This project aimed to remove the barriers for young people to fully engaging with education and allow them to increase their attainment, regardless of their background or circumstances. It sought to reduce the attainment gap through:
This required changes in the way that teachers and staff worked with young people, and in the language used to communicate expectations with these pupils. Initially, the project focused on two groups of S2 pupils, identified by Pupil Support.
One of the project aims was to equip learners with the skills to overcome challenges and not give up when they encounter difficulties. Progress has been made against this aim:
Overcoming these challenges will require more staff involvement and ensuring that they are also sharing and modelling growth mindset and metacognition strategies. Going forward, subject specialists would be best placed to support learners given their expertise in advising strategies that work in that subject.
The pre-questionnaire results showed that 65% of pupils in the target group believed that they could not change how clever they were. After the project, this showed a complete turnaround with 100% of pupils indicating that they strongly disagreed with this statement. This was repeated in the interviews, when they all stated emphatically that this was not true. This seems to support a move towards growth mindset and improved chances of attainment.
The timeline for the project had to be altered due to a serious sickness bug that passed through the school. The target groups were severely impacted, and sessions were delayed rather than have pupils miss input. The small target group allowed this flexibility. If this were to become a whole school programme, it is likely that content would have to be revisited periodically to overcome attendance issues.
It was originally planned that teachers would complete a questionnaire on observed changes to attitude, attainment and behaviour. Few questionnaire returns were received, probably due to a clash with the production of S3 reports. Teachers were instead directly questioned regarding the pupils that had exhibited the strongest fixed mindset characteristics at the outset of the project. Going forward, the preferred method would be to have teachers complete a questionnaire pre and post the project for all pupils involved.
This project has positively impacted my own practice and approach to learning. It has changed the way I communicate with classes and reinvigorated my teaching:
The evidence suggests that pupils have made progress in adopting a growth mindset. They have accepted that their actions and attitudes have an impact on their ability to succeed. Pupils can discuss strategies for overcoming challenges and talked confidently about approaches they could try. Work is still required to ensure that they are confident in applying strategies in areas of challenge. This will require careful input from more people in the school community.
A number of pupils in the target group saw little change from pre to post questionnaire. These were mostly pupils who already exhibited growth mindset characteristics in their responses but were included in the project partly due to attendance issues. There may have been a positive influence on their attendance, but this was not a measure identified for project evaluation. A further pupil exhibited very limited change from the pre to post questionnaire. They were resistant to the program throughout the sessions. This may be due to the dynamics in the class or that they did not view the lead teacher as a trusted person. Further intervention may be beneficial, however, careful consideration of how this should be approached is needed.
The primary evidence used in this project was a pupil feedback questionnaire used before and afterwards. This considered a range of indicators on attitudes to learning, school and teachers. Project evaluation concentrated on key questions, to manage the volume of data to be analysed. If repeated, the questionnaire would be amended to remove the “don’t know” option as this could offer a clearer insight into the changes in pupils.
The pupil interview was an aspect of evaluation that was rewarding as the young people were comfortable offering constructive criticism, it helped end the project on a positive note and allowed tailored discussion. The interviews made the pupils feel valued, that their opinion was important, and their feedback would drive improvements. One pupil indicated that gendered grouping might support girls to be more open in offering their thoughts.
The teacher feedback was the least successful part of the evaluation. This was largely due to inadequate preparation and forethought. Teachers should have been provided with a questionnaire prior to the project starting and again following completion. This would have allowed for the collection of data regarding all the pupils who were involved in the project and better assessment overall, rather than the higher tariff individuals whose behaviour presented difficulties. However, discussion did provide a wider understanding of the project and staff attitude to growth mindset which will be helpful in determining the best way forward.
Teaching staff have been very supportive of the project overall. Awareness across all staff will be improved at a whole school meeting in January, when the evidence can be presented showing the benefits of adopting a growth mindset approach. Staff who have been directly involved have been supportive of the aims and committed to providing effective feedback. They believe that the full benefits of this intervention may be seen in the longer term.
This project marks the first step in the whole school adoption of growth mindset. A working group is looking at the best way to share information with staff and support them in adopting growth mindset language and approaches to learning. There are two staff sessions planned to allow opportunities for staff involvement. In addition, growth mindset sessions will be used in S1 PSHE lessons, so that pupils are introduced to growth mindset early on. Monitoring will then determine if there is an increase in attainment for those groups as they move through the school. Further interventions are planned for the S2 cohort, rolling out the sessions to the rest of the year group over the coming year.
In the senior school, there will be a “Mindset for exams” workshop delivered following prelims in January. This is a year group who have been identified as underperforming in several key measures. The hope is that this initiative may allow them to move forwards in a positive, purposeful manner regardless of the prelim result.