The aim of the project was to provide the children with opportunities to build resilience within themselves and confidence in numeracy. We wanted them to undertake tasks without the fear of failing, thus encouraging the children to develop a growth mindset. The project provided the children with a RISE, (Resilience in Schools and Education), questionnaire before the start, during and at the end of the project. We also used Leuven observations throughout the project and recorded any findings. We aimed to provide the children with provocations, indoors and outdoors, that were tailored to their individual needs, interests, age, and stage of ability.
The curricular area we wanted to base the project on was numeracy. We focused on recognition of ‘how many’ in regular dot patterns up to 5, without having to count (subitising), and 1 to1 correspondence to count objects to 10/20. This aligned with the improvement plan and local and national government priorities. We hoped that the evidence gathered throughout the project would show an improvement in the numeracy outcomes for the children taking part.
We began the project with an observation, rather than the planned RISE (Resilience in Schools and Education) questionnaire, as the children had independently begun to play a dice monster game. This provided the perfect opportunity to observe the children and note how they interacted with each other, their confidence, and their ability to subitise.
We then provided the children with the RISE questionnaire and gathered the data. This was repeated at the end of the project and the differences were analysed. This showed positive changes in the children’s resilience and wellbeing. In particular, the children’s confidence had grown since the start of the project.
The children were observed on six different occasions, when they participated in different provocations provided for them. The provocations were all based on numeracy, focusing particularly on recognising ‘how many’ in regular dot patterns without having to count (subitising). We observed the children indoors and outdoors, noting any difference in confidence and interaction in both areas. The main observations were:
Several challenges occurred throughout the project, such as children leaving early or being off, changes in staffing levels and changes to COVID bubbles. With the full support from senior management and colleagues, we adapted accordingly and overcame the challenges that were met. Overall, we believe that the project not only had a positive impact on the children, but it also had a positive impact for teaching staff. We achieved the project’s aim and noticed a significant positive difference in the three children involved.
We planned to carry out the project over a 4-week period starting in April 2021. We managed to complete the project within this timescale, however, adaptations were required to deliver it on time. We began the project with an impromptu observation that came from the children choosing to play a dice game that had been set out in the numeracy area of the nursery. Over the next two days (rather than one), we were able to complete the first questionnaire with the children. The second questionnaire was planned for the 29 April. Children being picked up early only allowed completion of the questionnaire with one child, with a delay to completing a second questionnaire with the other two children. Overall, we were able to conduct the 6 planned observations over the 4-week period. While we kept within the proposed timeline, the project could have been carried out over a longer period.
Following the start date of the project, a few changes were made to the project plan:
The project began on 19th April when the three children that were chosen, independently began to play a monster dice game provocation that had been set up. The game involved the children rolling the dice and then matching the dot pattern on the dice with the same dot pattern on their monster board. This activity took place indoors. This gave us an opportunity to spontaneously undertake the first Leuven observation of the children. We noted how the children interacted, their confidence levels, and their ability to subitise:
'OK started off focused and appeared keen to play. Very quickly OK became easily distracted and unfocused on the game. We noted that OK can confidently subitise to 4 and can match the number rolled on the dice to the corresponding dice on the monster board'
'HR was very distracted and required lots of support and encouragement. HR was unable to subitise, however, he was able to match the number rolled on the dice with the corresponding dice on the monster board'
'JL participated in the game displaying little emotion. JL subitised to 2 and was able to match the dice'
On the 20th and 21st of April, we provided the children with the RISE (Resilience in Schools and Education) questionnaire and found that:
'OK struggled to persevere and complete the questionnaire and required lots of support and encouragement. OK appeared to lack confidence in providing his answers'
'HR required a lot of support and encouragement to stay focused, however, he was able to complete the questionnaire'
'JL understood the questionnaire and answered all the questions'
The children completed the RISE questionnaire again on the 11th May and we found:
'OK was more focused and successfully completed the questionnaire giving good examples for his answers'
'HR and JL were both focussed and chatty throughout the questionnaire and gave good examples in their answers'
Throughout the project, we carried out a total of six observations, three inside and three outside. The children required support and encouragement at the start of the project with all three displaying a lack of confidence. We noted:
‘OK preferred the outside area, JL appeared to have no preference and HR preferred the inside area of the nursery’
‘OK could now confidently and consistently subitise to 5’. JL can subitise to 5, however appears to lack the confidence and on occasion will still count the dots on the dice. HR still requires support and encouragement.’ (on the fourth observation)
‘JL can subitise to 6 and OK can subitise to 5. All three children appear to have grown in confidence. While HR is not yet able to subitise, he is now confident at counting the spots on the dice.’ (on the final observation)
Overall, the changes that have occurred throughout the project represent increased confidence in the three children, and for two of the children, the ability to recognise ‘how many’ in a regular dot pattern without having to count (subitising). All three children have improved because of the project:
‘HR displays more confidence in activities and can touch and count the dots on the dice. JL has grown in confidence, showing more emotion, being more vocal and can subitise to 6. Ok has also grown in confidence and can subitise to 5.’
