Monday, 13 July 2015

Our year of Growth Mindset research

After embracing the ideas and principles behind growth mindset, we'd decided it was definitely a road we wanted to travel down and explore. This post details how we decided on an organic approach to introducing it as a whole-school focus. One of the important things for us was that staff should not be asked to take on anything that we hadn't, in part at least, tried out first in our own context, with our students. 

Through our Teaching & Learning groups, Head of Drama Simon Beasley (@EconomySir), volunteered to run a pilot project that would trial a number of growth mindset strategies and, importantly, measure its impact.

The following guest blogpost is by Simon and details the year of our first official growth mindset trial.

Our Growth Mindset Pilot Project

Simon Beasley

The study took place over the course of the academic year 2014/15 and went through various stages:

     Student questionnaire
     Lesson studies (observations of key students in a range of subject lessons)
     Results analysis
     Staff interviews

Mindset Study Group

After we had completed the initial school wide questionnaires I picked out six students (4 girls and 2 boys) to work with who showed signs of having a fixed mindset and who were high achievers. These students were chosen as while they were doing well in school they had not yet managed to break into the top grades. We had identified this profile of student as one that was prominent at our school and could potentially benefit from a push towards growth mindset thinking.

We met each week at guidance time. I delivered seminars on mindset theory and brain development and we discussed the theories. The students were asked to try to apply a new skill each week from what had been discussed and this would feed into the following weeks discussion.

Students were also asked to keep a diary of their experiences throughout the study.

I undertook lesson observations of the students in order to see if they were indeed exhibiting fixed mindset traits. Finally I also interviewed the teachers of the students in order to gauge their impressions.


In the lesson observations the students exhibited very "typical" behaviour when they faced challenges. One students actually cut out sections of spare paper in order to glue it into her book to cover up where she had made a mistake.

Students who were on the surface quite able switched off the moment that they had to complete a task they found difficult and, where possible, they would simply seek out the answers from any source rather than trying to figure it out for themselves.

They had developed their learned helplessness and would be very needy of the teacher exclaiming that they could not do the task and that it was too hard.

I interviewed eight teachers overall from Maths, English, MFL, Geography, Science and DT in order to ascertain a wide range of opinions from a variety of subjects. Each of the teachers when interviewed said mostly the same thing that the students were doing well but that they were not very resilient and that they required a lot of support.

One teacher mentioned that one of the students refused to allow her note book to be marked as there were mistakes in it and that they would only hand in polished work.

Throughout the sessions the students were very responsive to the seminars and that they understood the thinking behind developing a growth mindset. However, they were exceptionally resistant to applying it to their work.

The main argument being that they were doing okay and that if they tried the ideas out they feared either getting something wrong or being perceived as a 'try hard' by other members of the group.

Even when they were presented with articles etc. that demonstrated to them that this is exactly the problem with being fixed in their approach the risk was not deemed to be worth taking.

The students all agreed that the system was right but there was also scepticism that it would be another initiative that would be big for a while before they slipped back into the status quo.

Student questionnaires

Once this study had run its course I presented the findings to the Teaching and Learning group and it was decided to trial the ideas in several classes with teachers adapting their language and style to help foster a growth mindset amongst the students.

Before the trial I gave out questionnaires to the students in order to gauge their perceptions of what makes a successful learner.


The responses were unsurprising given the reactions of the students from the initial group. The 93% of students answered that hard work was more important than natural skill. They also showed that the students realised that with the right effort the students would continue to improve and that they would be capable of improving in all subjects.

On the surface of it this was going to be an easy task. With the overwhelming majority of students already had a growth mindset and knew the secret to their own success.

Lesson Studies

The staff in the study were given copies of Mindset by Dweck in order to help them to understand the theories. I also ran a couple of sessions where resources were given out to support the staff. Each member of staff then came up with a way of implementing the ideas and measuring their success.

In Maths the focus was to be on changing the language of the teacher so that they spoke to the students in a manner that helped to instil a growth mindset (see appendix)

In Science the teacher focused on teaching the neurological aspects of leaning and the importance of understanding the neuroplasticity of the brain.

In Geography the focus was on feedback and methods the students could develop to improve their work in a more independent manner.

I undertook a series of lesson studies to observe the impact of the teaching and the reaction of the students to the work.


This was a very interesting phase of the study. The students who were in lower sets seemed to fully embrace the system and were responding exceptionally well. The atmosphere in the classes that I visited was purposeful and the students were active and thriving.

In one Maths lesson the students made an enormous amount of progress completing work that would not be expected of them.

However, this was starkly contrasted by the students in the higher sets. There was a great deal of resistance to the work. Students shied away from challenging tasks. They were still obsessed with making sure that they got things right and became distressed when there was a possibility of getting it wrong. In a Drama lesson a group of very capable but fixed mindset students completely fell apart in their performances when expected to learn lines. This was a task that had been completed with ease by a less able group from the year below.

In another Maths lesson students all opted for the easier questions rather than the challenge work despite having been taught the method well at the start of the lesson. When the students were challenged they were capable of answering the questions they were just afraid that they would get it wrong and therefore feel stupid.

Even though these students knew that the best way to improve was to challenge themselves. They still felt too insecure to take the risk of trying questions that they may get wrong. this contrasted so much with the lower ability students. These students are used to getting things right. When they do well in a test or in class it reaffirms their self-belief that they are intelligent. Anything that challenges them or that risks making them feel like they cannot achieve easily feels like it challenges this self-belief. This then becomes a viscous cycle which makes the students extremely wary of completing anything but that which they feel they can do without challenge.

