Back in June 2020, when I first started this growth mindset course, my vision and aim for the final project was completely different to my final aim and the aim I followed. In the end, the aim of my project was 'How does an active maths approach change mindset'.
This aim went back and forth with two other colleagues at my school who are also part of the growth mindset course.
We wanted something we could implement throughout all age and stages and finally found that this works best. As mentioned previously, we also wanted to develop and maintain a growth mindset culture throughout our whole school community and by focusing on something that could be applied in school and at home, we found that aim worked best for our learners.
Overall, we wanted to strip back the focus of completing textbook work. Previously, we have found that this itself puts children in a fixed mindset as they quite often compare the colour maths books they are working through and begin to question why others may be on a different colour/ level.
By focusing on an active maths approach, all pupils were challenging themselves and were provided with the opportunity to think and talk about problem solving with their peers without the pressure to complete textbook pages in the given time. It also allowed me to provide more immediate feedback to my pupils and was able to stop, differentiate and start lessons where needed and not at the end / the next day after marking workbooks.
Overall, I really do think I have achieved the aim of my project.
By implementing and applying an active maths approach within my class, I have seen a difference in the learning taking place in my classroom. I found the trick to embedding growth mindset values in the classroom is being a real-life example. Before, I was very much aware of fixed and growth mindsets but honestly, this was something that needed developed. I have found that since starting the course, being one of the most important adults in a child's life (outside their home environment), I could use this in my favour.
I started to show the children in my class my mistakes and errors and used these mistakes to show my own resilience, determination and positivity in the face of challenge.
As mentioned previously, by employing an active maths approach, this made the children in my environment feel at ease with their maths without the pressure of competing with their classmates or completing their maths booklets in the given time. I am extremely relieved that in the end, I went for this aim and continued with this approach. This aim was only decided, along with my two other co-workers, 2 weeks prior to starting the project and as stated, I am very glad we went for this. This aim was something that can work tremendously well with all age and stages and something we can continue to implement in years to come.
Two things I would change differently about the project would be the starting point. Although overall my project timeline was 10 weeks, and this did work for both myself and my pupils. I felt as though a lot more could have been achieved if the project was lengthier. By this, I mean the project could have went on for two consecutive school terms instead of one. This way I could have been able to have a more learning conversations with the pupils, swap around the activities / stations and chilli challenges more/less frequently where needed and overall, I would not have felt as must pressure to complete the active maths within the 10-week timeline.
Secondly, I would have changed in the term in which I chose to conduct the project. Term 4 is an extremely busy school term with SNSAs, testing, handover and finishing up as well as testing out a new maths approach. However, with this being said, it may have been because it was something brand new to get my head around. Now that I know what I am doing and what works best, it would not put me off completing this again in term 4.
With regards to the timeline, I was very stern with myself and made it a necessity to stick to the project timeline as close as possible.
I started the course and the units 1-3 throughout lockdown 2020 and managed to stay within the time limits and manage my time appropriately. As the project went on, I did find it difficult to stay on task, as well as trying to balance home and work life. I continued to work through the course throughout my non class contact time and at weekends. I myself, do not have family so found working on the project over the weekends best fit my lifestyle. I am a very organised individual and quite often make lists and schedules and like to stick to these carefully.
I did mention in my project plan that I would have liked to have completed the course before June 2021, however, this did not happen. I am still working through the course in July but have enjoyed the free time throughout summer to work on this. I think overall, I was successful in sticking to the timeline stated in my project plan and know I will have completed the course by July 2021.
As mentioned, the only small changes made to the project plan were the completion date and a small 2-week focus come the end of my 10-week project.
Initially my project was to span over the last term of school, this looking at a total of 10 weeks. During the last 2 weeks of term, I was unfortunately contacted by track and trace and had to self-isolate for 10 days. Although I continued to give lesson plans daily to the member of staff covering my 10 days isolation, I still felt as though I was at a loss with my project as it may have not been the delivery nor input, I would have gone for (I am very thankful for the member of staff covering me and I know they did a fantastic job).
For me, this final 2 weeks were very important as it was coming to the end of the project and I wanted to complete several questionnaires and learning conversations with my class based on the 10-week project. I also wanted to observe 5 pupils individually and as a small group to compare with my findings at the start of the project. Although this did not happen in the way I had hoped for, I did still manage to complete observations and learning conversations but at a rush and during the last 2 days of term, which I know would have been different if I had done this when planned. This is all part of learning.
