The aim of the project was to embed a culture of “inspiring a love of learning” using growth mindset language. We wanted to make learning a positive and challenging experience for children to explore and express themselves. We wanted to create an environment that welcomed mistakes and supported the process of learning, not the product. It was important to support children to develop a love of learning and a growth mindset, setting them up well for future education.
Through the project our aim was to develop a team that implemented growth mindset language and strategies into their daily practice. Practitioner knowledge and confidence using growth mindset language was an identified first step, supplemented by developing the quality of written observations. We hoped that the children would also adopt a growth mindset approach and increase their resilience and curiosity during play and learning.
This small-scale project was manageable and provided some clear evidence of change in a short period of time. The timeline began with staff training through in-service CPD. All colleagues embraced the training and started to implement changes to their language immediately. This was monitored over a two-week period, and the data collected showed practitioners adjusting their language to promote effort and engagement with resources and peers. We saw evidence of growth mindset language being used and included in journal observations, as well as growth mindset interactions and attitudes. Data collected from the target group of children also showed an increase in resilience and perseverance during play.
If we were to repeat the project, we would run it over a longer period to help establish a correlation between growth mindset language and the impact on practice, interaction, and the children. We will continue to work on growth mindset and ensure that it becomes further embedded into our culture.
The timeline used allowed sufficient time to complete tasks and monitor the progress of the project. The initial training phase commenced as scheduled. However, the planned aspect of observing staff on the floor was delayed by three weeks, due to low staffing and operational issues for the setting. We needed to have high levels of staffing and good attendance of the target children, to make sure we had to enough opportunities to use growth mindset language. We achieved this by pushing the timeline out as necessary.
We had planned to monitor the use of growth mindset language between staff, but time pressures meant that this was not possible. This was a supplementary part of the project, to allow us to see how fully staff were embracing growth mindset when interacting adult to adult. This will be addressed in future growth mindset projects. Data collected did still give us a measure of how supportive staff were to each other, in developing and embedding growth mindset into our setting and practice.
The impact of the growth mindset project on staff was evident in the written observations of children. There was a marked improvement in the quality of written observations and an increase in the use of growth mindset language. Staff were recognising effort and achievement within children’s play and learning. These improvements in staff interactions with children were becoming embedded into daily practice. Staff also became more confident using growth mindset language. The only exception was statements which supported mistakes, which did not increase by as much as we would have liked.
Evidence from observations also showed that staff were praising effort and process, promoting language and labelling around perseverance and resilience, during their interactions with children. The least used language within written observations was around not being there yet, moving new learning from short to long term memory, and saying to children that they were ready for something more difficult or challenging. This could be due to a lack of staff confidence in those areas, and we will retain a focus here as we move forward.
The impact on children was observed within their day-to-day play and learning. Children were willing to try and explore resources freely. The pre and post confidence measures showed that two thirds of the target group of children were making strides towards developing a growth mindset, they were willing to try, to engage in challenging learning and to be more included in activities. The improvements were seen across the nursery floor which helped to create an ethos of “inspiring a love of learning” within the setting.
The evidence of impact can be seen in the pre and post measures from staff. Overall, this data showed an increase in staff knowledge of growth mindset, how to recognise growth mindset and confidence using growth mindset language. Observations of staff interactions with children, showed frequent use of growth mindset language, with “let’s keep practising” used most. This modelling by staff also had a clear impact on children’s motivation and engagement in play, with the children trying more, experimenting, and showing resilience during challenge. We also looked at the journals of the sample group of children. This showed an increase in growth mindset language written within quality observations. Staff were identifying changes in behaviour, such as children becoming more resilient and preserving during play and learning.
The sample group of children also had pre and post measurement scales completed. This indicated that two thirds of children had increased growth mindset within their play and learning. Overall, the data showed that across the nursery, improvements had been made with adults and children embracing growth mindset. This will help to create a supportive, inclusive, and thriving environment to play and learn.
We asked colleagues to respond to three questions to gather their feedback on the project, covering what staff have gained, whether their practice had changed and what the next steps were in their growth mindset journey. Of the 11 invited to complete the survey, seven responded.
All respondents agreed that the training had opened their mind to growth mindset and raised their awareness. They have all made changes to their practice due to the project, including praising effort and skills, changing the language used when talking to children, and encouraging children to think about what’s next. All responses indicated that colleagues wanted to continue researching, learning, and developing their own mindset skills, and then implementing this with the children. This is positive for our next growth mindset project.
We will continue to embed growth mindset into our practice, focusing on areas that require further development. We want to see greater use of growth mindset language in adult to adult interactions, perhaps drawing upon our buddy system for support. We will also focus upon making mistakes, and support staff to feel confident welcoming mistakes in the setting. These and other measures will be included in our nursery improvement plan, ensuring we truly embed growth mindset into our practice.