As part of a PGDE placement, this project aimed to introduce and embed growth mindset in a second year maths classroom. The focus was around reducing maths anxiety and the fear of making mistakes. We integrated tasks into classes where pupils would consider common mistakes made in the topics they were learning, and by understanding these mistakes, how to learn from them. We took the opportunity to model growth mindset and the importance of trying different strategies, to help support the students develop their own growth mindset.
From the pre-project survey, we found that 18 of the 26 students had already learned about growth mindset. Many of those identified as having a growth mindset and shared some positive experiences and techniques. This meant that the material we had prepared for introducing growth mindset, did not have as much impact as intended. This whole class approach might also have had less impact on those students who were not familiar with growth mindset, or who may have benefitted from it more.
The class teacher had also already developed an open and friendly atmosphere, and many pupils were happy to ask questions or to answer even if they weren’t confident in their response. Although the class teacher had not explicitly taught growth mindset, it was clear that there was a positive atmosphere and culture of sharing answers already firmly established.
That said, we did achieve the goal of beginning to integrate a growth mindset in class discussions and explicitly taught the pupils about growth mindset. The class would have benefitted from further discussion, more structured tasks based around growth mindset techniques and more time to build up clear routines. We were able to model techniques for checking work and learning from mistakes, but pupils were still not totally comfortable sharing their good mistakes with the class. Interestingly, in other classes, growth mindset techniques had a more noticeable difference in students with low self-esteem. So, perhaps more successful classes need a more targeted approach when embedding growth mindset.
We were able to follow the project timeline, although progress with pupils feeling able to share and discuss their own good mistakes was not as intended. Very guided tasks were successful, but the step between teacher-led mistake analysis and student-suggested mistakes was never met. On reflection, students would have benefitted from explicit time at the end of lessons to find or remember some good mistakes they had made, rather than have this given as an extra task. Planned discussion with colleagues were also not able to occur as often as intended, due to staff absence and school assessments occurring.
Due to Covid cases in the third week of the study and a change to classroom policy, we were unable to circulate in class to speak to students and view their working as frequently as before. As students did not end up submitting their own good mistakes as planned, we created tasks with the same intentions, but this did not engage the students who would have benefited as much. A group task would have been better here but was not possible due to Covid restrictions. Since pupils were not as receptive to submitting their own good mistakes throughout, the intensity of our approach was reduced, and more guided tasks were created to be used in lessons. It might have been better to have planned scaffolded activities to encourage student-led discussion of good mistakes.
Overall, the experience of undertaking this project has made it clear how growth mindset can be integrated into the culture of a classroom and has highlighted different ways of planning lessons around the idea of making good mistakes. It has made it easier to speak to pupils about their mistakes and how we can all learn from them. In future, we would take a slower approach in introducing these concepts to a class and set aside time for clear and scaffolded tasks when trying to model and practice a growth mindset. The class benefitted from this short project, and it supported them well as they returned to in-person schooling.
The class teacher reported that the students were not specifically mentioning good mistakes or growth mindset. However, the class was more willing to share strategies and explanations of their strategies. And, for one student, there had been a notable increase in their confidence in sharing answers. Comparing survey results before and after the project, the pupils reported that they now asked a teacher for help in maths more frequently. Word clouds created by the pupils on how they feel when they make a mistake, showed a greater variety of responses after the project. They were also asked how much they agreed with three statements reflecting their attitude to making a mistake: “I rarely make mistakes in maths,” “Making mistakes means you aren’t smart” and “I am afraid of making mistakes.” Overall, their views of these statements did not change significantly. This could be because growth mindset was not a new concept to most of the students, limiting the potential impact of the project.
Some of the evidence referenced in the section above is set out below for pre and post the project:
Pre survey results
Post survey results
Feedback from colleagues during the project was that we role modelled growth mindset well in class, and that the pupils were engaged, happy to ask questions and join in with discussions. Colleagues felt that it might take more time and support to build up the intended classroom culture of pupils regularly sharing and discussing their own mistakes. We were unable to amend the project significantly at this point, but this feedback will be reflected in any future work on growth mindset.
Next year, we aim to embed growth mindset into all classes taught and right from the beginning of the year. This will allow us to gradually introduce key concepts and tasks, so that students can feel fully comfortable sharing their own good mistakes. By building up positive relationships with pupils, we can also better understand what will work best for different students. With a longer timescale, we can introduce positive strategies for spotting mistakes and learning from them.