The biggest change and achievement since completing the growth mindset project is in myself.
I now teach very differently from before and this is not in a negative nor have I changed my teaching approach drastically. In fact, it is just a small number of changes I have made and have still noticed a great difference. One in particular is my use of questioning. I found that it is important that the children within my setting do not feel as though I am looking for 'the right answer' or the 'correct answer' but instead, I want them to answer honestly, without regard of getting something right to please me. By children in my class answering honestly and openly, this allows others to feel at ease with getting things 'wrong'. As a class, we now work on this together and adapt one another's answers by my use of questioning. It may not be the answer I am looking for, but it sparks conversation between the pupils and shows a sense of openness.
Secondly, I chose to focus on five pupils in particular within my class. These pupils all of which have a very strong fixed mindset and quite often shut down when it comes to maths. Since the project, I have noticed great improvement in their confidence and attitude towards their learning. One girl in particular has shown huge development and is very keen to complete challenges independently, ask questions and generally show huge interest towards all areas of the curriculum. The classroom is now her safe zone where she is aware she can ask and answer questions without being judged by her peers. This continued throughout home learning where she constantly pushed herself to complete several chilli challenges, ask questions and push boundaries. At such a young age (6 years old), it was very easy for her attitude to drop after the novelty wore off. However, I am so proud of how far she has come and now she will keep this attitude up heading into primary 3. Her love for maths and other areas of the curriculum has grew and to watch this develop has been fantastic.
Lastly, the growth mindset project has helped me develop working more collegiately with my colleagues. This is something my school is very good at, and we pride ourselves getting on with one another extremely well and working as a team. However, it has helped me step out my comfort zone and speak with other colleagues on a topic I now feel enthusiastic to talk about. It has pulled both myself and the other two learners on the mindset course from my school together and discuss projects and questions and how we planned to implement a growth mindset / active maths approach across 2 different years groups (primary 2 and primary 5). Recently, we also conducted a whole school meeting where we were confident and assured to speak about applying growth mindset across the whole school community, helping other staff feel confident in this area and overall, the impact our project has had on our learners. Group speaking is something I have definitely improved on since the growth mindset program.
Apart from the evidence and impact the growth mindset course has had on the pupils in my class (and the two Primary 5 classes). We are yet to see the impact the growth mindset course has had throughout the whole school. This mainly due to COVID-19 and busy schedules. However, we are making this a priority for the new school year come August 2021.
With regards to my growth mindset project, my stage partner often gave a review on activities we were completing and was great for advice and feedback. She has recently completed a Making Thinking Visible course, so this went hand in hand with an active maths approach in that the children had to use their thinking skills to complete several activities and games without judgement from others. Through feedback from my stage partner, we decided to move onto 'chilli challenge' activities, where she explained that pupils can move through a set of learning tasks at their own pace with a common end goal. The design of these tasks is to be flexible enough to help children continually reflect and aim higher.
I also made a folder on our school one drive with readings for my colleagues to familiarise themselves with the growth mindset course. My primary 4 colleague suggested in stead of pages and pages of reading, it would maybe be less time consuming to point directly in the right direction, she also suggested showing photographs, concrete material and lessons that have worked with my pupils. As we head into a new school year, this is something I am trying to create and make accessible for my co-workers.
By the end of the project, we hope to see the start of shifting characteristics and traits within my previous class (those I completed the project with) when it comes to 'failure' and / or getting things wrong. I then hope to continue more active maths/ chilli challenges with my new class. This is the start of small steps towards implementing a growth mindset within my school. In the years to come, I will continue to be self- reflective and be self- aware from the start and continue to teach more active maths to allow children to engage at their own pace and open their dialogue when talking with their peers. Throughout the school, I will continue to share resources with other members of staff and be of help and encouragement if need be. By this, I will add readings and PowerPoints to the school One Drive and offer to hold school meetings for a refresh. I would also like to hold small meetings with parents to extend this to the whole school community, especially on why it is important to let children struggle. I know some parents will find this a challenge but the benefits and the lead to growth (of what I have witnessed in class) has been very valuable.