The aim of the project was to enable a primary 6 class to develop a growth mindset. The children were taught its principals and methods and how to incorporate this into their learning. The purpose was for the children to demonstrate a growth mindset when facing challenges and provide them with strategies to achieve success. Once the children were confident and exemplified what it is to have a growth mindset, they worked with peers in the school who were portraying a fixed mindset, to pass on their expertise. The children transferred their skills and knowledge throughout the school and further developed their own strategies.
The aim of the project was to develop a growth mindset with a primary 6 class, through teaching, individual activities and group tasks. This aim was achieved. Upon completion, the children were able to:
Prior to starting this project, the children had previous knowledge of growth mindset from earlier years. An initial baseline assessment was undertaken, and the children were then taught about growth mindset over 2-hour slots for 5 weeks. The baseline questionnaire (see Appendix 1 and 2) was repeated after the teaching and learning, and the results are shown above. Overall, 59% of the children increased their growth mindset scores by the end of the project.
The project tried to equip the children with the resources and teaching needed to develop a strong and deep understanding of growth mindset and teach other classes about its impact. Following school assemblies, the head teacher said, that “the approach had been thorough, and the children were able to link the theory to their own experiences and learning. You can really see the depth in their learning by their ability to teach and inform others and in the work they have produced.” Another teacher stated that, “the mindset of the children in P6 is amazing and inspirational”. You can really see how much they have changed over the last few weeks.”
Another aim of the project was for the children to produce resources that would enable them to experience success when faced with challenge in the future. Through creating their own ‘learning pits’, the children had a concrete resource to refer to when faced with adversity (see Appendix 3).
To develop this project in the future:
For most of the project, it was possible to follow the timeline set out in the project plan. The baseline assessments were completed as proposed, but then the timetable had to be altered to accommodate a student teacher taking over the class and the class teacher being absent following a family bereavement. The growth mindset lessons took place three weeks after they were scheduled. However, some grace time allocated into the plan meant that the project was still completed on time, with minimal disruptions and at a suitable pace. The children were able to further develop their understanding each week and link this to their previous teaching.
A few changes were made following the project’s start date. This was to allow:
We also decided that they would deliver a ‘sharing the learning’ assembly to the whole school and their parents, rather than other individual classes. The class split into small groups to teach a different aspect of their learning, e.g., ‘changing their words to change their mindset’, ‘the learning pit’ and ‘the power of yet’.
The initial baseline assessment showed that all children already had a good level of growth mindset. So, we changed the project to following the learning journey of the whole class, rather than a select target group. The research instead wanted to see if the children’s growth mindset was in fact true or false. This would be demonstrated through their work during growth mindset lessons, their assembly and their results in the final questionnaire. We also wanted to see if the series of lessons and activities could further improve the children’s growth mindset.
Throughout this project, the teaching of growth mindset has altered significantly. The children have experienced a rounded and in-depth teaching of the theory and practices surrounding growth mindset. They have been able to see why this is beneficial for them now and throughout their life. The children were first taught about the difference between a growth and fixed mindset and the benefits of a growth mindset. They were introduced to key figures, who without a growth mindset, would have had a very different life. The author J. K. Rowling, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs, were used to show the true advantages of establishing a firm growth mindset, and to give their learning a real-life comparison. Parental feedback from the assembly showed that children were now persevering in the face of adversity:
“She doesn’t give up as easily now”
“She is definitely more positive and has a can-do attitude now.”
“He has carried on playing rugby despite finding it tough going for him.”
“She has gained confidence and has not been giving up when faced with challenging work.”
“She has become much more confident in her own abilities and had a bit more patience.”
Children have altered their attitude towards learning and their ability to view challenge and mistakes as key features in learning. One student when asked stated that, “to fail means first attempt in learning, and if you think of yourself being successful it will give you a boost and confidence to keep trying.” Upon hearing this strategy, another teacher commented that they would “remind themselves of their previous successes when they were faced with a challenge.” Another pupil said, “if we try hard enough, we can always improve.” When asked to alter the fixed mindset statement ‘this is too hard’ (see Appendix 6), a child who had been very reluctant to try during the problem-solving activities in the baseline assessments, said they would alter it to “this is too hard but at least I have a challenge.”