These students therefore will never be able to break through their own self imposed glass ceiling while they are too afraid of being uncovered as a fraud who should not be in the highest set. It felt like their position in the set was more important to them then their actual ability. They felt like if they could stay in set 1 then they would always be intelligent. However, the less they pushed themselves and the more comfortable they became the less likely it becomes that they will achieve the very top grades.

Data Analysis

Each of the teachers did a baseline test with the groups that they were working with and in most cases a control group was used as well in order to give comparative data. In Science the students were tested with a mock GCSE exam in January and the test was repeated with another paper in March and then June.

The data for Geography was taken from the schools teacher assessments taken in November, February and June. These assessments are based on classroom tests and homework.

In Maths the results were from tests completed in November, March and June.
All of the groups were measured against control groups who were at a parallel ability level in the year group.


In Science the mindset group were on average 0.4 of a grade higher and made 2.6 grades more progress than the control group. These are impressive results but the most interesting aspect of this was that some of the students in the control group were also in the mindset group for Maths where they had made enormous improvements using the mindset skills.

I think it is possible to draw the conclusion that the teacher has a vital role to play in ensuring that the skills are transferred between the subjects. While it could be argued that the students may have more of an aptitude for one subject over another. I think that both subjects are similar enough that had the skills been applied in both areas that the improvements would have been different.

In Geography the control group improved on average by 1.4 sub levels whereas the mindset group improved by 2.5 that is a difference of 1.1 sub levels over the course of a year. If this can be maintained throughout KS3 alone the students will achieve roughly a whole grade higher over the course of Years 7-9. 

In Maths the set 3 students in the mindset made more progress than those in the control group. The control group improved by 0.9 of a grade while the mindset group improved by 1.2 grades. However, the results in the top set were not as impressive. The mindset group improved by 0.7 and the control group by 0.9 of a grade.

This follows the pattern of what we were expecting from the observations and the focus group that I ran in the first half of the year. The more able students found it difficult to adapt to the challenge. It forced them to be more cautious as they struggled to maintain their self-theory.

  • While the results are positive some factors need to be considered in their evaluation:
  • Some students had been taught about mindset in other classes and so it is not possible to categorically state that the students in the control group have never been taught about growth mindset.
  • Also some of the teachers in the project had already been using aspects of mindset theory in their teaching which may have weakened the impact of the intervention.
  • One of the teachers in Geography and one in Maths had started the project at the start of the year and so the comparative results were taken from the year before to act as a baseline.
  • Each of the classes had different teacher for the control and mindset classes.

Each of these factors I do not feel have a negative effect on the results as a whole. The results and patterns are clear throughout and fit in with the wealth of research carried out by other studies. 


In the final phase I interviewed each of the teachers involved in order to gauge their perceptions of what differences, improvements and difficulties that they had faced over the course of the trial.


"I felt that in lifting the lid on the students I also to a certain extent lifted the lid on my own teaching. I felt like I had brought certain expectations to my classes that I am not proud of and that this process forced me to re-evaluate my prejudices as it were of what a grade E student could achieve."

"Students have higher aspirations. It hasn't worked on all but the majority are working towards achieving much more than they usually do. While students may not be passionate about the subject they have become much more passionate about improving"

"It is a much more enjoyable process and way to teach. I have felt stuck in my ways and this process has helped me to re-evaluate things like marking and its use. That improvement has given me a real sense of achievement"

"As a consequence I have more extension materials available and the students have become more independent. I feel more comfortable having students working on different things rather than keeping everybody together in a more rigid style"

"It feels like teaching used to feel like. We are working towards getting better and becoming more knowledgeable for the sake of it rather than performing for an inspector or imposing something contrived on our teaching"

"It works a lot easier with the lower sets who are naturally more open. I think that is because they have probably already experienced failure and overcome it more that those in Higher sets. The more able seem to find it an insult that people who are not as bright can become as good as them through effort and time and it makes them defensive"

"It is a really positive approach, there is always room to get better. The students at first are very cynical and mock the language of it. But after time they get used to it and see that it works and they see the value in it"

Changing Mindsets

The Changing Mindsets project also ran a project that targeted Year 5 pupils in Portsmouth, Southampton and Hampshire. The delivery  of the interventions was led by the University of Portsmouth and took place between January and May 2013. Their key findings were...
  • Pupils who received the growth mindset workshops made an average of two additional months' progress in English and Maths. These findings were not statistically significant which means that they could not be confident that they did not occur by chance. However, the finding for English was close to statistical significance, and this suggests evidence of promise.
  • Pupils whose teachers received the professional development intervention made no
  • additional progress in Maths compared to pupils in the control group. These pupils made less progress in English than the control group, but this finding is not statistically significant and they could not be sure that it did not occur by chance.
  • FSM-eligible pupils who were involved in the professional development intervention gained a better understanding of the malleability of intelligence.
  • Intervention and control school were already using some aspects of the growth mindset approach. This may have weakened any impact of the interventions.
  • Future trial could examine the impact of a programme that combines the two interventions and runs for a longer period of time.

  • Using mindset language and thinking makes a noticeable and measurable impact in our school
  • If the system is not re-enforced by the teacher the students will slip back into old habits.
  • Students in the higher sets feel that they have more to lose and so resist adopting the methods.
  • This resistance holds them back from achieving the best results.
  • The teachers who have used this method have really enjoyed it and all feel it is worth the effort to make the adjustments to their own views and the way that they teach.

Next Steps for the new academic year

Some recommendations:
  • Widen the study to include more departments and staff.
  • Include more higher ability students in the studies with staff more experienced in teaching growth mindset.
  • Roll out a programme of mindset activities with the higher learning potential students in order to improve resilience.
  • Develop a series of lessons on resilience with staff and tutors.
  • Encourage staff to change simple language choices and expectations in order to embed mindset thinking throughout the school.
  • Develop a programme of challenge that stretches the more able but scaffolds their fear of failure and develops their resilience to encourage them to take risks.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Teacher appraisal: How much of the pie do you have your eye on?

