The aim of our project was to build resilience within the classroom. Many children had a very fixed mindset and believed that they were not good enough to experience success. The covid pandemic had had an immense impact on children and their mindset. They easily gave up and often refused to do tasks as they did not want to fail. Carol Dweck is widely known for her work in this field. Through her research, she identified two mindsets, fixed mindset and growth mindset. A fixed mindset is “believing your qualities are carved in stone,” while a growth mindset is “the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts” (Dweck, 2006, pp. 6–7).
As a result of our project, we feel that the children managed to change their mindset. They now have a can do attitude and will try tasks that may be out of their comfort zone. Children began to understand how their brain developed and that gave them more confidence. Instead of seeing mistakes as failures, they understood that their brain was growing with these mistakes.
We were unable to stay within the timelines outlined in the project plan. On reflection, we should have started the project earlier. In the fourth term, we have lots of assessments which are very time consuming, and which must be marked and analysed. This term also has transition days for the new classes, and extra support in these transitions for children with additional support needs. All this meant that commencing the project in the last term was challenging.
Some changes had to be made to the project to overcome the resistance faced from other colleagues. Efforts were made to demonstrate the benefits of a growth mindset for the children. This shared goal of helping students did ease the challenge of culture change. The main obstacles faced were:
Understanding the nature of our intelligence can act as a real leveller in educational attainment. When young people realise that they can experience personal and academic success in their lives, this improves their life chances. Embracing challenge and being willing to learn from failure, also positively impacts our self-esteem. Such beliefs can help develop resilience and bounce back from failure.
Our plan was to embed growth mindset in the classroom and place it at the heart of educational recovery. We used peer feedback, peer learning, mindset challenges that tapped into the children’s interests and assessments to ensure that all learners received sufficient challenge. We used praise to encourage the children to think of the classroom as a safe space to get a question wrong, focusing on the students’ efforts, strategies, and choices. We encouraged the children to set realistic and suitably challenging goals and ensured any feedback they received was specific, kind, and helpful. This all aimed to develop learner’s resilience and understanding that criticism and perseverance are needed for success and to bounce back from failure.
Overall, we have seen improvements in the growth mindset and resilience of the class. The behaviour of one student, in particular, has improved. This pupil was prone to negative outbursts, which have decreased, and they have learned strategies to remain calmer. There is still scope for improvement with this pupil, and this will take more time. Everything we have learned during this growth mindset project will be embedded into all aspects of teaching going forward.
We have received mixed feedback from colleagues during the project. Other colleagues who were also on the Mindset course have been an excellent source of support. However, many support staff were very pessimistic and it was difficult to get them to use the same careful language with the children that we were adopting through the project. They perhaps undid some of the good work achieved by the project, with a fixed mindset about some of the children, commenting 'they will never change they will always be like that!' This has flagged the need to change the mindsets of the adults involved before we can fully hope to develop a growth mindset within the children.
We will certainly use growth mindset with the children from the start of the new term, embedding it into daily teaching. This will be supported by: