The aim of this project was to promote a growth mindset ethos in the classroom and raise awareness of the importance of this throughout the school. We wanted to further develop children’s knowledge and understating of growth and fixed mindset and be able to identify their own mindset when completing maths activities. Within the classroom, the aim was to reduce maths anxiety for a targeted group of children and allow them to see the benefit of the maths journey they were undertaking. By incorporating growth mindset feedback approaches, we wanted to raise attainment and make children feel more confident when approaching new mathematical concepts. The project would also enhance teacher understanding of the importance of growth mindset and how to use associated strategies successfully within their own classrooms.
Overall, this project was successful in promoting a growth mindset ethos in the classroom. The children, by the end of the project, were able to use growth mindset language when beginning a maths challenge. The effective growth mindset strategies, feedback and resources that were put in place helped children to realise that making mistakes is part of the learning journey, not the end result. Children began to use the language and praise they heard from the class teacher and embedded this in their own learning, when faced with a problem-solving challenge or maths task they found difficult.
The children demonstrated a mature attitude when conversing with their peers about their learning and effective strategies to work through maths problems. Children were able to identify their next steps, take ownership of their learning and develop a more positive, can-do attitude. Maths attainment improved as children were able to recall their number bonds quicker, use the strategies they had learned and through the creation of a safe environment which showed that mistakes were okay. Children could see when they were displaying a fixed mindset and had the tools to effectively change this.
If the project was to be started again, it would be beneficial for the parents to be more involved. By showing parents the impact and theory behind growth mindset, parents could use this language and feedback at home when completing homework with their children. This would help work towards a whole school and community approach to bridging the attainment gap in maths.
The project was completed within the timeline given. This was successful due to careful planning and implementation, considering school holidays and the prevailing covid restrictions. The project was given ample time, to allow for any changes in the school calendar and to government guidelines. Ideally, the project would have begun at the start of the year. However, due to lockdown and children missing much of the previous school session, time was given to get to know the children better. Enhanced assessments were undertaken upon return to school, which led to a further delay. And plans to commence the project after Christmas, were also affected by another lockdown. In the end, the project had to be postponed until after Easter. When the project finally began, the timeline initially proposed of 4 weeks was successful.
Once the project was started there was very little change, following the increased time for planning and alterations due to unforeseen circumstances. There was additional time to speak to senior management about the project and to discuss the best approaches for the age and stage of the children involved. Having he extra time to get to know the children also really benefitted the project. It allowed the class teacher to better understand the children’s thinking, observe their mindsets and what concepts the children found the most difficult. The class teacher was then able to research and incorporate the best strategies for the learners.
At the start of the project, the targeted group of children were reluctant to attempt any maths problem without adult intervention. The children gave up when they found something challenging and said things like ‘they couldn't get past their highest score' or 'it's too tricky' when completing their Big Maths Challenge. They would compare themselves to others with a higher score, instead of reflecting on the progress they had made throughout the year.
After embedding growth mindset strategies and practices, the target group were observed conversing with their peers about the best way to approach a problem, working together and not giving up easily. The mindset of the target group had changed overall. When faced with a problem, the children stated, ‘I can’t do it…yet’ and looked for different ways to solve the problem. Adding 'yet' into the statement became a powerful tool that all children in the class used to change their mindset. The target group were able to identify when they had a fixed mindset and would question their peers on the mindset they were displaying. The group have now adopted the mantra of ‘I can do this’ before they begin maths calculations to beat their weekly score.
This has had a direct impact on the anxiety children experienced when completing their Big Maths Challenge. Previously, children would feel deflated if they did not beat their score. Now they can see their own progress and mark their maths learning journey. They approach the questions the following week with determination, instead of feeling like they would ‘never beat their score.’ This raised maths attainment as children were able to recall their number facts quicker because they felt more confident and realised that making a mistake was not going to get them into trouble or make their peers think they were not as clever. This is still a stigma for some children who do find maths a challenge.
For two children in the target group, the growth mindset feedback, strategies, and interventions only worked to a certain extent. These children were able to approach a challenge with a growth mindset, they would be confident in their ability and wanted to do well. However, if the questions were a real challenge, they did give up easier than the others within the group and were reluctant to try without adult intervention.
Overall, the whole class improved because of the impact of the growth mindset strategies. Their confidence, attitude and self-belief has improved for their maths work and for other areas of the curriculum. Children are now able to identify when they have a fixed mindset and change this accordingly. They can talk about their learning journey with their peers in a way that is critical but supportive. The project not only benefited the children, but also improved the quality of teaching and learning from the class teacher.
Along with teacher observations that clearly demonstrated a change in attitudes and mindset of learners in maths, evidence also came from questionnaire responses. A questionnaire seeking learners' beliefs and attitudes towards maths was administered prior to the project beginning and at the end of the project. Improvements were seen in areas such as motivation, determination and resilience and showed a change in their mindset. Results from pre and post questionnaires were shared with the school staff and senior management to show the positive impact.
Professional discussions were undertaken to establish the best way to move forward with growth mindset in maths in various stages in the school. In addition to the questionnaires used in this project, a further questionnaire was administered by senior management called RISE (Resilience in School and Education) and was also used to gather evidence of children’s attitude to learning. These results allowed teachers to plan for interventions for those children falling under a fixed mindset and address these needs through a whole school approach.
Colleagues have expressed an understanding of the need for the project and were able to appreciate the impact that this would have on learners in their own class and across the school. This was further supported by staff who were working with some of the children, who commented on the more positive approach they demonstrated during class time and how they were more resilience when faced with a maths problem. They were able to recognise changes in the attitudes of children who they have previously taught. Colleagues have agreed that parental involvement would be beneficial in establishing a growth mindset ethos in the school. They also agreed that a longer period should be given to get to know the children so that the correct and most beneficial approaches are carefully thought out for each class and individual children.
The next steps of this project will be to share learning with all colleagues and focus on how the language used by teachers and children can positively impact the learning and mindset of learners. As a new term begins, it will be interesting to see the impact on children’s attitudes across a whole school year. As growth mindset is part of our school improvement plan, the attitudes and beliefs of the children should have a positive impact on maths attainment across the whole school. There had previously been an evening where parents learned about growth mindset, however, moving forward, there will be more of an emphasis on showing parents the positive impact growth mindset can have on children’s learning across the curriculum. We also aim to discuss growth mindset with secondary schools as part of the transition, to ensure continuity for the children as they move on.