I attended a fantastic conference at the University of Wolverhampton last week entitled: ‘Lesson observation: new approaches, new possibilities’, organised by Dr Matt O’Leary (@drmattoleary). Matt and I had been tweeting for a little while about graded lesson observations and how divisive and inaccurate they can be.

Matt is author of this book: Classroom Observation: A guide to the effective observation of teaching and learning and his research and writing in this area is second to none. I was delighted to be invited to run a workshop for the conference but, even more exciting, was the opportunity to hear how other establishments across the phases have been trialing the use of lesson observations without grades.

The tide, at last, does seem to be turning. Wednesday’s conference brought enthusiasm, a sense of hope and – perhaps most importantly for some - evidence from others that it not only can work but does work, and brings huge dividends in staff development.

Dr Phil Wood (known to many as @GeogPhil on twitter) spoke about the high stakes of formal graded observations in school; the fact that slivers of a teacher’s full classroom practice over a whole year can be summed up (or boiled down) to a single-digit number by which they are then defined is all shades of ridiculous. 

It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while and I’ve been trying something out which I’d now like to share. 

In my work as a Specialist Leader of Education, I do a fair bit of support in my own school and also some outreach work, both of which I love. I’m often asked into a school to support either a team or sometimes an individual, often at the request of the Head or a member of SLT. In our SLE training, a large chunk of time was devoted to the skill of trying to get to the bottom of a problem in a short amount of time. It’s very difficult, especially as the perception of a member of staff can sometimes be one-dimensional and led by the evidence of graded lesson observations. 

To try to gain a wider picture of a situation, I therefore started using a very simple pie-chart, often just scribbled down on paper which I used in my first meeting with the line manager, thus:

The four areas I used were:

  • Data outcomes – results
What are they like in comparison with other like-for-like groups in the school; does the teacher know where there is underachievement and why? Have they had any advice or support about any under-achievement?        
  • Teaching & learning /classroom practice     
What have observations thus far indicated? What kind of observations have they been:formal/graded; peer obs; walk-throughs (again, formal or informal?) Who has made these observations? What have the foci been? What was the outcome of the observations and the feedback?                           
  • Marking & feedback   
What are the books like? Do they show evidence of a range of marking according to what’s appropriate? Are the books looked after and show care by the teacher and the student?                    
  • Engagement with CPD   

Essentially, this could be phrased: What does the teacher do to improve and how much do they want to? It could be as small as acting on some feedback up to attending a Teachmeet or starting a reflective blog.

I asked the line manager to give me an idea of how a member of staff was doing, in their opinion, in all four areas. And, yes, at this stage I used grades: 

G/O = Deemed as good or outstanding - at or above what you’d expect from a teacher at this school

R = Requires support or development – not at the standard expected at this school yet
U = Requires urgent intervention

With these grades, I was looking for a general picture, and impressions, but the difference here was that I was asking for an impression from the teacher’s general practice and not just from a formal lesson observation. Once the line manager had given me a grade for all four areas, a picture often began to emerge. 

And then I would speak to the teacher themselves, in private. I didn’t show them what their line manager had said; I asked them to create their own idea of what their pie-chart looked like. Then, I’d look at how it compared to the line manager’s. This was my starting point and it quickly then moved away from grades and developed into a fuller picture with stories and feelings, and a way forward.

This informal system really worked for me in support and outreach work, and so I started thinking about how any teacher might use the opportunity to reflect on the whole of their practice and not just on the formal observations they  had each year leading to their appraisal / performance management.

I was interested to read @TeacherToolkit’s ideas  (this in only one of Ross's many posts on the subject) and later, @LearningSpy, here, (again, David writes extensively about this in many posts on his blog), and who has been kind enough to feedback to me about the process. 

I’ve now tweaked the form, again, working with the Head and the CPD co-ordinator at my school and we have removed all reference to grades for the areas. For most classroom teachers, a discussion and reflection with a supportive ‘buddy’ about most aspects to their practice is developmental enough, and represents a valuable step in engaging with your own professional development.

We’ve added a section for ‘wider professional responsibilties’; for most teachers this would be their role as a form tutor or learning mentor. If a teacher holds a TLR, they can also reflect on this in this extra area. We have created an extra section for the role of the learning mentor, which is an extremely important aspect to the success of our students. I’ve also linked each of the segments of the pie-chart to the QTS. Hopefully this will then link smoothly into the formal appraisal system.

Here, then, is the system for reflection which started life on a scrap of paper and which now will form an important part of our staff development next year.

Reflection and Self-Review charts

I have aimed to make this outline as generic as possible but occasionally refers to systems at my own school

This system aims to:
  • Provide regular opportunities for teachers to evaluate their own practice
  • Encourage teachers to actively seek to share best practice
  • Guide teachers to action their own development using the school’s support system
  • Review how their practice is developing and feed back about what has worked and what hasn’t
  • Feed comprehensively into the annual appraisal meeting with line managers so that relevant, meaningful and individual targets can be set, reviewed and met on a rolling programme.

The self-reflection and review or PIE-CHARTs are linked here through Google docs. 
(DM or email me if you want a copy).

Pie charts will be available at the end of each term, both in the staff planners or, when these are not being used by staff, via line managers during a review period. I’d suggest perhaps sometime in the last two weeks of each full term, and I’d also suggest that not only reminders are given but is time set aside in department/team meetings for teachers to pair up and discuss their reviews.

Teachers will be encouraged to complete both parts of their pie-chart (teaching and learning mentor sections) informally, either on their own or in conversation with self-chosen buddies, or line managers. The idea of filling this in with a buddy is to encourage a conversation about teachers’ current practice, to voice their own thoughts about the various aspects of their practice.

