Tonight’s 15 minute forum was led by geography teacher Hannah Townsend. Last year, Hannah carried out a small scale ‘Practitioner Research Project’ to explore what it means as a teacher to have a growth mindset? We often talk about this quite loosely, but what do those teachers who strongly believe in the idea of mindset do, on a day to day basis? Based on our knowledge of our staff, a sample of teachers who were perceived to be very growth mindset in their approach and, based on their student outcomes, were successful teachers, were observed by Hannah. Based on Dweck’s research, Hannah was looking for certain features of their teaching that linked to the idea of growth mindset, as outlined below:
Following these observations, Hannah found that these teachers who embrace the idea of growth mindset in their their teaching, rather than simply agreeing to it in principle, seem to ensure challenge for all their students and consistently identify and address misconceptions as a routine part of their teaching. Furthermore, excellence is consistently modelled to students. Some examples of each of these three features follow and then how Hannah has further developed each aspect, this academic year.
Participant 1 (year 8 English poetry lesson):
- Cognitive demand of the work was strong with high expectations of all students.
- Scaffolding for the lower ability students, ensured that they were supported to achieve these challenging objectives.
- A GCSE style checklist with increasing difficulty was provided. Bearing in mind this was a Y8 class, this shows to students the high expectations the teacher has of them.
How have I developed this aspect in my own practice, this year?
- For weaker GCSE students – identifying what they need to do to maximise marks- so in sequence, making sure they are using complex terms such as ‘convection currents’ or in coasts it’s about using key terms such as abrasion and hydraulic action. Not accepting simpler terminology from them.
- In KS3 setting the bar high with vocabulary – expecting all students to use the proper terms- e.g. year 8’s using ‘irrigation’ and year 7’s being able to accurately define key term such as ‘birth rate = number of births, per 1000, per year) .
- For me professionally, I challenge myself by continually reading up on my subject. Geography is a progressive subject, so keeping up to date keeps me in the know about changes/misconceptions that students might have. This summer term I will be reading up on the new GCSE 2016 specification- ensuring that my subject knowledge in areas I haven’t taught/studied is well developed so I can fluently answer questions and teach new topics with confidence.
Participant 2 (Mathematics):
- Verbal feedback was a regular feature of the lesson and it focused on making students self-check their work. There was always an expectation that students responded to the feedback e.g. ‘‘double check your total of fx”
- Not just given the answer – the feedback made them think about the steps they had to make, in order to get to the correct answer themselves and understand why they had got it wrong.
- When the teacher noticed that a number of students were making the same mistake, the whole class would be stopped and addressed e.g. “be careful of the scale on the x axis”
How have I developed this aspect in my own practice, this year?
- Reflecting on lessons each day- what were the misconceptions and then adapting resources and my teaching, to address them the next time I teach that topic. Geography lends itself well to this due to multiple teaching groups of same year group.
- Verbal feedback helps challenge misconceptions straight way, so I have been focusing on this, whilst students are completing their written work. This week, when teaching factors that led to the development of early settlements, I was reading a year 8 student’s work as I was circulating. They thought rivers were important for setting up a settlement because the water was transported by the early settlers- rather than using a boat to transport the goods from one place to another. I was able to pick this up immediately and address it with the student, so helping them to understand correctly.
Participant 3 (Year 8 Textiles lesson developing abstract-inspired bunting):
- Clear teacher modelling, step by step how to do the specific technique. It wasn’t left to chance that the student would just be able to do it.
- Critique of exemplar work was carried out, with clear explanations about what was good/not so good about each piece of work.
- Questioning students whilst modelling, to ensure students knew why each step was being carried out.
- Addressing misconceptions to the whole class, as they came about – so modelling the common mistakes that students often make.
These observations support what has been written about mindset, in a range of litereature:
- Growth mindset is centred upon ‘intelligence being a quality that can be changed and developed’ (Dweck, 2008).
- ‘Individuals with a Fixed Mindset believe that their intelligence is simply an inborn trait—they have a certain amount, and it cannot be changed.’ (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2007; Dweck, 1999, 2007).
- ‘The most effective teachers have deep knowledge of the subjects they teach… and identify students’ common misconceptions’ (Sutton Trust, 2014).
So, what simple things can individual teachers do to support this?
- Share good practice by videoing lessons and watching other teachers – how do they approach these three areas?
- Encourage more time for pop-in observations.
- Prior to teaching a lesson, identify one common misconception for that topic and ensure this is addressed during the lesson.
- When planning ensure that the weaker students are challenged through the lesson – through feedback and questioning.
- Share exemplars of student work at different stages of the process and critique them together.
In order to fully embrace the idea of growth mindset, we need to ‘live it’ ourselves as teachers. So in order to push myself this year and so develop my own mindset, I have been doing the following:
- Attending ‘Journal club’ to read and discuss literature and identify strategies that I can apply to my teaching- e.g. low stakes testing at the start of GCSE lessons.
- Doing things out of my comfort zone- presented at the TeachMeet last year.
- Exam marking- this was useful because I was able to identify the common misconceptions students had/where students frequently lost marks. It has enabled me to deepen my understanding of what students needed to do to do well e.g. what separates A and A* answers.
- Mentored a PGCE student- this has encouraged me to reflect on my strengths and areas for development. In order to develop my skills as a mentor to PGCE students I have been liaising with those who have been successful at this role in the past as well as the Professional Tutor and university tutors.