this project, as I now place much more of an emphasis on praising the process of learning as opposed to the end result. By simply changing my focus and the language that I use within my classes this has led to a much more productive environment in terms of attitude to learning.
Through this project the pupils who believed that mistakes were a measure of success were the same pupils who were less likely to challenge themselves and push out with their comfort zone. Through this project and praising the process rather than the outcome, there were 6 pupils in particular, who I would previously have identified as having a fixed mindset, who have shown that through accepting that mistakes are a form of learning have pushed their boundaries and have challenged themselves to try new skills. I was able to identify these changes, not always through data driven evidence, but through their attitude to learning, their confidence to participate and set challenges, as well as learner conversations that I was having with them. Using my self-evaluation strategies through feedback and my own observations I was able to see the positive impact from prior blocks of work and make comparisons after the project had been completed.
As mentioned previously the growth mindset project has shown positive impact on pupils and if I could adopt this over a longer period of time I feel that results would show that the project has made even more of an impact. I believe that we have to work to embed these skills and attitudes to allow pupils to flourish with our lessons.
At the start of the project only 11.8% of pupils indicated that would feel very confident about a block of gymnastics, as opposed to at the end of the project where 28.6% of pupils reported feeling very confident about gymnastics. In addition to this, and importantly showing a correlation between confidence and mindset, at the start of the project 23.5% of pupils felt that mindset was fixed, whereas by the end of the project this number had reduced to 7.1%.
To gather data I embedded some gymnastics video clips in a google form and asked pupils how they would feel about trying these skills. Before the project started 47% of the pupils indicated they were either confident or excited to try skills 1 and by the end of the project this had increased to 57.2%, showing the shift in attitude to challenge and mistakes. For skill 2 29.4% of pupils reported feeling nervous about the skill as it is difficult but they would like to try it and by the end of the project this had increased to 50%, demonstrating that although the pupils may still feel nervous they are also using growth mindset to attempt to challenge themselves to try the skill. In addition to this there has been an increase in the percentage of pupils who want to challenge themselves to do better, increasing to 64.3%, and before the project started this was 58.8%.
During the lessons we also used the challenge pyramid and this was to encourage pupils to use growth mindset and set themselves challenges to learning. If these challenges were achieved they were highlighted green and importantly for 2 of the 3 complex skills that we were learning, all pupils achieved their challenge level. However, more importantly for me was the process of this, as I watched pupils make mistakes, learn from them and continue to develop a growth mindset to allow them to be successful.
This data sits alongside my teacher observations, achieved a level data and the individual learner conversations that I had with my pupils. This allows me to conclude that my project was having a positive impact on the learning experiences of the pupils and importantly the pupils’ attainment as I found an increase in the number of pupils achieving 3rd level through this project.
I have taken on board feedback from a number of colleagues, including those who I am working with collegiately through Mindset in Education, as well as colleagues who I have been working alongside in the PE department. Through the planning stages I took on board that the size of the project group had to be manageable to allow this to be a realistic, yet achievable process and I tailored my initial ideas to take this feedback on board. Also through the discussions with the Mindset in Education group I recognised that I had to have quite a specific focus, in terms of the year group I was working with, and through self-evaluation the S1 group were in particular need of developing growth mindset skills. The PE staff were very positive about the project, however we would like to discuss in more detail how we apply this across the board and look at the realistic timeframe to do so. Importantly as a department we are now in the first stages of discussion about how we embed this into our pedagogy and how this can contribute to the department vision.
At the most recent in-service day I presented my growth mindset project to all staff to raise awareness of how growth mindset can be implemented within schools to enhance the learning and teaching experience. To move forward with growth mindset in the school the initial plan is to create a school improvement group focusing on growth mindset. This would be an opportunity for any staff who express an interest to create a working group and drive this forward in their teaching. In addition to this we would encourage any staff interested to sign up for the Winning Scotland Mindset in Education course to upskill staff. The long term plan is to have growth mindset embedded across the curriculum and have this within the school improvement plan as a priority to enhance learning and teaching.