Data Outcomes

In the section ‘Data Outcomes’, our internal assessment system is based on the idea of fight-paths. Your own school will have its own system for tracking and assessment, but the process is the same.

Rather than set targets of percentages of a certain number of students reaching target, this part of the system is designed to evaluate the progress of students using data outcomes but – importantly – the teacher’s action in tackling under-achievement is the focus, not purely the statistical results.

We have developed a SWOT form to aid this reflection. This then informs intervention referrals (internal in the classroom, or external, using the school’s referral system.)

STRENGTHS: What happens in the classroom / home learning that means  students make good progress; 
WEAKNESSES: What happens in the classroom / home learning that is stopping students making progress; 
OPPORTUNITIES: What is helping students make progress?;
THREATS: What is happening outside the classroom that prevents students making progress?

So, if students in your class are under-attaining, you try to examine why. Blips? Is a pattern forming? Are personal circumstances affecting the students’ well-being? It asks you to evaluate the ‘story’. Do you need to try anything different in your classroom practice? Do you need external help? If you are following the intervention and referral systems, and following advice about how things might help, then you are doing what you can. The important issue is to be aware of issues and to keep lines of communication open with those staff that can support: your subject leader; line manager; intervention team, pastoral team, etc.

Sharing your pie-chart

However, the pie-chart is not a formal document and needs not to be copied to line managers or SLT; it is a teacher’s own document, aimed at a supportive way to reflect on one’s practice for the term just gone. Any teacher wishing to share their pie-chart with their LM should feel comfortable in doing so; it may form part of their next line management meeting, a Keep In Touch meeting or a talking point in a department meeting, but there is no expectation that teachers will want to share their self-assessment.

Action-planning from the pie-chart

Following assessment in each of the areas, there should follow a period of action-planning. This can be done in conjunction with a buddy, with a line-manager or alone. The notes in each of the set areas should indicate what the next stages should be.

Where things are going well or very well

Anyone that is having particular success in any area, where strategies are going well or CPD involvement has been particularly beneficial or helpful, should be encouraged to share good practice. This can be done via departments/Houses or via the CPS co-ordinator, Lead Practitioner team or the Teaching & Learning group. Sharing good practice might take the form of discussing success in a meeting with colleagues; volunteering to share in a Teachmeet (internal, local or official regional one); offer to take a CPD session on a Teacher Education Day or whole-staff meeting; write-up in the T&L newsletter or linked via the T&L page of the website; offering to host an open lesson/guidance time in the observation classroom; offering to have observers in lessons/GT; present a slot in a T&L meeting; take part of a support meeting for NQTs and new staff; contribute to Professional Studies for current trainees, etc. (You will be able to add to this list.)

It is hoped this will encourage more celebration and sharing of good practice across the school. Teachers should be encouraged to share the good practice and not hide their light under a bushel!

When things are not going so well

When an area is not going as well as hoped, it could be seen as a development point for a teacher, representing an area to review and seek input for, in order to improve. This should not be a matter of embarrassment. It may represent a ‘blip’ in practice; it may have a ‘story’ behind it, a wider explanation for this result; it might be indicative of a more significant issue. The important thing is to resolve to do something about it.

Many resolutions will come simply from the awareness of it being a development point and attention to it will mean that it does not stay a development point for very long. The aim would be to show some progress or action towards progress by the next time a reflection takes place.

Teachers should refer to the support list available and decide what would help improve this area; if this means the support of another colleague, this will be made available. Anyone feeling that they have not made progress in any area for more than two terms should seek support from a line manager or Lead Practitioner in order to gain additional advice about how to address this issue.

Occasionally, a development point might trigger a more structured level of support, usually involving help from a Subject Leader, Director of Studies (Head of House), member of the Lead Practitioner team or SLT. Any support at this level will work under a time limit in order to show significant improvement, negotiable with the line manager or colleague providing support. Any teacher feeling they are seriously struggling in any area needs to share this, confidentially, with their line manager or one of the staff mentioned above so that support can be actioned asap.

In some, rare, occasions, a line manager or subject leader might even flag up a member of their team that they feel is struggling, to the detriment of their students, and a structured intervention may be needed. Sometimes a teacher might be in denial about an issue and hope that if they ignore it, it might go away. In many of these circumstances it results from a lack of confidence in one area or another. Communication and honesty can help. If, however, a member of staff is resistant to intervention or feels it is not necessary even if a line manager feels it is, Lead Practitioner and/or SLT support will need to be actioned and more formal support be put into place.

What to do next

Teachers should keep a record of any sharing / support that has been actioned as a result of the termly reviews, plus a note of who, if anyone, they have worked with. Staff can keep track of this on their self-reflection forms.

Formal appraisal takes place in the Autumn term of each academic year. Teachers should take their 3 pie-charts to the meeting with them so that the official appraisal paperwork can be filled in using evidence from the year just gone. They may also wish to bring other evidence, e.g. lesson observation and walk-through forms, tracking & assessment evidence, any other recorded feedback or evidence relating to the 5 areas of evaluation.

Additional resources

Constructive feedback and questions are very welcome!

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Growing Mindsets organically

What we're doing – and NOT doing – as we move towards becoming a growth mindset school

As a SLT and within our Teaching & Learning group we have unanimously agreed that growth mindset is an important way forward for us and our students. We have taken on board the theory behind mindsets and many of us have read the book 'Mindsets' by Prof Carol Dweck. Growth Mindset has been written into our School Development Plan as a core aim over the next 3 years. 

