We wanted our project to improve pupils' learning experiences from as early on in secondary school as possible. We decided to initially focus on our S1 pupils, with a view to developing strong resilient attitudes to tackling mathematics that could be applied in later years, eventually leading to raised attainment in mathematics in the senior phase. We also wanted to build teacher/pupil bonds with our new S1s as quickly as possible, to ensure that pupils felt included, engaged, and involved in their learning. The hope was that this would promote positive relationships and behaviour and support pupils' wellbeing.
The project was delivered during Thursday afternoon whole school flex time. This was normally a time when S1 pupils were able to select from a choice of activities that were interdisciplinary and different from the normal classroom day. This allowed us to provide the required resources and staffing to support the project, without removing pupils from their normal mathematics lessons. Some pupils and parents did opt out of the project, preferring to take part in the other ‘fun’ activities instead during this time.
Six pupils ended up taking part in the project and they found that working in a small group made it more comfortable to share their ideas and get to know one another. All pupils felt they had the opportunity to achieve some level of success and that all types of thinking were valued. Feedback from the pupils showed that they enjoyed the opportunity to express their viewpoint and ideas in a safe environment. They felt their contributions were valued and the pupil-teacher relationship was also stronger. This improved classroom behaviour and gave the pupils confidence to ask questions and to persevere in the face of difficulty.
The selection process for the project also seemed to work well. We began by considering which pupils were rushing through maths problems too quickly and which were happy to give up quickly. A pupil survey clearly highlighted those pupils who lacked confidence in mathematics and didn't enjoy problem solving. These attitudes appear to have changed over the 6-week project, with pupil feedback from the activities being far more positive. Having the guidance team review our pupil selection was also very helpful as they were able to identify pairs of pupils that might cause conflicts and disrupt the safe learning environment that we were striving to create.
The senior management were very supportive of the project and recognised the benefits to the whole school. Not only did they allocate time and staffing for the project to be run, they also recognised the benefits of delivering the growth mindset programme to other departments in the school. They are looking to deliver elements of this in whole staff training.
Given the project’s success, we aim to run it again with more pupils throughout the next academic year, and longer-term if staffing and timetabling allow. Going forward, we intend to communicate the benefits of the project in more detail to parents, to try to encourage more uptake when pupils are offered the opportunity.
The project was trialled through the Easter to Summer term with a small group of six S1 pupils. The project ideally would have started earlier in the academic year, but lockdown caused delays. The selection process and providing information to parents was more rushed than we would have liked, with parents only being given a few days to decide whether they wanted their child to be involved. The time allocated to the project took account of the end of term whole school activity week.
Going forward, our aim is to extend the project into the next academic year as a long-term project. The first term has been set aside to plan and develop resources for the project and will also allow time to get to know our new S1 pupils. More time will also be given to inform parents of the project and the selection of pupils. For the remainder of next year, two maths teachers will deliver the programme to groups of S1 and S2 pupils, rotating every 6 weeks to accommodate new pupils.
Initially, we planned to only run the maths mindset project with pupils that we identified as having a poor mindset from S1 and S2. However, we noticed that the benefits to pupils went beyond just improving their mindset. Pupils were also enjoying and engaging in maths more, and built a stronger relationship with their teacher. We felt that we needed to ensure equity for all pupils in S1 and decided to change the selection process to offer all pupils in S1 the experience of the project.
We also considered changing some of the open tasks included in the project, to offer more structure around them, as some pupils found it hard to get started. However, we felt that this was the main point of the sessions, to help pupils build resilience and confidence when set a task where they must formulate a plan of action themselves.
The project was reviewed at the end of the first 6-week rotation, with pupils being asked whether they saw any value in the experience and by observing any changes in their classroom behaviour and approaches to tasks. Other departments were also approached to ask if they too had noticed any of the pupils transferring their new skills into other subject areas.
The impact was notable, such that we decided to continue the project every year, staffing and finance permitting. We also intend to extend this to more pupils or year groups and through staff training possibly into other departments.
We asked pupils who took part in the project to talk to others about their experience. The project is optional, so pupils do not have to take part if they do not want to. The feedback from pupils who did take part was positive and most other pupils are subsequently opting to take part in the programme.
A copy of the resources used to deliver the project and the maths pre-assessment are included below:
Some of the poster reviews completed by pupils and journal reflections are also shared below:
Overall, the feedback we got from other teachers and departments was positive, as highlighted in the quotes below:
"I loved seeing the willingness to engage improve – they were willing to have a go! Even if it just makes them feel more positive about maths and builds relationships, it’s worth it.”
“I saw a completely different side to engagement – they were up for it, trying everything, and having a good laugh. They know how to approach a problem and it’s not in a threatening way.”
We intend to continue the project every year, staffing and finance permitting. We would like to extend it to include more pupils or year groups and, through staff training, possibly roll it out to other departments.