The aim of this research was to investigate if building pupil’s awareness of growth mindset improved their understanding, engagement and confidence in lessons. The project had a good fit with national priorities and the school’s focus on supporting hard work over talent. It was hoped that the project would deliver increased resilience or less fear around trying new things for the pupils involved, and greater understanding of the benefits of growth mindset for the whole school community. The project was carried out with second year pupils in two seven-week blocks. The pupils took part in:
The main issues that arose with the research centred on timing constraints and a lack of consistent teaching in other classes. We also never anticipated that some pupils were already engaging well with growth mindset and were not as apprehensive about Drama as we might have expected. Further, as this project focused specifically on teaching practice, the results could not be generalised, but did improve our understanding of how pupils critically engage with growth mindset.
The project did help address a key component of Curriculum for Excellence which asks pupils to own their own learning. Some improvements were made in this area, and pupils also saw increased confidence and understanding of the positive impact of a growth mindset. Without constant focus though, this benefit might diminish as the impact was only seen in one class out of eight. Going forward, it would be important to consistently embed growth mindset across all classroom teaching, allowing pupils to apply it in all areas of their studies and life.
Due to class changes, the timescale needed to be adapted and work ended up being carried out closer to the final deadline than hoped. However, by splitting the research into two blocks, we were able to compare results, reflect throughout and write-up the findings in stages. Whilst this did limit time for development and implementation, there was still time to carry out a scaled back version of the project and it helped to maintain a focus on the timelines required. Towards the end of the second phase of the project (November), the intensity of the school timetable and staff workload increased, but the research was still able to be completed within the final timeline.
Initially, the intention was to carry out the research with senior pupils who spend a larger amount of time in the department. However, timetable considerations at the initial planning stages meant that we had to change our focus to junior classes instead. Other than having to adapt the timeline due to class changes, very little else had to change. We did have to be flexible with the staff who could come and observe lessons, but this was expected and catered for in our plan. In future, it would be good to carry out the project with senior pupils to see if age/stage has an impact on pupil mindset. Overall, I think the project has established a blueprint for future projects of this nature and could look at mindset with seniors and perhaps even staff.
Overall, the findings suggest that while pupils had a better initial understanding of growth mindset than anticipated, allowing them to discuss it as a class and be constantly reflective did have a positive impact on both understanding and engagement in lessons. Behaviour across all pupils improved significantly in the later lessons and this is linked to an increased sense of ownership over their own learning and openness in their approach to tasks. These findings were backed up by all members off staff in discussions following observations. As pupils were more engaged, they sought to support each other and had more confidence in their ability to complete tasks. Despite some of the challenges faced, the project had a positive influence on pupil’s engagement with and understanding of growth mindset.
The exit passes showed that in the early lessons, five pupils “weren’t sure” or said “I don’t know” when asked about their mindset. Others did focus on the idea of mindset, but often didn’t use the correct language or back-up reasoning. In the later lessons, a much more thorough link to mindset and clearer pupil reasoning was evidenced. For ten pupils, their statements used the words “growth” and/or “open” in relation to their mindset (as per class discussions). No exit passes saw pupils express that they didn’t know or weren’t sure what their mindset was. And seven exit passes all had a well thought through statement which linked feedback given in the lesson, to how they would develop their learning next time. Overall, exit passes proved a valuable tool for analysing and evidencing the developing understanding of growth mindset for pupils during their Drama lessons. The research also shows the impact of pupil autonomy and how this can add value to growth mindset approaches.
The project was assessed further using observations and evaluations from observing staff and the researcher after each lesson. This also showed a marked improvement in pupil behaviour and engagement in the later lessons. Staff noticed the increased level of contribution from pupils, especially in contrast to their own experience in other subject lessons. This was a nice way to affirm the staff influence on the pupils. It was good to hear those observing, remark that they had also “noticed a clearer engagement with growth mindset” in the later lessons.
There were gaps and flaws in the research relating to researcher understanding of objectivity and misjudgement about pupil’s initial level of understanding of growth mindset. However, the project did offer up some good insights. Whilst the quantitative results (show of hands from pupils and completed questionnaires) only illustrated a slight improvement in understanding of growth mindset the increase in qualitative data (exit passes and comments in discussions) suggested a stronger link had been made with growth mindset. This is what the project had set out to improve. The wording of the questions in the questionnaire and the pupil’s desire to be supportive, might have swayed pupils into giving a positive response without the need to elaborate too much further, which could explain why the quantitative results were not as strong.
The responses in the exit passes and end of lesson plenaries/discussions were less skewed by this need to be positive, as they were anonymous and allowed pupil voice to take precedent. They provided clear tangible evidence for improvements in understanding of growth mindset. They also helped improve understanding of how growth mindset could be used in the classroom and how to improve pupils’ ownership of their own learning. The class discussions helped pupils evaluate their own mindset, express their feelings on lessons and their delivery and could be used to inform future teaching practices. Encouraging exploration of mindset for pupils and staff is something which was hopefully achieved through this research project, and will support a focus on the strengths and needs of each individual pupil.
The questionnaire below was used to evaluate understanding of growth mindset with the S2 pupils involved in the project.
Feedback was gathered throughout the project from informal discussions, during lessons, departmental meetings, meetings with depute links and the school’s growth mindset group. In the beginning, this feedback helped identify necessary tweaks to the research and the timeline. It also allowed ideas to be bounced off other staff and to discuss pupil feedback. Overall, staff were very open and engaged in providing observations, with many of them already having a vested interest in the development of growth mindset. The feedback, whilst critical at times, allowed the research to be adapted, was positive overall and allowed for findings to be triangulated by using staff discussions to consolidate the researchers and pupils’ views.
The next steps will be to share the research with colleagues across the school in training and in-service day presentations, with pupils assisting. Strong links will need to be built with the existing growth mindset working group. This will allow activities to be planned that are consistent with events already in the school calendar. Through links with the PTA, we hope to share the research and pupils experience with the wider school community. Going forward, the intention is to further our understanding of growth mindset and its everyday use, for the benefit of staff and pupils alike. This will be a much longer journey if we are to have a significant and sustained impact across the school.