However, the spectres of Learning Styles and Brain Gym loom menacingly, and we are all-too-aware of the dangers of jumping aboard the Next-Big-Thing charabanc and taking everyone hurtling off towards a place that ultimately zaps our time and energy with no impact or gain for our students or for our staff. Been there, done that. So we have always been acutely aware of the need to do things well: thoroughly, steadily and with lasting effect. I will share what we've learned, what we've done and what we're going to do. I hope it's useful.

So far this year, then:

  • One member of SLT (me) has been given overall responsibility for its implementation and I'm working with another AHT, Tess (@Flickers4Eva), to build it via the Teaching & Learning group.
  • One middle leader, Simon (@economysir), is writing his masters about its implementation and using action research to feed into the school’s work on mindsets.
  • Our Straight-to-Teach trainee, Andy (@80Morrison), is writing a research project about GM, working with Simon and contributing to the action research project.
  • We have visited Huntington School in York and spent a fantastically useful day with @JohnTomsett and his extremely generous staff, learning how growth mindset has been part of their school development for the past 3 years. We wrote a detailed report about what we learned and presented it to SLT and the T&L group. This part of the process was invaluable as we were able to see where Huntington is now, three years down the line, and what they have done in order to achieve this.
  • Students have all taken the GM questionnaire and initial scores entered onto SIMs.
  • We’ve included information and tips about growth mindset in our student planners, which we design and print in-school. This has meant we can guide staff towards these sections as and when we want to introduce aspects of growth mindset as the year has gone on.
It’s vital at this stage to consider one’s own school. Every school is unique: it has its own history, ethos and context. It was important for us to discuss and consider what we felt would and would not work back at Christopher Whitehead. There are certain types of students that we feel could really do with some support into becoming more growth mindset; some schools will recognise these students, others will find they have different priority students. For us, we feel we need to address two main types of students:

  • our Pupil Premium students, who can lack self-esteem and faith that they can improve. They statistically are likely to be in middle to lower ability sets and, unfortunately, are more likely to be moved down sets and then stay down, despite their academic ability. With less support at home, we might be tempted to lower our expectations rather than raise them. We're hoping that a growth mindset focus will benefit both them and their teachers. Dweck's focus on improvement through effort, and intelligence NOT being fixed is essential for these students' school experience.
  • The other main group are our highest ability students: fantastically motivated students who want to please; who try their very best and also find any kind of failure potentially devastating. We have an increasing number of of our high achievers finding life very difficult at times of stress and sometimes having melt-downs. As we move towards linear courses and a build-up to high-stakes exam periods, we need to safeguard the well-being of these students by making them more resilient as early as we can; teaching them that failure is part of learning. Dweck's work is absolutely key to us tackling this: these students are clear examples of a fixed mindset. 

We highly recommend talking to a variety of staff at this point, if you are considering adopting growth mindset. Our presentation and subsequent discussion at the T&L group proved to be the key to our next steps.

GM has been a key theme of our T&L meetings this year and those staff that attend T&L. Our T&L group meets on average twice per half term and consists of one rep from every department plus anyone else interested. This gives us give us a wide range of voices from all subject areas and levels of experience.

Teaching & Learning Group discussions/findings

This academic year, we had focused on growth mindset as one thread of our discussions and practice. We had read a number of blogposts (@JohnTomsett and @chrishildrew in particular), viewed some videos and many of us had read the book Mindsets. Discussion was also key, in answering questions, exploring doubts and also considering counter-arguments.

@ecomonysir later presented on his own view of it and why it is forming the basis of his Masters study this year. He has been running a study on a set of students who took the growth mindset questionnaire and had returned low scores. They fitted one of the profiles of some of our focus students at CWLC: bright, able and fixed mindset. His research involved he and @80Morrison meeting with the students weekly to talk through their learning experiences in the week; observing the students in lessons, conducting interviews with individuals and also interviewing many of their teachers. @economysir will continue to feed back as the year continues and he will share his findings in the summer, which will in turn inform some more of our strategies with students that fit this profile.

As a group we agreed unanimously that growth mindset was definitely something that we can a) all agree as being important b) would like to share with colleagues across school c) would now like to learn more about how we can build growth mindset thinking and teaching into our practice. We discussed the pitfalls of introducing initiatives whole-school and discussed how we could learn from past experiences in using what went well and avoiding what didn’t work/what didn’t resonate.

From discussions in groups, we came up with the following points:

What to avoid
  • Don’t impose
  • No big ‘jazz hands’ launch heralding growth mindset as the Next Big Thing

What to do
  • Sustain SLT support and belief: prove growth mindset has longevity and can be sustained by key people championing it
  • ‘Drip feed’ at first – read up on it; find resources you like; trial its use; experiment with activities, language, thinking in your classes /Learning Mentor groups and gradually spread the word
  • However, a whole-school session to bring our thinking together later this year would be useful. By that time we would have some of our own evidence (Simon’s pilot and our own trials) to feedback. How it is introduced and who shares it will be important: we would like staff from the T&L group to help in this process.
  • Give practical hands-on advice about how to use in classrooms, in LM groups, in assemblies, across school and in our own CPD
  • Make resources easy to access on the staff Shared Area and easy to use
  • Make it realistic, considering middle leaders’ and teachers’ workloads, i.e. small, marginal gains, ‘instead of’ rather than ‘in addition to’
  • Evidence and research to show how it will benefit staff, students, parents and the school (What’s in it for us?)
  • Share with parents and invite them to come on board: suggestion that we share using the same format as we introduced our new reporting system on parents’ evenings as that worked well.

