At the outset of the project, 80% of the pupils in our primary 1 class displayed a fixed mindset. The principal aim of this project was to address this and encourage children to adopt a growth mindset, particularly in a maths context. The School Improvement Plan set the target ‘improve outcomes for children by developing emotional literacy and a maths mindset.’ To achieve this, we established three broad aims:
The project began with the introduction of the maths Challenge Table. This had a red, amber, and green colour coding system, where green tasks were the ‘easiest,’ amber tasks were tricky and red tasks were trickiest. On their first attempt, most children selected green tasks. Throughout the project, pupils visited the Challenge Table twice a week and once a week the target group pupils were observed.
Alongside the opportunities to tackle maths challenges, the children engaged in weekly growth mindset lessons, starting with the introduction of a theme song - ‘The Power of Yet.’ The Sesame Street characters singing the song were excellent role models for pupils and the catchy melody helped the children learn the song quickly. A learning pit class display was then created, which featured our school mascot. This proved to be an extremely useful tool which provided a visual point of reference and helped establish common use of vocabulary. Pupils created puppets to use alongside the display and this really encouraged children to reflect on their learning journey.
Once an understanding of the learning process was established, the next focus was to provide pupils with strategies to tackle challenges. To achieve this, pupils engaged in several testing activities such as using chopsticks and building tall towers. Each session began with the theme song and was scaffolded with meaningful discussion to allow pupils to consider how they could deal with failure and mistakes. Pupils became increasingly able to share the approaches that they used and were able to support each other. Successful strategies were then added to the learning pit display on little cut out shovels to show that these were tools the children could use.
The project aimed to involve parents so that families could also provide support. A PowerPoint presentation was created to showcase the learning pit display and theme song and shared information and examples of vocabulary that could be used with pupils at home. Many parents engaged with this, and many pupils were able to give examples of discussing and applying a growth mindset at home, which was very encouraging. Covid restrictions prevented us from hosting a school workshop, which was disappointing as this would have been a valuable way to share our project with parents.
The work done in school coupled with the support of families, resulted in the aims of the project being met. All the target group pupils chose an easy task the first week, but consistently chose the trickier tasks on weeks 2,3 and 4. This was a quantitative indicator of success but there many qualitative indicators too. The dialogue children shared within P1 was inspirational!
The project was carefully planned to maximise the chances of success and took factors that may have caused disruption into account. The timescale was planned for four weeks, but there was scope for impact to be monitored and adjustments to be made if deemed necessary. The weekly collection of data demonstrated a steady improvement in pupil capacity to take on challenges, so the four-week period was adhered to.
The maths element of the project was built into our maths programme and was based on addition, as this was an area of learning that the children had some experience of. This ensured that activities were delivered as planned and pupils were able to complete the content of the challenges. As the project progressed, the children became excited and fully invested in their learning journey. Their commitment to the Challenge Table was a further factor in the success of this project, as pupils were so enthusiastic about taking part.
The children responded very well to the project. Weekly monitoring of the maths tasks ensured pupils were engaging and an impact was being made. The growth mindset activities were carefully planned to meet the needs of the learners and explored different styles of learning. As children successfully completed tasks and were able to share their understanding, it was evident that the format was effective. It was important not to overwhelm the P1 pupils with big changes, especially when they were participating so effectively. Whilst the children followed the plan for the project, we were able to introduce additional, different tasks through the Challenge Table format. After the project, we plan to continue setting challenges in this way.
At the outset of the project, the majority of the P1 pupils had a fixed mindset and statements like ‘I can’t’ or ‘it’s too tricky’ were often heard in the classroom. The project aimed to tackle this and as it unfolded, we were able to see the impact it was having through pupil dialogue, pupil attitudes and the tasks that pupils chose to complete.
The children demonstrated interest and enthusiasm for the weekly growth mindset lessons and particularly engaged with the theme song - ‘The Power of Yet.’ Pupils learned this song quickly, so the lyrics and examples given were always with them. This has been especially useful for auditory learners. The children really related to the familiar characters, and this provided a valuable context for discussions. Pupils were able to say, ‘Cookie Monster tried again’ or ‘Elmo made mistakes, but he didn’t give up,’ and this empowered them to become more resilient.
