The key focus for the growth mindset project in our school was improving attainment, engagement and attendance within our class, and other classes who also participated in the project. The main aims were:
We aimed to do this through a series of lessons which focused on the structure of the brain and brain functions, training the children in mindful practice, celebrating mistakes, and understanding how to use them to move forward. We saw mindful practice as a way of supporting the children to build up their resilience, which we hoped would have a positive impact on engagement, motivation, and attainment. The project targeted the P4, P6 and P7 classes, each of which had a teacher who could implement growth mindset and mindfulness.
To achieve our desired outcomes, we split the delivery of our project into two sections. First, we implemented a series of growth mindset lessons, ensuring the children had sufficient background knowledge on how the brain functioned. We then delivered a series of mindfulness lessons, providing the children with strategies to help manage their feelings and emotions when dealing with difficult situations. Subsequently, the children participated in daily mindfulness practices, providing them with time out of their day to reflect and get into a good frame of mind for learning. We posed the question, ‘did regular mindfulness practices promote a growth mindset?’
We collected our results through various methods. These included a pre and post survey, pupil responses (post-it notes, posters, worksheets, and conversations), teacher observations and focus group interviews. This allowed us to gather evidence on whether the children in the class were more engaged, motivated, had a more positive attitude towards learning, and had greater resilience when faced with challenges.
At the beginning of the year, it was clear that the children had very limited strategies to help them deal with difficult tasks, with many responding when asked that they “don’t know any.” The mindfulness programme helped provide the children with coping strategies for dealing with difficult emotions across a range of situations. We hoped that the children could transfer these taught mindfulness strategies when dealing with challenging tasks throughout the curriculum. Unfortunately, when analysing the post-survey data, it was evident that many of the children did not link these taught mindfulness strategies to a growth mindset in relation to their learning. Evidence gathered from posters completed by the children and teacher observations throughout, did show, however, that the children could discuss their knowledge of the brain and could explain how mistakes help them learn.
Despite this mixed evidence, discussions with the children during the focus group interviews showed that mindfulness had a positive impact on the children’s attitude to learning. One child stated, “I feel I am getting on good with the mindfulness lessons… It has made a difference to my learning because I now sometimes stop and think when something is hard.” Another child stated, “It has made a difference to my learning because it makes me feel calm and focused on my work.” All children in the focus group stated that they would like to continue with mindfulness in the future, as it had benefits for their learning and their mindset.
Overall, following the project, the children were more engaged, had a more positive attitude to learning and were more willing to continue trying when they got a question wrong or failed at something for the first time. We believe that we achieved most of the desired outcomes of the project, although it is unclear if there has been a reduction in the attainment gap over such a short period.
If we repeated the project, we would set challenges which required the children to implement a focused mindfulness strategy, to better assess the potential impact of mindfulness on developing a growth mindset.
We were able to complete the project in the desired time. We set a target date to complete the first section of the project across all classes, and continued this approach throughout to ensure all members were at the same point. We managed to complete the first part of our project early, but different challenges slowed down progress thereafter. For example, it took longer for all staff members to complete parts of the mindfulness training and staff absences also added delays. A further challenge was children becoming familiar with the mindfulness lessons. They found it difficult at the beginning to relax, be calm and get into the ‘mindful zone’ in front of their peers. However, once the children were familiar and comfortable with the expectations of these sessions, most were willing to participate. By working as a team and supporting each other, we were able to overcome all the challenges faced.
We had to adapt our project in different ways to ensure we continued to stay on target. One of the team, our Mindset Leader, got a new job and thus changed schools. This made it harder to keep in touch and work together. After adjustments, we stuck to our timeline and were able to meet online regularly. Additionally, upon reflection, we realised the importance that parental involvement had when developing a growth mindset. Due to covid restrictions, communication with parents and carers was limited and many parents struggled to deliver and support mindfulness and a growth mindset at home. In future, we plan to hold information nights to help support parents better, which we believe would make it easier for children to transfer the skills taught in school at home with the support of parents.
Overall, we have noticed many changes with the children involved in the project. They enjoyed participating in the daily mindfulness practices and are now in the routine of doing so. This had a positive impact on behaviour and helped teachers to develop good relationships with the children. Children did find it difficult to relate the mindfulness strategies to development of a growth mindset, although a small number were able to apply them to tackling a challenging task.
We also saw improved wellbeing of staff and children more generally. There was a positive change in the classroom ethos and culture. Most children were more accepting of their mistakes and willing to talk about them - using them as a tool for learning rather than seeing it as failure. This had a positive effect on the children taking on challenges as they showed a greater level of resilience. As one girl stated, “My learning has changed because I don't give up as much when I find things tricky.” It is important to acknowledge that although most children have been positively impacted by the project and the mindfulness lessons, there are children who have not.
With staff also participating in the mindfulness course, there has been a positive impact on their own wellbeing and reduced levels of stress. One colleague stated, “Through engaging in the mindfulness programme, I feel that I have developed a compassionate mind which has soothed and inhibited my response to stress, particularly in school. Through engaging in the programme and training this year, I am now confident and understand how I can independently practise mindfulness throughout the day, particularly when I begin to feel that things are getting a little more stressful. I have noticed that I am far more emotionally intelligent and resilient which, in turn, has enhanced work productivity and success in work. Thank you for introducing this and putting staff wellbeing as a priority.”
Overall, the growth mindset project has helped make positive changes to some children’s motivation and attitude to learning. It would be hard to see the full impact of the project within such a short space of time. With continuous practice of mindfulness going forward and emphasis placed upon the strategies taught, we believe that the children would start to use these as a way of dealing with and managing challenging situations. We will seek further evidence in the future to establish the full impact of this project.
We collated evidence for the project through a variety of different methods including, pre and post surveys, focus group interviews, teacher observations, post-it note feedback from children, answers on worksheets and other written sources. Evaluation of this evidence shows that some children have benefited from mindfulness practice and are beginning to show some improvements in terms of their growth mindset and their attitude to challenge.
Please see below the growth mindset display we made in our classroom.
Examples of the responses we got to our growth mindset post interview are also shown below.
To help assess comprehension of growth mindset, the children completed questionnaires. Some examples of these are included below.
During the project, several colleagues worked closely together. One colleague, stated, “the children are responding well to the growth mindset programme and have shown great interest in learning about the brain and the impact that having a growth mindset can have. Children seem calmer and more engaged and can discuss strategies for maintaining a positive outlook. Some children can make a connection with the mindfulness programme that they have been participating in, however, not all children are able to see the links between both of these strategies just yet.” It is clear through discussions with colleagues that most children have enjoyed participating in the growth mindset lessons and the daily mindfulness sessions, but have found it difficult to use the newly taught mindfulness strategies outwith the sessions.
We would like to now roll this project out across the whole school and for a longer period. This would give us better evidence and more accurate results on the longer term impact. To achieve this, we would like to deliver training sessions to help inform and train other staff members to deliver the project within their own class. We want them to understand the correlation between mindfulness practice and developing a growth mindset. We also plan to incorporate any learnings from the project to support delivery of our School Improvement Plan and a growth mindset culture. And finally, to ensure that parents are on board, we would like to deliver information nights for parents on how to support their child to develop a growth mindset. This will ensure the approach to learning is consistent both at home and school.