From analysing the data collected, it was clear that our year group needed input on their health and wellbeing and mindset. The children had very low self-esteem when it came to challenges during class, especially in numeracy lessons. Our project focussed on the ‘learning pit’, explaining to the children that learning is a process and that mistakes and taking risks are a vital part of this. Our aim was for children to recognise where they were in the learning process and be able to use different strategies to help them succeed. We wanted the children to become more confident when completing numeracy challenges and engage more readily with these, without becoming demotivated when they saw a task that they deemed difficult. Resilience was another area that we wanted the children to improve on. When the project was complete, our aim was for the children to use this learning within other curricular areas and social situations.
This project took place in the Primary 6/5 class over a six-week block, delivered by three members of staff who were enrolled on the Mindset course (P6/5 class teacher and two Acting Principal teachers). The children were taught about the theory of growth versus fixed mindset and the learning pit and then put this learning into practice. They were given numeracy challenges each morning.
The project was very successful within the Primary 6/5 class and many changes took place regarding the children’s engagement, self-esteem, and resilience. Observations completed before the project, showed that the children became disengaged easily and would quickly give up on challenges. After the project, the mindset of the children had greatly improved. They were more excited about numeracy challenges and were fully engaged in the tasks, continuing to try their hardest even when they made mistakes.
The learning pit was very effective. The children could confidently state where they were in their learning and use different strategies to help them succeed. We realised it was important to have a visual of the learning pit for the children to refer to, as well as quotes in child-friendly language for them to pinpoint exactly where they were in the process. It was very clear that the children’s engagement, resilience, self-esteem, and confidence all improved and that this was beginning to be applied to other curricular areas and social situations. It is important that this work continues throughout the school to see a long lasting impact.
The plan was to complete this project over a six-week block of lessons. We were successful in completing the project within this time, however, we had to remain flexible about when the lesson could take place during the week due to staff absences. The set lessons were planned, delivered and evaluated as intended. We shared the impact and project evaluation with Senior Management a few weeks after completing the project. This allowed us to discuss how the project went and what our next steps would be to implement this throughout the school. We have since shared our learning at a recent curriculum development meeting and have started planning how this will be rolled out over the next two terms.
Throughout our project we were able to follow the plan and did not have to make any major changes. We had planned for the children to have a lesson a week, starting with the theory behind growth mindset and the learning pit, then moving onto using this when completing different numeracy challenges. By lesson three, the class teacher observed that the children were discussing and asking about the learning pit daily, throughout the curriculum. This led to the class teacher providing the children with daily challenges where they could use this knowledge, which was not initially planned. Further, although the project was focused on numeracy, we noticed a close link with health and wellbeing and supported the children to transfer their learning to social and emotional challenges. As the children became very invested and we observed the impact it was having on their learning during numeracy, we also extended the project towards literacy challenges.
This project has been greatly beneficial for the chosen focus group, the children of the Primary 6/5 class. At the beginning of the year, the class teacher had observed that the children had extremely low self-esteem, a fixed mindset about their abilities and would become disengaged in challenging tasks easily. This applied to all children in the class, irrespective of how successful they were being with their learning.
Throughout the project there was a massive change in the children’s attitude towards learning. Beforehand, when given a numeracy challenge, the children would comment about not being able to do it almost as soon as they would see it. The children would often give up and become disengaged. This completely changed, with the children now extremely excited when they were given a numeracy challenge. They had a willingness to challenge themselves that was not apparent before, and a clear understanding of the strategies they could use to ‘get themselves out’ of the learning pit. There is a very positive atmosphere in the class now whenever the children are faced with a challenge, they openly discuss where in the learning pit they are and support each throughout their activities.
Due to the wide range of abilities, it was extremely important that the tasks given were examples of “Low Floor, High Ceiling” tasks. This meant that all the children in the class were able to access the same task - some using single digit numbers to complete the challenges and others were challenged further by using larger numbers. This really helped to build the confidence of all the children in the class.
Another aspect that has changed throughout this project is the children’s resilience. One of the main reasons for children becoming disengaged during a numeracy challenge was when they made a mistake. They would often see this as a failure, and then switch off and state that they were giving up as they could not do it. Now that the children were familiar with the learning pit, they were able to state where they were and what they needed to do to succeed. The children were often observed saying they had made a mistake but would either try again or they had already been able to fix it.
Throughout the project we collected observations of the focus group, before, during and after completion of the project. These included general observations of the children’s attitudes and quotes from lessons. This has given us clear evidence of the major change in attitude and mindset towards numeracy challenges and lessons. The change in these children will have an impact on the wider school, as they are beginning to display a positive mindset to the school environment, including any social and emotional challenges they face in the playground.
At the beginning of the project, we collected data from the Attitudes to Learning Survey, which is used across our school to measure the children’s health and wellbeing. From this, we recognised that the children in Primary 6/5 had low self-esteem, confidence and a very negative mindset towards school and their learning. However, it was also clear that these attitudes were apparent throughout the school. As a result, we plan to introduce learning across the school to help all children to adopt a growth mindset.
We presented the findings from the project at our curriculum development meeting, where we also explained the theory of growth mindset. This has given all staff some training on the subject and has helped them to see the important role this will have in our school community. The staff members also had the opportunity to observe a lesson in the focus class before beginning their own six week block of lessons. When we repeat the Attitudes to Learning Survey at the end of the year, we hope to see changes across the whole school. We would expect to see a change in the self-esteem, mindset and confidence of the children and sense of belonging in the school.
After presenting at our curriculum development meeting, some of the staff gave feedback on the project. One member of staff approached us to state that she was extremely interested in the project and the impact it would have in her class. She had observed that many of the children in her class were very disengaged towards their learning and had a negative attitude to many situations. She explained that this would be a great help in her class and was looking forward to implementing it. Another member of staff stated that it was very clear to see the impact of the project and the positive atmosphere within the classroom. Although many of the staff were willing to implement this learning within their classes, a few members were apprehensive, so we have planned support for all teachers during this process.
Next, we plan to implement the project throughout the school. Staff will be well supported in delivering the regular lessons and have been given a handout detailing each lesson and the activities that must be included. We have also created a Teams group where they have access to all the resources used in the project and can also add any information they find appropriate to their age and stage. After staff have completed the project in their classes, we will conduct a check-in meeting to evaluate the project overall. This will allow us to make any amendments to the project to ensure that we have implemented growth mindset and the learning pit well throughout the whole school.