The aim of the project was to try and promote and encourage a growth mindset in the classroom by focusing on feedback and overall communication. We wanted children to be able to use feedback independently to create next steps and be secure enough to discuss their strengths and areas of development. We wanted feedback to focus on skills and be personalised. We wanted to create an atmosphere in the classroom where all abilities could work together and where mistakes could be discussed in a safe and encouraging environment.
Given the sizeable aims, it took a while for subtle changes to be observed during the project. Children enjoyed discussing how best to change feedback in jotters and felt an ownership over their own learning as ideas put forward were tested. We created a simple rubric of comment starters, to make sure feedback was structured and relevant to the skills shown in the jotter - gone were the generic 'good work' comments which children noted weren't useful. Children were able to discuss their skills with more confidence and identify which ones to work on next. If we were to revisit this project, we would ensure children were able to do this for others in the class also, through peer assessments.
In terms of communication in class, we helped the children to discuss their thinking by starting with simple Number Talks. We used hand signals in class for agreeing and disagreeing with peers, and worked on children explaining why they did not agree with something in a safe and friendly way. This was practiced in all areas of classroom life, to embed it into our daily routines. We made sure we used activities that children of all abilities in the class could access, by posing a few questions and letting the children choose which one to focus on. This also allowed the children to develop additional skills through discussions and the strategies produced by other children. If we were to repeat this project, we would strive to find time/tasks to do this as a full class, rather than smaller group activities.
Overall, we were able to stay within the timescales. A number of factors did mean that the project stopped and started a bit, with this composite primary 6/7 class. Due to the wide range of needs in the class, it took time to make sure that all children were achieving and getting the correct support and teaching. This made it hard to devote extra time to the project.
We decided to concentrate on the primary 6/7 class first, rather than trying to establish how to embed this throughout the whole school. We realised how big a change this would have been. We now fully appreciate the time required to involve the children and to then research and evaluate different feedback techniques, and the impact this has on classroom routines.
The biggest improvement has been in our approach to teaching maths and the role it can play in promoting a growth mindset, as you are looking at learning in context. The reading and research undertaken for the project has improved knowledge of growth mindset and the impact this has on individuals in the short term and long term. We feel better able to support learners develop a growth mindset and are more aware of communication in class and the importance of role modelling. The class ethos has also changed as we are more aware of the need to make children feel safe in their learning environment and how best to support them.
The class involved in the project had lots of challenges and many children had deep-rooted negative attitudes towards maths and their abilities. Although we didn’t get to see a massive shift before school was interrupted, we experienced some lovely moments where these children were more open to giving things a go and chose to discuss their own thinking and strategies with the class. They looked forward to receiving their jotter and were able to create smart/specific goals for themselves independently, with the knowledge of the skills they had acquired or needed to work on.
We hope that the work we have done with the primary 7 children will help them to start high school with an open and determined mind, able to discuss their thinking and adopt the strategies needed to complete a task. We hope that the primary 6 children will be able to transfer the skills from this year into next. They should be able to take the lead with their learning, be able to explain their skills and areas of development and attempt maths challenges with an open and positive mindset. It would be lovely to see them being positive role models and helping to scaffold the other individuals who haven't taken part in this project.
We would like to finalise and complete feedback on the project and share this with other staff, to try to promote consistency with this approach. This will be based on observations from this year and comments and feedback structures that proved useful and effective for the pupils. We would like to take this idea of feedback and transfer it into thinking about how to make class assessments a less daunting experience for children. We would like to explore how to use assessments to gain information on skills achieved and areas to develop in a relaxed and constructive format.