Category Archives: Attainment

Closing the mindset gap!

How do we increase the attainment and confidence of our learners across Scotland? Closing the literacy and numeracy gaps in Scotland is clearly a hot topic at the moment given the publication of the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) figures.

While there is no overall magic bullet, I believe that by creating a wsf-5-5-15-180growth mindset culture within our schools; we can do much to improve children’s attainment and mental health.

Let’s focus on the issue of closing the attainment gap. The link between attainment and poverty is well documented in education research, including the Joseph Rowntree report on closing the gap. However, working to support parents and teachers to embed a growth mindset culture transcends social class. It does so by raising the bar of expectation, in a way that is realistic, based on credible feedback that is supportive, friendly and person centred. Having increased confidence, resilience, appetite for learning and understanding by working hard and practising different strategies can bridge the deficit when there may be little aspiration or value attached to education in the family home.

So, how do we make it practical? Growth mindset has the potential to act as a way of supporting vulnerable learners by working on their resilience and using a growth mindset to increase appetite and engagement with learning and allowing those who have reached a good command of a subject to achieve mastery while enabling everyone to improve. Teachers can fulfil this role as well by thinking about the language they use in class and how they differentiate work for pupils – thinking through their own judgements that are applied to student potential (such as avoiding the use of ‘sets’ at too early a stage; using mixed ability groupings to encourage learning, peer learning opportunities, etc).

Mindset activities within the school should be included within school plans but not necessarily as a separate area for improvement. Think what can growth mindset can do within the context of literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing. Standing back and looking at all activities that happen within the school can create the opportunity to think about teaching and engagement strategies that help learners to seek help, understand their intelligence is not fixed and that everyone can improve in their education.

We need to pay attention to transition points, to language, to the curriculum and in ensuring that everyone across the school community is working hard to promote growth mindset consistently and based on a plan that is right for your particular school and community.

So, what are you going to do today to make mindset real within your school for your pupils, fellow staff and parents? Comment below if you are using mindset to help attainment in your school.

John Paul

Mindset, maths and myths

How many of you hated maths at school?  If you were good at maths, did you think that you were just born that way?  Until I heard of the work of Carol Dweck and Jo Boaler, that’s exactly what I thought too.

Fixed mindsets are common in mathematics.

When I think of my own primGirl playing legoary maths education, I remember timed mental maths drills, pages of sums that got progressively harder, and silence.  Jo Boaler has taught us that depth of understanding is much more important than speed, and that discussing mathematical ideas with the teacher and classmates can help understanding.  Using word problems with real life stories makes maths relevant, and helps to identify gaps in understanding.

Traditional maths classrooms can cause lots of anxiety in children who don’t react well to timed exercises, children who have not understood fundamental concepts, and children who are afraid of failure.  Fostering a growth mindset culture in the maths classroom, where mistakes are actively sought out to be celebrated, is a much better environment for children to learn.  Explaining that the brain grows when we make mistakes in maths also helps to dispel the idea that children who make mistakes in maths simply don’t have maths brains.

Beliefs of parents have an effect too – research has shown that when mothers tell their daughters that they were rubbish at maths at school, their daughters’ exam results suffer as a result.  Traditional female toys such as dolls and makeup may place girls at a disadvantage to their male peers, who are exposed to mathematical toys such as lego and mechano.  How much better for parents to give a strong positive message about maths to all of their children, irrespective of gender, from a very young age.

Many pupils, parents and teachers believe in a maths giftedness, as I once did, but this is a myth there is no such thing as a maths brain.  Anyone can understand and achieve maths to a high level when it is taught deeply and conceptually.

What methods are you using in your maths classroom?  We’d love it if you would share your experiences, just comment on this blog…