The children now have a bank of strategies to try when they are finding something challenging. By understanding that working the brain and increasing neural connections means that the muscle will get stronger, the children were able to link this to their own effort and improve their understanding. By using the ‘learning pit’ analogy, they can visualise how they can make changes. The children created their own learning pits (see Appendix 3) and discussed how it felt going into the pit, the strategies for overcoming obstacles, and how they would feel once successful. One parent commented that their child “tries to now think of different strategies instead of giving up.” Another child, who was very reluctant to undertake the baseline challenges, now states, “if we try, the impossible becomes possible.” After the assembly, the head teacher said he “liked all the ideas of how to get out of the pit- they are very useful for learners of all ages.”
Following the project, the children have been continuing to build on their growth mindset, and they will now add the word ‘yet’ when faced with a problem (see Appendix 7). This is something that was met with real positivity during the assembly and was thought to offer an effective yet simple strategy to implement. Feedback from parents stated,
“I love the ‘yet’ idea!”
“Good analogy to manage frustration of not achieving YET”
“To add ‘yet’ to the end of the sentence to try again later if I think a task is too hard.”
“I have learned that I will say I can’t do it… yet, when faced with a challenge.”
“To add ‘yet’ to everything I feel I can’t do.”
This project has definitely had an impact on the whole school. The ‘sharing the learning’ assembly had a filtering effect on the learning of all the children in the school. All classes were asked to give feedback following the assembly and to discuss how they felt their own understanding had been impacted. They all reacted in a positive way:
P6/7 said that it was “inspiring and made them really think about how they could use the learning strategies to help them in the future.”
P4/5 said that they “felt encouraged to now try new things” and now understand that “mistakes are good and that you should never give up.”
For P3, the assembly reminded them of their motivation puppets demonstrating links to other learning.
P5 understood that “you might not be ready to do something yet, but this shouldn’t stop you from giving it a go and that if you don’t try you will never achieve.”
The pre project assessments have been met with enthusiasm from the school staff. They are going to be used during the first term of a new school year, to enable the teacher to gauge where their children are in their growth mindset understanding. The 59% increase in growth mindset scores have been met with praise and has given the teaching staff a clear insight into the potential impact of this project. Teachers are keen to try to recreate the 74 % of children now having a strong growth mindset. They also noticed that the primary 6 children were having a positive impact on their younger siblings, giving them different suggestions to help them overcome a challenge. This was reiterated by parents too, with one saying that she heard her child discussing how to use growth mindset to overcome a hard maths question with their sibling.
The impact of the project may be quite minimal at present, but it is influencing the growth mindset education of the whole school. The aim is now to continue this through developing a whole school progression for the teaching of growth mindset, and to incorporate as many of the activities and teaching approaches used in the project as possible.
Below are a number of resources that were used to help measure the impact of our project:
Appendix 1: Baseline questionnaire
Appendix 2: Scoring sheet for assessments
Appendix 4: Pre project challenges to gauge class mindset and observations
Below are a range of activities that the children undertook to support their learning:
Appendix 3: Learning pits
Appendix 5: Growth mindset celebrity posters
Appendix 6: Alter your words to alter your mindset
The children shared their learning in an assembly with their peers, teaching staff and parents. The feedback received from all teaching colleagues and the head teacher was positive. They were very impressed with the depth of understanding that the children had gained. They felt that the children had established a strong and secure growth mindset and were able to demonstrate this in their explanations during their assembly and in their work. The teachers also noted that the P6 children were having a positive impact on their younger peers and siblings. The head teacher said “the children seem very clear in what is a fixed/growth mindset and how to demonstrate this. They are using this approach day to day.” One teacher particularly liked the ‘power of yet’ and intended to develop this idea with her own class. Colleagues were very encouraged by the impact of the project and were keen to follow the lessons and activities with their own classes in the new term.
There are plans to further develop growth mindset with the class and within the whole school. The head teacher has asked that the full project results are shared at the next staff development day. Suggestions for how the project could be replicated in other classes will be discussed. A growth mindset programme will then be created along with colleagues from different year groups, that will be age and stage appropriate. Progression will be reviewed, to ensure that the different elements of the lessons are covered across the school in depth.
The primary 6 class will also develop their growth mindset further, taking on the role of 'Growth Mindset Representatives' in the school. They will be encouraged to discuss their learning with other classes and create information packs with strategies to develop their mindset. This will include information about fixed vs. growth mindsets, ‘the learning pit’, the ‘power of yet’ and ‘changing their words to change their mindset’. The children will also work with the nursery pupils to develop their ‘not yet’ skills. They will go into the nursery on a regular basis to work 1-2-1 with a pupil in an area which is causing them challenge (e.g., writing their name, recognising numbers, tying their laces). This will allow the nursery children to begin their growth mindset learning early and build links with their primary 6 buddy before starting school.