Plans for the rest of this year:

  • We are designing and printing our own staff planners this year, as well as the student ones we do already. This means we can include key growth mindset information in there that staff can regularly access and refer to.
  • @economysir will continue his pilot and feed back to us in the summer.
  • He has also begun an action research project with a number of volunteers from the T&L group who would like to try some more overt strategies in their teaching. The findings of this pilot will be fascinating and allow us to share with all staff at a later date, with findings that focus on our own students and within our own context.
  • ‘Drip-feed’ into whole staff meetings, focusing at first on the language of growth mindset. At our first staff meeting back after Easter, we have been given a slot to share some ideas with staff: our initial thinking will be to share the excellent video here and then focus on the language of growth mindset in our lessons.
  • The Head has generously bought 10 more copies of Mindsets for our staff T&L library (thanks Neil!) so now we can encourage as many staff as possible to read the theory and not just tap into soundbites or surface understanding.
  • We have a bank of posters and infographics available via T&L group, encouraging the principles of GM thinking, for staff to choose and put up in their classrooms.
  • We will use the new T&L area of the school website to share growth mindset thinking with other interested staff and also parents. We'd really like to involve them and share our ideas and thinking as soon as possible.

Two strategies that have had a particularly big impact so far are:

  • This growth mindset language poster (adapted from a number of sources found on Pinterest, originally though from 'Mindsets'). One of our Directors of Studies (Head of House) has had this printed onto large stickers and given one to every student in her house and stuck into their planners. She's also run an assembly on it. We'll include this as part of everyone's planner next academic year now.

  • Monsters University! Watching this film with my kids just before Christmas, it struck me that this film is the ultimate tale in growth and fixed mindset thinking. So in the last week before we broke up, with both my top Year 10 English classes (which contained many of the students from @economysir's research project), we watched Monsters University together then they applied growth mindset thinking to a reading of the movie. The subsequent work was fantastic and showed an excellent understanding by the students. Here is a short excerpt of one review.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

"The Best CPD I've Ever Had."

Thursday of last week saw the culmination of months of planning and preparation: our CPD day, delivered exclusively by our own teachers delivering the things we know they are good at.

As a big fan of Pedagoo, having been to #PedagooLondon for two years running now and #TLTSouthampton last year, I have long been waxing lyrical about the messages of bottom-up CPD and @kevbartle’s Trojan Mice effect.

My esteemed colleague @Flickas4Eva, Tess, and I had a ball at this year’s PedagooLondon and it wasn’t long before we suggested to our Lead Practitioner team that we should follow suit and set up a Pedagoo-style CPD for our own staff, and – most importantly - delivered by our own staff too.

Our Line Manager Alan, who is also our DHT, soon secured us one of the designated CPD days and then it was up to us to get it sorted. The four of us (DHT, 3 Lead Pracs: Paul, Tess and me, and our amazing admin support Therese) met officially once every two weeks, with lots of little unofficial meetings and grabbed conversations in corridors.

What follows is a step-by-step of how we made it happen, in the hope that other schools will be able to see that this kind of day, although no small undertaking, is perfectly achievable using a set of excellent resources that you already have in your own school: the staff.

(You’ll notice each step is categorized by an Abba hit. The reason for this will become apparent.)

Step 1 – I Have a Dream

We firstly decided on a model based on 4 workshop slots, department time to reflect and ending in a Teachmeet. We ran 5 workshops at a time and planned to run a few of them twice if there was enough demand.

We then pooled ideas about what kind of workshops we might offer, based on our own areas of strength as Lead Pracs who do a fair bit of outreach work between us, but also from staff we know to be very strong practitioners in their own fields, not in subjects taught but in areas we had seen them succeeding in observations and through word-of-mouth reputation.

We came up with a list of around 20 possible workshop sessions under particular headings and then created a Survey Monkey (which has been our SAVIOUR. Highly recommended).

For all of these options we asked staff for a Yes or No for whether they’d be interested in attending a CPD workshop on any of the following areas. In the free version of Survey Monkey you are only allowed ten questions so we sorted all sessions into categories some of which had sub-categories so we could fit in our 19 workshop ideas :

1. Improved impact in the classroom.

Dealing with low level disruption
Using LSAs more effectively
Improved marking & feedback
Literacy in your lessons
Numeracy in your lessons
Effective differentiation strategies
Teaching revision and study skills at Key Stage 3

2. So you want to be a middle leader? (But aren’t yet on the MLDP)

3. Dealing with difficult situations.
Drugs awareness (run by the police)
Difficult parents
Difficult students (pastoral)

4. Improving teaching & learning through peer observations.

5. Effective use of ICT
Excel spreadsheets for data tracking – Basic
Excel spreadsheets for data tracking – Enhanced
Using iPads in the classroom

6. Making the most of Guidance Time.
(our daily extended tutor time within our vertical House system)

7. Homework: the issues and the solutions.

8. Running successful trips from school (day trips, residentials, home and abroad).

9. Well-being: A session that promotes your health, happiness & sanity!

We also asked colleagues to use the comments box at the bottom of the survey to add any additional ideas for workshops that had not been already offered.

An all staff email (including Learning Support Assistants and support staff like the cover supervisors, behaviour and careers co-ordinators) was sent out with the Survey Monkey link and a deadline to complete the survey by.

We decided not to chase anyone – at this stage the responses were anonymous anyway, as we just wanted to gauge numbers and interest for different areas.

We were banking on about 120 people attending on the day: teaching and non-teaching staff, plus invited guests from partner schools we had been working with in our outreach work. On the first day we had 36 responses alone and over the next week we gathered 66 replies. This gave us enough feedback to determine the nature of the workshops and then we could decide on sizes of groups (no more than 25) and confirm with presenters that we’d love it if they would support us on the day by running a workshop.

Step 2 – Knowing Me Knowing You

Our knowledge of the expertise existing within our staff was absolutely crucial. Some sessions leapt out as ‘belonging’ to certain staff due to their previous work/experience or current areas of interest or expertise. And then the four of us pooled knowledge of certain skills that individual teachers had in order to create a good mix of those who were more experienced in delivering CPD with complete novices: we knew colleagues would support one another in the preparation of sessions.

