The project's aim was to increase the motivation and participation of every child, providing them with an inclusive learning opportunity, particularly developing a mind-set that will help close the gap for those living in poverty - children living in Decile 1 and 2. It was aimed to enhance the development of curious, brave, resilient and motivated learners - who are ready for the real, working world and throughout adulthood.
The aim of the project was a success for the majority. Those who were identified and tracked as risk of underachieving are now currently on track, at their own level, discussed with management in the most recent tracking meeting (December). The children have increased their participation, engagement and opt for challenge on a daily basis, this is highlighted through longer discussions during maths lessons and Numbertalk sessions, most children now opt for the challenge questions and the ‘tricky’ (less difficult task) is the one that goes untouched on a daily basis. Furthermore, there are less walk outs during the maths lesson itself. On average there would be around three per lesson, all triggered by viewing the work as too difficult, this lessened to one walk out around every third lesson by the same pupil who struggled to apply growth mind-set more than others. Maths groups have had to be amended as a result and instead of planning for ability, fluid grouping has allowed opportunities to plan for potential.
Furthermore, the readiness to ask for and opt for challenge is at its optimum. Discussion around mistakes happened naturally as the children didn’t need to be prompted or questioned to dig deeper into the learning process but did this independently with coherence of thought, peer support and learning from each other has increased massively. It now occurs organically and isn’t forced and no longer requires a set time to ensure it happens within the lesson , it is now an integral part of a maths lesson and although the children don’t evidence everything on paper the observation of discussion shows the value of their learning. The children are responsive to their own learning process and can seek help when necessary. As an educator, I am now more able to allow leadership in learning, observe and take note rather than lead and focus the discussion to assess understanding, which was the most frequent and effective way of hearing from the children before.
However, Growth Mind-set has not been an approach that has positively impacted on every child. One individual in particular still shows little to no resilience, walks out when something is incorrect and giving up is his default decision. A fixed mind-set still remains and has been challenging to change. In hindsight children could have been given the background of Growth Mind-set (as conducted), generally looked at and participated in activities to develop an understanding of the meaning, goals and impact Growth Mind-set can have. When awareness and the language was embedded, for some children, jumping from that point to Numeracy was too much of a transition. The individual in particular, and others, would have benefited from a holistic approach and possible health and wellbeing targets could have been used to apply growth mind-set at more of a personal level to result in them experiencing the success individually before it was applied to the curriculum. Therefore, until some health and wellbeing needs were met with emotional regulation and the opportunity to apply Growth Mind-set in a context meaningful to them, it wasn’t ideal to move immediately onto Numeracy. This could have helped with the project – having more of an impact on everyone.
Those who were tracked as underachieving, in decile 1 and 2 are still underachieving, the progress is prevalent and positive changes have been identified in attitude overall, although measuring the impact on attainment will need a longer timescale and this is something that can be reviewed independently.
The project was to take place at a time with little disruption in the first term of a new school year. This was successful as it allowed Growth Mind-set to be embedded and appreciated as being a part of P7 learning, in numeracy and across the curriculum. It was associated with being in the upper classes and allowed children to learn a new concept, with a new teacher, in a new environment. Therefore, it was readily accepted and the children embraced it with their full engagement. It is easier to introduce something when it can be at a whole class level, at the beginning of a fresh start, where it is quicker to be viewed as part of the normal class culture, with consistent language and enthusiasm as time progressed.
It was originally thought to be a longer project, around 6 months however due to the nature and timing of the project (submission deadlines) the project was scheduled to run 4 months, from the beginning of September until December – still a sufficient period of time and with hindsight could have been more realistic and manageable, rather than going into a new term before evaluating, with a longer holiday causing interruptions.
The most that was changed was the timescale of the project, by shortening it from 6 months to 4 months, to ensure the deadlines for project submission were achievable. This hasn’t had any negative impact on the project’s success and has in fact been a sufficient amount of time to complete the goal. The target group of children, was specifically those who may experience socio-economic barriers to success and they would be identified using the decile system alongside the school’s tracking data. However, there was a child, whom doesn’t experience living in poverty but has a negative outlook on education and learning. It was evident through ongoing assessment, learning conversations and observing the pupil in everyday situations, that the particular pupil was being hindered by attitude, a lack of self-belief and confidence. The potential impact the project could have on the child meant they were added to the target group, as an expectation. Furthermore, the idea of an assembly to launch the project was changed to being an activity that would take place after all the growth mind-set learning had been established at a class level, with increased awareness, knowledge and relatability before introducing it all to the whole school.
The growth mind-set project has influenced positive changes and has met most expectations, to an extent. The children whom were targeted, living in decile 1 and 2, at risk of underachieving (30%), in the most recent tracking meeting are now on track. However, some are on track at their own level of potential/ability and not all are meeting the national average or achieving their level for age and stage (2nd Level). It can be concluded that although all are on track to achieve their working level, only (30% of them) are on track for achieving second level in Numeracy which is less than half actually attaining where they are hoped to be, thus 70% of the specific group are still underachieving. This change has been a result of pupils seeking challenge and enrichment, whilst asking for help when they need it, all notable traits of a growth mind-set application. Growth mind-set was initially thought to be an initiative that could contribute to closing the poverty gap, hence the selected target group in this current project. However, the pupils whom were identified as already underachieving are still underachieving (40% of the whole target group). Although, attitudes in numeracy are more hopeful, it cannot be the only bridge to success, the opportunity to apply the transferable attitude across the curriculum is critical and the learning process should be celebrated with less of an emphasis on only the end product. It is of paramount importance, that all achievements are celebrated, that each individual target is realistic, and effort must always be recognised with specific praise to encourage perseverance in learning. Furthermore, it would only be one of many necessary interventions to ensure every child is experiencing equity in education.