A significant change has occurred around the perception of mistakes. Many pupils initially felt that mistakes were ‘bad’ and were afraid of making errors. All the P1 children have learned that mistakes and challenge should be expected, as highlighted in the learning pit display. This has also supported the class teacher to deliver consistent messages and language around growth mindset. We often start a new topic by pointing to the wall display to prepare pupils for challenges that should be expected. This approach has really embedded growth mindset in the ethos of the class.
Using puppets with the learning pit has also been effective, as children were able to physically move along the learning journey and see that they were on their way to success. Mistakes are no longer seen as a disaster that marks the end of the road, instead pupils can look to the display to help them process where they are at with their learning. This has improved resilience as the culture in our class accepts mistakes as part of the process. Consequently, pupils became increasingly able to attempt challenges, as there was no longer a fear of failure.
The project has provided the teacher and pupils with a bank of strategies we can use to complete challenges. Our theme song, along with approaches that pupils have tried and tested through the growth mindset lessons, have become a source of support to pupils whilst tackling difficult activities. A ‘can-do’ attitude was evident with pupils who were less likely to be ‘stuck’ and who could use their skills, try again, and ask for help.
Applying a growth mindset approach through our maths programme allowed pupils to embrace growth mindset as part of everyday learning and see it as something that can be applied to all areas. We have seen this is several examples during play activities when pupils have been building towers and creating crafts. In addition to building an understanding of the learning process, becoming more resilient, and developing skills to tackle challenges, pupils have also demonstrated the capacity to support and encourage each other. This has been a notable improvement, which reflects the essence of a growth mindset and shows that pupils fully embraced this approach.
Before we began the project, all pupils completed the Pupil Survey. We created a version that used thumb symbols to enable the P1 pupils to answer independently. Based on these responses, we concluded that 80% of the pupils in the class demonstrated a fixed mindset, with 40% of pupils having an average score of 3 or under. All the pupils selected for the target group demonstrated a fixed mindset, with their average scores ranging from 2.5 to 3.
The Challenge Table was observed the first time pupils took part and every week thereafter. The results showed:
On completion of the project, the pupil survey was repeated with the five target group pupils. The results showed that 100% of these pupils demonstrated a growth mindset. All pupils increased their mindset score by at least 1 point, the average increase was 1.5 points, and three pupils increased their average score by 2.25 points. These were significant increases. Further, 100% of the target group pupils strongly agreed that they 'learn from tricky tasks' and 100% strongly agreed that they 'like to learn new things.' This shows a sound understanding of what it means to have a growth mindset. These are very welcome results, demonstrating that the project was successful.
Learning Pit - the staff who participated in the project worked together to create a standard format for a learning pit. We chose to use our school mascot to make the display more relevant to our pupils.
Challenge Table - this is an example of the activity the children engaged with.
Moderation is a key part of teaching and has helped to shape the delivery and the success of this project. Working closely with colleagues has allowed us to share ideas and enhance the experiences provided for pupils. Dialogue with the Mindset Leader noted that the P1 pupils were more confident and more able to try new things. She witnessed pupils discussing mistakes and commented that these children were able to learn from their mistakes and encouraged one another. Another teacher in our school delivers ‘Emotion Works’ with the class, and she commented that pupils were able to confidently use vocabulary and demonstrate a growth mindset in discussions and activities. Many members of the school staff have also shown enthusiasm for the learning pit display, and this will be recreated in the school hall, so all pupils can benefit from this resource.
Due to the success of the project, the plan is to use the Challenge Table format to set challenges for all areas of maths in the class. The learning pit display and theme song will remain active features of the classroom and the puppets will be used to guide discussion. The objectives of the project will be shared with all classes in our school and the learning pit display will be recreated in the school hall to support the application of growth mindset to assemblies and class workshops. It is hoped that all pupils and staff will develop their understanding of a growth mindset and will also build a bank of strategies to apply to take on challenges. We will share the learnings from the project with colleagues to enable all staff members to build confidence in establishing a growth mindset ethos with their pupils.
This term, all classes will be participating in STEM projects, and this will provide an excellent context for pupils to build resilience and to put their understanding of a growth mindset into practise. In addition to this, our school is developing play pedagogy throughout the stages, and it is hoped that these experiences will challenge pupils to learn from mistakes too. We also wish to build on the support we have received from parents and plan to deliver a parent workshop to share more information about a growth mindset approach.