This was our final list of workshops:

Making the most of Guidance Time
Using iPads in the classroom (x 2 sessions)
Dealing with difficult parents (x 2)
Improved marking and feedback
Literacy in your lessons
Using LSAs more effectively (x 2)
Drugs awareness
Improving teaching and learning through peer observations (x 2)
Dealing with low level disruption
Dealing with difficult students (pastoral) (x 2)
Teaching revision and study skills at Key Stage 3
Well-being: Mindfulness and "Calm session" (3 of the Art Dept led a decorative glass-making session)*
Well-being: Mindfulness and "Active Session" (A PE teacher supervised Staff Dodgeball in the Gym)*

*both sessions were started by Head of Drama, Simon, who’s shown an interest in the theory and practice associated with mindfulness recently. He led everyone in a 10 minute introduction in how mindfulness can relieve stress and actively support our mental health.

Each workshop was 50 mins long. We decided that after lunch, we’d utilise the time that we could have easily slotted another session in by asking staff to meet back into departments, discussing what they’d learned and looking at what they might build into their own and their department’s practice as soon as they could. Tess very often rightly asserts that she wants CPD that has a take-away aspect that she can use in her classroom tomorrow; I think most staff would agree with this, as well as the tools to build strategies with medium and long-term impact too.

Last session of the day would be a Teachmeet to bring everyone back together for a sharing opportunity: for most of the staff, this would be their first experience of a Teachmeet; even though it was a fairly short one, it gave staff the chance to listen to what others had gained from the day and get a sense of that powerful collegiate energy that comes from a peer-led Teachmeet.

We then emailed all staff with another Survey Monkey, this time one that allowed staff to give their names, choose 1st choice workshops and then tick a list of remaining workshops they wouldn't mind being given if they couldn't get 1st choice. We made sure staff knew it was strictly FIRST COME FIRST SERVED with a cut off of 2 weeks.

Step 3 – Take a Chance On Me

A tricky area for anyone organising CPD, whether you are using outside services or those from within your school is quality control. How could we ensure that the sessions would be high quality when presenters were out of their comfort zones, possibly presenting to peers for the first time, and perhaps having a limited experience of good CPD.

The CPD day itself was centred on the theme of ‘High Expectations’, one of our key messages for the coming year and a central part of the school development plan. This gave us some ideas about how to ensure a standardised approach whilst still allowing presenters the flexibility and creativity to deliver an exciting and stimulating session. We asked for the following common elements:

1.       The session should feed into the umbrella theme of High Expectations
2.       Colleagues attending each session needed to know that they would learn more about approaches firmly embedded in educational research with proof of high impact on students’ learning. We provided further reading for all presenters based on research detailed by Prof John Hattie, the Sutton Trust and Dylan Wiliam amongst others. Strategies were linked to effect sizes for each workshop theme.
3.       Wherever possible, links to improving attainment for Pupil Premium students should be mentioned in each session; again, a key theme in our whole-school approach over the coming year, as previously.

We offered as much or as little support as presenters wanted. But one thing that I thought might help was to ask nervous presenters to create their session not as a CPD delivery but just as a really great lesson, something we knew they would be able to do with bells, whistles and knobs on. I think this approach worked: the more nervous colleagues could see now how they might structure their sessions; what resources they might use and how they might think about making their sessions have long-term impact.

Paul and I held an after-school meeting a couple of weeks before the day, to reiterate the make-up of the day, the aims and some of the house-keeping like room allocations. Some presenters were delivering solo, some had decided to work in pairs, many of which were cross-curricular, giving colleagues their first opportunities to work together. After the admin, we asked presenters to join up with others and share what they had planned for the sessions. This worked brilliantly, and it really helped colleagues with the ‘planning aloud’ benefits of explaining why they’d made certain decisions and even discussing where there might be gaps in the planning so far. There was a really positive buzz about this meeting and we knew we were onto something very special.

Step 4 – The Day Before You Came (alternatively, SOS)

Ok, not exactly the actual day before, but on the run up to The Day, we worked like eedjits trying to make sure we’d dotted every i, crossed every t and umlauted every u. Rather them than me, but Tess and Therese spent a number of happy hours filling all of the workshops with people’s first choices, as far as could be managed, second choices where sessions were over-subscribed and no choice for those who’d missed the deadline. I assume they were happy, at any rate: every time I went near the office and said ‘You two OK?’, they made high pitched noises that I think were positive replies; I couldn’t hear properly as they seemed to have their teeth clenched tightly. Jolly good.

The final programme looked like this:

The end of Wednesday found us in the Science Block Hall shifting tables with the very patient care-taking team; building a mini-stage and ‘one-twoing’ for all our worth with the p.a. system. Signing–in sheets were sellotaped to tables, individual stationery and folder packs for each member of staff (a lovely finishing touch sorted by Paul and our fab Repro team) stacked onto desks; coffee and tea laid out.

We felt like the (dysfunctional) family the day before our offspring’s wedding but luckily we no longer had any nerves, as they had been completed shredded by this point.

Step 4 – Super Trouper

As soon as we arrived, we knew it was going to be an epic day. Spotting my silver T-shirt as I stood with my 1 female and 2 male team colleagues, the Head began to refer to us as Abba. It stuck.

I can’t lie and say there were no hitches on the day, but they really were only minor ones in the great scheme of things. I managed to attend one other session as well as the two I was running and I loved the mix of people in the room; the pace and excitement generated by regular discussions; the sense that we were being truly collaborative, creative and energized above all, at a time of year when everyone is on their knees with exhaustion. It reinforces my belief (long-held by fellow Pedagooers) that this kind of peer-led, bottom-up CPD is truly empowering and very exciting.