Some children in their last year of primary school default to a fixed mind set, as this has been an existing attitude for most of their time in education. It has been a barrier for one individual and even with frequent encouragement from teachers and peers it has not been a huge success in shifting their outlook in numeracy. Therefore, not everyone is able to successfully apply a growth mindset and it has not been a complete success for everyone.
On the other hand, self-confidence is on the rise for most participants, children view themselves as independent thinkers, resulting in increased engagement within numeracy lessons (average hand up to answer a question before growth mind-set was 3 and post project it has risen to 10 – 41% pupil contribution), particularly in Numbertalks. A positive observation was that of associated shame, when something is answered incorrectly, or taking a longer duration of time to reach an answer, is now abolished. As mentioned, children use their mistakes as learning opportunities, discuss ideas and strategies with each other and demonstrations of effective use of peer praise and encouragement is frequent. Failure is no longer feared, demonstrated through the acceptance of challenge and attempting new learning with a more positive outlook. Learning is highlighted as a process, taking account of the success criteria in which children contribute to creating, rather than a sole focus of just the answer or the product of a task. The classroom ethos has improved, and intelligence as a whole is no longer viewed as being set, predetermined and invariable, before the project using a pre mindset questionnaire 100% of the class felt intelligence was set and now 83% feel that intelligence is not fixed. This is a massive shift in attitude.
Overall, growth mind-set is one of many initiatives that could help raise the attainment of individuals, but it will not solve the issue in isolation. It has encouraged children to view themselves as independent thinkers and successful learners, whom can take ownership of their own attitude and challenge. Although, it is not an attitude that everyone will adopt with ease and some many need further encouragement to apply growth mind-set, patience and perseverance is key.
The children participated in pre and post surveys as part of the project. It is evident that the first misconception of intelligence being fixed, you’re either good or bad at something, has changed for the better. The results of a pupil questionnaire confirmed 100% of the focus group felt intelligence was unchangeable before they developed a growth mind-set but now the opinion of intelligence something you can improve with effort and time, is the view of 83% of the targeted children. These were measured pre and post the implementation of the initiative, done so in test conditions to ensure an open, honest and unbiased completion of the questions.
Some children before the project, were observed for five minutes each during a standard maths lesson. Most children scored from low to moderate for wellbeing and involvement. The Leuven scale has indicated that children have a the lack of confidence in approaching a mathematical activity, angry outbursts were regular, an associated dislike and negative attitude to maths was prevalent and children were keen to give up. Furthermore, challenge was not readily sought out by most and two pupils disengaged within the five minute observation. The focus children were watched during a new maths concept test, at different times. This was a relevant time as new learning is a challenge, it requires resilience and self-belief that they will learn it in time and currently it was okay to be wrong. On observation, only one child was observed to categorise as moderate and the rest scored from low to extremely low. It was recognised through the rapid disengagement, lack of motivation, futtering and stalling the test, daydreaming, lack of expression, mostly omitted answers, completing the test within minutes to get it over with and at times angry outburst occurred in the form of leaving the class and throwing writing materials. As the project continued the children were observed throughout. At the end of the project, all children scored from moderate to high with an increased resilience, cooperation with each other, whilst remaining on task, again on a new concept learning task, and a general enjoyment when approaching the number task was present. All children, expect one attempted every question, not all correctly but the effort was made. One child in the target group remained on moderate as there was no longer violent outbursts but they refused to complete all questions and finished in the quickest time with facial expressions displaying displeasure and annoyance. However, this was progress from low and therefore it is still an identified positive impact.
Some colleagues felt that the children could have had more involvement in the raising awareness of growth mind-set in each classroom rather than the educator informing other teachers to conduct growth mind-set in their own classroom. Pupil leadership could have been extended to not only the assembly but the teaching of phrases and thinking from the infant classes throughout the school.
One colleague didn’t particularly agree with the concept of growth mind-set and the advantages it can have within learning and attainment. Their opinion was that children’s attitudes are a product of their home environment and that it would be too difficult to overcome with education without parental engagement and changing the attitudes of their parents or carers. Although, tracking within the class, there are noted children who live in decile one and two, living in poverty, who successfully achieve and attain without the same level of parental involvement as some of their peers. However, making a home-school link was a particular challenge in the project as parental engagement was particularly low in the surveys issued.
The next steps are to organise ‘Growth Mind-set Ambassadors’ in which different children will lead the learning and teaching of sharing and setting goals with children in other classes. They will assist teachers in circle times to share the language, outlook and the differences between growth and fixed mind-set. The children will also form a council to ensure a pupil voice in the expansion of growth mind-set across the school and to parents.
A parental workshop will occur, during school hours, to allow children the opportunity to attend with myself to educate parents on the concept. Furthermore, it will come after the introductory launch assembly in which parents are invited to. The workshop is to allow parents to work with their children in problem solving activities, to share opportunities to encourage perseverance, to ask questions and learn from each other, make mistakes and where adults are informed about the importance of the learning process, rather than product and gain an insight into the approaches that are used in their child’s class.