The project vision was to develop growth mindset within our S1 class, with a particular focus on integrating daily learner or performance zones into lessons. The goal was to raise attainment, build resilience, and improve pupil health and wellbeing. These aims supported the Scottish government’s drive to ‘Build Back Better’ after the Covid pandemic and evidence of its significant impact on young people’s wellbeing. We felt that we had a professional responsibility to adapt our teaching practices during these unprecedented times, and growth mindset was seen as an innovative approach that would support pupils.
We had a growth mindset team at our school who worked together to brainstorm potential ideas for the project, delivery methods and measures of analysis. We decided to target resilience via the inclusion of learner versus performance zones in lessons. We believed it was first essential that pupils understood the concept of growth versus fixed mindset and introduced this into lessons. By the end of the project, a survey revealed that 94% of pupils believed they had a growth mindset and that they could improve upon their mistakes. This was evident in the class itself, with some of the shyer pupils starting to offer answers in front of the class.
Next, we introduced the ‘learning intention and success criteria’ template at the beginning and end of lessons, to make their learning journey clear to pupils. Additionally, throughout lessons, we used selective growth mindset language that highlighted that mistakes are a vital part of the learning process and that teachers see these as opportunities for learning. This helped pupils develop confidence when answering out in class and to focus on the process instead of the outcomes. We also used classwork tasks which promoted learner growth, such as correct the errors, show me boards to highlight mistakes, peer comparison of show me boards and introduction of S2 work to promote challenge. It was clear via formative assessment that pupils were working better individually, more at ease answering out in class, and better able to identify their own errors. Prior to the project, 56% of pupils said they felt confident answering out in class (on the French module), and this rose to 94% after the project (for the Spanish module). We celebrated their improvements using the school merits system, which had a clear impact of pupil motivation to learn from their mistakes.
Upon completion of both the French and Spanish modules, we analysed test scores across writing and speaking assessments. For the speaking assessment, 74% of pupils passed the French module, rising to 96% for the Spanish module (with those achieving an A rising from 61% to 71%). In the writing exam, 77% of pupils passed in French, but this rose to 95% for the Spanish module (with those achieving an A rising from 36% to 56%). This data clearly reflected the learner journey of the pupils and showed a strong improvement in attainment thanks, in part, to the project, albeit it is hard to compare scores across the different languages. If we were to repeat the project, we would use the exact same survey questions at the start and end of the project. This would allow more robust comparison of pre and post data.
The project took place as the pupils moved onto their S1 Spanish module between October and December. This gave sufficient time for pupils to develop their growth mindset learning approaches within modern languages. The timescale for the project had to be slightly altered due to unforeseen staffing changes, and one day of industrial action, but these did not impact the project. During the final week of term, we conducted learner conversations, issued feedback one to one, and were able to compare data from the French and Spanish modules.
The intention was to incorporate growth mindset learning intentions and success criteria into everyday lessons and use growth mindset language. As the project developed, we felt it necessary to incorporate more growth mindset visuals into lessons and focus on mistakes as a means of growth. We included growth mindset symbols across all the lesson content to continually remind pupils of lesson aims. We created a growth mindset wall display during the project, highlighting the difference between learner versus performance zones and inspirational quotes, and referred to this during lessons. Also, taking insight from our formative assessment strategies, we introduced a daily ‘correct your errors from last day’ task, to further highlight to pupils that mistakes are opportunities for growth. This really pushed pupils to embrace the learner zone and, in turn, boosted their confidence within the subject.
Overall, the project was successful in terms of supporting pupil’s health and wellbeing and attainment. This conclusion draws upon evidence from our survey analysis undertaken pre and post project, carefully selected core tasks and specific formative assessment strategies (e.g., peer and self-assessment, think/pair/share). The latter revealed that pupils were beginning to critically analyse their errors without as much teacher support. We included a ‘no questions zone’ whilst pupils were correcting their errors, where they worked individually with resource materials to help themselves. This helped pupils to build resilience by encouraging problem-solving on their own. Furthermore, incorporating additional peer assessment tasks into lessons, following a more conducive seating plan, helped pupils to grow in confidence and flourish. Many shy pupils were beginning to answer out more and those who had previously handed in homework tasks late, were now doing so on time. Pupils also became better able to receive feedback and more resilient overall.
It is importance to note that other factors could also have influenced the project outcomes and pupil attainment, such as:
Whilst several factors could have attributed to the outcomes of the project, we believe it had a positive impact on pupil’s attainment, as well as their health and wellbeing. Firstly, (as noted above) there was a significant increase in assessment scores for speaking and writing post project. This data clearly reflected the learner journey and showed a strong improvement in attainment, albeit the comparison of different languages could have impacted the overall statistics.
Pupils in the class also had improved health and wellbeing because of the project. Pupil behaviour showed a clear boost in confidence, as many of the shyer pupils started to answer out more often. We believe this was due to the carefully selected growth mindset tasks, language and the daily implementation of growth mindset learning intention and success criteria. One to one learner conversations backed this up. Most pupils stated that they felt much more comfortable answering out in front of their peers as, “it’s okay to make mistakes.” They said the growth mindset culture created in class made them confident, “because you said it’s okay to make mistakes in the learner zone as we can use our mistakes to improve.”
It is also important to note the impact of this project upon teaching practice. The responsibility of teachers to embrace the principles of GIRFEC and SHANARRI, mean that this is a particularly important time to introduce growth mindset into our classrooms. We plan to continue to embrace this by incorporating learner versus performance zones across all lessons in the future.
This PowerPoint shows how we introduced growth mindset learning intentions and success criteria into our Spanish lessons.
Overall, the feedback from our Principal Teacher, Head Teacher, fellow colleagues, parents, and wider stakeholders, has been immensely positive. We shared the project results with the department and decided to retain the growth mindset practices used in the project, to help tackle anxiety around talking exams across all year groups. The implementation of learner versus performance zones will be a key priority for the department, and this will be reflected in the Departmental Improvement Plan. With regards to the whole school, the Senior Leadership Team and fellow colleagues have also welcomed growth mindset. We ran an In-service training session to introduce all staff to growth mindset concepts and practices and get them to think about their own mindset. We also designed growth mindset practices and tools for use in the classroom which all colleagues who were surveyed planned to adopt.
Our growth mindset group ran a health and wellbeing workshop, specifically on growth mindset, for parents/guardians. Throughout this workshop, we challenged parents on their own mindsets and gave advice on how they could best support their children to develop growth mindsets. Feedback in person from parents was overwhelmingly positive and it was clear that parents were in full support of the concept.
There are multiple activities planned to ensure that growth mindset becomes embedded in the ethos and culture of our school. After the findings of the project were shared within our department, we plan to introduce learner versus performance zones in every class for the rest of this academic year and into the next. Growth mindset has been identified as part of our Departmental and School Improvement Plans, and work on this will be led by our collegiate working group. This began with an In-service day on the concept of growth mindset itself, as well as analysis of project research and findings. As we move into next term, staff will be undertaking lesson observations and one area of focus here will be offering feedback on how growth mindset was incorporated into lessons. The aim will be to ensure an impact on learners’ achievements and fully embed a growth mindset culture across the school.