The aim of the project was to use growth mindset to encourage pupils to participate more in challenging aspects of their learning, within a Support for Learning (SfL) class. We wanted the pupils to understand the background to how we learn and why challenge is so important. We began with sending an anonymous questionnaire to teachers and staff involved with the class. We asked them what they knew about growth mindset and fixed mindset, what their beliefs were relating to it, and their opinions on engagement and motivation within the SfL classroom. All staff showed willingness to undertake the project and the views sometimes held around pupils “giving up easily” and “accepting failure,” showed scope for the project to help improve this.
Initially, we were optimistic about the project and giving ownership to pupils over the phrases we would use and thinking about their own growth mindset. Another programme was being introduced to the school at the same time and senior managers were concerned that it might be counter-productive to introduce another set of phrasing through this. This delayed the project and limited the time available for explaining the premise to pupils and allowing them to devise their own phrases. But we did manage to identify growth mindset concepts that pupils felt confident with.
When introducing the concept of growth mindset, the pupils initially rejected the idea as “not that easy.” But they soon managed to relate it to their work. As time went on, the pupils demonstrated a keenness to complete work, asking more questions, and wanting to challenge themselves, when we had specifically discussed growth mindset prior to the lesson. During times when growth mindset hadn’t been discussed, the engagement levels varied just as they had prior to the beginning the project. Whilst this was disappointing, it did demonstrate the importance of discussing and revisiting growth mindset more regularly with the pupils than we hand planned for in the project. If we were to repeat the project, we would address this.
Overall, due to time commitments and lack of engagement from extended leadership, we do not feel that we met the aims of the project. It was also always going to be hard to make an impact in the time we had, because the pupils involved needed frequent revisiting of the concepts of growth mindset to achieve any significant change in behaviours and engagement. On reflection, this should have been considered, due to recall challenges that some pupils within support for learning have.
Originally, we had planned to begin the project after the Easter holiday. This was delayed due to challenges getting the extended leadership on board. This changed the timeline and the project commenced later, limiting the amount of time the project ran for and the time available to instil the key phrases and concepts. Further, staffing changes meant that project could not be extended and the ability to measure impacts was limited.
Originally, the intention was for pupils to pick phrases relating to growth mindset that related to them, and they felt they understood. This was intended to make the project more meaningful to the pupils and give them ownership. This failed to take full account of the challenges pupils faced expressing themselves and with reading and literacy levels. As such, it was difficult to get clear responses from pupils and for them to think up phrases themselves. We decided instead to produce a selection of phrases for pupils to pick from, but that still made sense to them.
When beginning the project, baseline assessments were done to determine what sort of mindset pupils in class had. This was then repeated prior to the project ending, which was a lot sooner than expected. The results, unsurprisingly, showed little change in mindsets, although one person did show a shift towards a more growth mindset.
One pupil showed an increase in engagement and began to challenge themselves more. This was particularly evident after discussions about how we learn, what growth mindset is, how it benefits us and what we can do to improve our own mindset. After seeing a BBC Learn clip, he asked if he could have a go at more challenging questions in class. This behaviour change was also evident in other classes, with their literacy teacher reporting that engagement had improved. The pupil’s score on the mindset questionnaire also increased, moving towards a growth mindset. Whether this was purely due to the discussions around learning and growth mindset was difficult to ascertain, as the pupil had other inputs from outside of school.
One area which has changed is teaching practice. We have greater awareness of growth mindset and are reflecting on how to bring this into practice personally, in teaching and into other classes. We encourage pupils to embrace challenge, and with supported classes, ensure that the pupils are still being appropriately challenged. This has shown increasingly positive results from classes.
When thinking about the project, we felt that a SfL class would be ideal to focus on. As such, we asked the pupils in the class the following questions:
Out of the five pupils, three had not heard of growth mindset before and two thought that you didn't always need to get things right. Most agreed that failure is a good thing and were unsure about intelligence. This showed scope to educate pupils in growth mindset, as there was a gap where pupils didn't understand or hadn’t been introduced to the concept. When asked again at the end of the project, most pupils said they "kind of" knew what growth mindset was and agreed that failure was a good thing. This showed some progress in understanding the concepts of growth mindset, albeit more time would be required to improve upon this.
Baseline questionnaires were also used to assess the mindset of the pupils. Most scored 4, which showed they were moving towards a growth mindset, whilst one pupil (SS) scored 3. These questionnaires were then repeated at the end of the project, where the pupil SS improved his score to 4.5.
In addition, a presentation was created for consideration by senior leadership, with information on growth mindset and the background research for the project.
At the end of the project, the pupil questionnaires were completed again, to monitor for any changes in mindset.
When asking colleagues for feedback on the project, we asked specifically about certain areas, using the following questions:
The feedback on the leaflet produced was good, with staff stating, "it is very informative" and that they "learned new things about growth mindset.” They felt it "simplified what growth mindset is and how it helps, especially in a school setting". Staff felt able to encourage pupils to embrace a growth mindset, and felt the flyer covered what was needed.
The members of staff said they did notice a change in engagement, however, it was very dependent on what staff member was present, and felt it was more down to consistency and strategies being in place rather than the growth mindset project. They felt some pupils were more willing to challenge themselves, but many still resorted to saying they couldn't do the task set and noticed that some staff members didn’t let the pupils try things. In relation to SS, a dramatic improvement in engagement was noticed, however, again this was seen as being dependent on staff.
Overall, the feedback from staff highlighted that the information provided to them was of a good standard, however, it was very difficult to ascribe any slight changes in pupils to the project.
There are no plans to continue the project in the current school due to staff changes. However, all the selected phrases and information built up will be retained in the school. The main concepts from growth mindset will remain part of teaching practice, using the choice of phrases relating to pupils as an initial ‘getting to know you’ activity with future classes and to set expectations. We will also use the ‘learning how we learn’ elements of the project to encourage use of concrete materials, as well as increasing confidence and engagement for pupils in their work.