The day went by in a high-octane blur and before we knew it, we were back in the Hall for the Teachmeet. We’d asked departments to sit together at large tables which we’d covered in lining paper, marker pens and chocolate bars (thanks to Tess’s husband, John, who works for a well-known chocolate factory). Departments were encouraged to write down shared ideas onto the lining paper and then take it back to pin in their offices to refer to when making further plans.

We’d provided each session with a feedback sheet which we asked to be filled in at the end of each session (below).

These for the majority of workshops:

And these for the mindfulness/well-being sessions:

We collected these in and then, after the Teachmeet, asked staff to fill in a post-it stating WWW and EBI, to be stuck to a big whiteboard we’d set up.

Perhaps the first indication of the success of the day was at the end. The usual end-of-CPD-day response is akin to a flock of velociraptors chasing a truckload of cattle out of the school doors, yet even after we’d thank everyone and officially wrapped up, a significant number of staff stayed back to chat.

The previously-nervous presenters were delighted at how their sessions had been received. We now need to harness this energy and build on the confidence that has been established when staff are given the chance to work outside of their comfort zones and embrace the challenge of collaborating much more with their peers.

We could see the Head was happy by the end of the day (and not just with my sparkly silver top) but he was positively effusive about what he’d witnessed as he popped in and out of sessions and chatted to staff from our own school and the 12 colleagues from partner schools (“Are there any jobs going here?” was one request he’d had.)

The amazing Therese sorted through the post-its the next day and typed up the responses. Here is a representative selection (with numbers in brackets if replicated):

What Went Well:
·         Excellent ideas (especially Guidance Time) which I really will try
·         Great discussion and ideas on homework and behaviour
·         Presentations by different staff it was refreshing to see different people ( x 8)
·         Well organised, structured  and very professional (5)
·         Meeting and chatting to staff from other departments and schools (x 8)
·         Our staff are amazing! Thank you everyone who delivered a session!
·         Making cool glassware in the “calm” session
·         Being able to choose your own activities from a range on offer (x 7)
·         Chance to share good practice with colleagues at school not generic training (x 6)
·         Training from colleagues who know our particular staff and students (x 2)
·         One of the best training days I’ve ever been on (x 2)
·         Calm / creative sessions should be a regular part of TED/CPD

Even Better If:
·         Whole day of workshops (x 3)
·         More time for each session to allow discussion time at the end (x 19)
·         More such sessions on a regular basis
·         Longer time for practical
·         Do it again! September  TED, to enable us to get on sessions missed
·         Less options could lead to a more focused discussion
·         More selection for lunch, carrots not peas

We’ll definitely re-group very soon and consider where we’re going next (will there be another chance to run a CPD day next year? What can we do to improve it?) but there is no doubt it was a very special day. Many staff took the time to personally approach each or all of us to say how much they’d enjoyed the day and – crucially – they felt it had been relevant and energizing using the set-up that we’d borrowed from Pedagoo.

We also received a number of emails that evening. My favourites:

“…it was great to see how much good practice is happening in school and time was given to actually sharing for a full day instead of just having it thrown at you in a 10 min meeting.”

“Thanks for the encouragement and suggestions about doing a session on the TED… I have had some really very positive responses from some unlikely sources who have sworn that they will dismember me if I reveal that it had an impact on them. 
It is really odd that we feel embarrassed to admit that we need to just get some relief at times. I know I felt awkward admitting to colleagues I sometimes sit down quietly for ten minutes?? Also the respondents said they felt a bit vulnerable about admitting it worked and that they would continue to mock me in public. 
Thanks again.

And lastly, from our Head:

“Dear Abba,

My vision – that oft used ill thought out phrase - was to run a school where colleagues wanted to attend, were happy to be there, were full of ideas, felt challenged to develop without the fear of constant judgement, where respect and values were not words that were left in the dictionary and, crucially, where leadership occurred at every level, not apportioned as the job of the senior leadership team.

The last two days have given me great hope that we are getting there and that a great school is attainable.

Well done


Happy doesn’t even cover it…

I really hope other schools are inspired to follow suit with us and other schools that are opting for this type of CPD. Do get in touch if you have any questions about putting this type of CPD on in your school.

POSTSCRIPT (August 2014)

I thought it would be worth adding a few comments about keeping up the momentum of this CPD day after the euphoria had died a little. This perhaps is the most important part: so often it's easy to be enthusiastic about inspirational ideas but the reality of day-to-day school life can have a habit of dampening our professional ardour.

"What's the impact?" is a phrase much needed in the wake of any CPD. It's easy to see the immediate impact in the buzz great CPD can create; even more heartening was the written feedback that we took the time to wade through and analyse. That's why it was important to include a section in the feedback forms for staff to start considering what the medium and long-term impact might be of each of the sessions they'd attended. And also crucial was allowing departments time to discuss and share what they'd learned as individuals. It was fantastic to learn just a few days after the workshops that the Science department had created a policy for all of the their staff on working more effectively with their Learning Support Assistants, created directly after two of their staff attending the workshop run by a teacher and a LSA.

To harness this type of positivity and action, I made sure the last Teaching and Learning meeting of the summer term rode of the back of the CPD day. It's a large group these days and contains representatives from every curriculum area. I asked each member of staff to make a pledge for the coming year to implement and follow through at least one idea or strategy they had learned on the day, in their own classroom practice and/or (if appropriate) one thing for the whole department to try. I've pinned all of these pledges up in the Staff Development Room, which is where we make the coffee before T&L and Middle Leaders meetings so they can't be missed (I'll take a photo when I go into school). And I'll make it my job to follow these pledges up and see how they are working - and if not, why that might be, so we can continue learning and improving.