Before starting the project, we collaborated with senior management and colleagues to establish which children would benefit the most from the project. We looked at the milestone data for each child and discussed their individual confidence and interactions in group activities. The three children that were chosen, were still to meet their subitising milestone and we felt would benefit from the growth mindset project. We hoped to see increased confidence and resilience for them.
The RISE questionnaire we used with the children highlights areas of need, areas that are emerging and areas of strength, and considers competence, contribution, confidence, connectedness, character, coping, control, and enjoyment. The results from the first questionnaire showed that an area of need was confidence and areas that were emerging were competence and coping. All other areas showed as areas of strength. The results in the final questionnaire showed that all areas were areas of strength.
Throughout the project we also observed the children’s wellbeing and involvement in each activity. We observed the children’s ability to recognise ‘how many’ in regular dot patterns without having to count (subitising). At the beginning of the project, the children lacked confidence and were unable to subitise. JL and OK displayed behaviours that show on the observation tracking sheet, as moderate to high, and HR displayed behaviours that showed as low for wellbeing and extremely low for involvement. We saw a natural progression with OK and JL who, in the last few observations, both displayed behaviours that were tracked as extremely high for their wellbeing and involvement. HR also progressed and towards the end of the project, he was displaying behaviours that were tracked as high for both wellbeing and involvement.
At the end of the project, OK and JL were displaying confidence in subitising, and both achieved this milestone. HR was able to subitise to 2 which is appropriate for his stage of ability, he can touch and count confidently 6.
The findings of the project were shared with colleagues and senior management. The children’s key workers confirmed that the children involved in the project were displaying more confidence in activities and interactions with their peers. HR had grown in confidence and will now independently explore both the outdoor and indoor areas of the nursery and interacts well with his peers. Overall, we believe that the findings show a positive impact for the children who were participating.
The RISE questionnaire results at the outset and end of the project are provided below.
Colleagues were given a confidential questionnaire to provide a critical review of the project. All the nine questionnaires distributed, were completed. The responses confirmed that staff were aware of the project and felt that it was worthwhile, as they could see the positive impact on the children. One respondent said "positive impacts were observed within the children’s development. Children were given time to answer questions and demonstrated understanding of the task."
Two of the questionnaires did comment on the negative impact that reduced staffing levels and changes to children’s attendance patterns had on the staff and children. However, overall, colleagues felt that the children that participated in the project, displayed more confidence and engagement in numeracy activities.
The next steps are as follows:
We believe that a growth mindset is one that is achievable for the children and staff within the school and early years setting. We believe it would be beneficial for key workers to implement growth mindset with their group and really focus on building their resilience. Whilst the project was implemented over the course of four weeks and did have a positive impact, we feel that an ongoing project would be of greater benefit. This would focus on growth mindset, numeracy, and specific areas of need, and would help build resilience and confidence for the children as well as raise attainment in numeracy.