Category Archives: Growth Mind Set

Changing student mind-set towards learning

Changing student mind-set towards learning

As we approach the end of term, our subject reviews, have provided a great forum for discussions and I was fascinated by a trial our scientists have been working on and will continue to measure the impact of next year.

Like many subjects they would like more curriculum time in year 11 and worry that they are falling behind as you can see in their opening slide! Using their professional judgement initially, they have worked out that 50% of their students are working in the way that they need to, to be successful in their science classes and exams.  They would say that this is better than it was but obviously not where it should be.  ‘Working the way they need to’ doesn’t just mean rolling up and keeping your head down for a lesson and you can see our generic gold mind-set standard below.

You show outstanding commitment and concentration in lessons.
You embrace challenge in all aspects of your work.
You have a constant desire to conquer the toughest aspects of your learning and will view any mistakes positively to ensure you get it right next time. You say ‘yet’ a lot.
You are determined to master subject skills and knowledge and are prepared to practice on your weak areas. You seek feedback and use it so that you improve. Supporting other students is also really important to you. You know how to provide them with honest feedback when it is needed.

There has been much discussion nationally, and in our own school, about the requirements for students to take responsibility for their own behaviour and learning. Some would argue that if a child misbehaves or refuses to have the correct learning attitude and stops the learning of themselves and others; that is down to them and not the lack of ‘engaging’ teaching or ‘classroom control’ skills of the teacher.  I’m hardly likely to support poor teaching but I do know that we have a fantastic set of teachers and need the students to have the mind-set to make the most of their teaching. I can accept that as a school we need to have the structures and systems in place to ensure that quality teaching has the optimum chance to impact on student learning.  Great behaviour for learning and learning mind-sets don’t always come easy for every student but if they attend our school, we should be insistent on them rapidly acquiring those traits, supporting them as they develop those traits and rewarding their successes as they grow into the learners we know they need to be.  Inclusive excellence for all!

The scientists have developed a direct instruction model of teaching, supported by each child having their own booklet [knowledge organiser style with deeper questions than the text books] and regular retrieval quizzing and tracking in place. You can see in the extract below that there is a great deal of collaborative planning involved and shared good practice e.g. on misconceptions and planning how to prevent in the future. For those who are trialling direct instruction, modelling is often the stumbling block and informal drop in observations are allowing colleagues to watch each other develop effective strategies.

The green text are some of the priority areas for constant consideration and finding out more about. Working out exactly where to quiz again/recap on the forgetting curve can be different depending on the complexity of the topic, they have found and we didn’t really know if anyone has written/researched about ‘proxies for learning’ in SCIENCE! We know Coe’s generic proxies and tried to skim through Didau’s big book, ‘What if everything……’ but to no avail.  I need to consult twitter to ask if any such evidence exists for different subjects.  It’s really important to us that we have a discussion in this in subject specific terms.

The slide which interested me most and made me share what we were discussing internally and externally was this one.

Each teacher was asked to think about their classes and make a professional judgement about the learning mind-set of each student [They did find a correlation between their own mind-set grades that appear on our reports] There were 5 categories and I’m sure that other colleagues will all recognise students in every category in their class. It isn’t rocket science to immediately realise that having thought about the mind-set of the students, our scientists were now going to try to move all of the students up so that there were increasing numbers of students who fitted the hard-working, committed success criteria that the faculty want to see in their lessons. I’ve mentioned direct instruction, our new folders and have written about our new behavioural policy in an earlier blog.  These have definitely pushed the numbers of ‘ready to learn’ upwards but these tactics are designed to support this preparedness even more.  Down to the minutiae of Cs being placed at the end of rows, Ds being dotted around the room and so on so that Cs have every chance of becoming a B and Ds are prevented from becoming Es. Es are spread around the classes and interestingly they were in the higher sets and not the lower sets or SEND students.

It’s a trial and one that needs to be shared with all of our staff and may interest other schools. As I think about it more and think about possible moves to mixed ability teaching, I can see immediate advantages but as a stand-alone trial, I can’t wait to see what the data will show by Xmas.

You can see the final slide and I’ll leave it here so that others can see their thoughts and can ask questions of it should they wish to.

Thank you to Carmel and Hannah for sharing.

Growth Mind Set-a year on-are we opening and growing our minds?

It was nice this week to be able to welcome 2 colleagues from Marple Hall School in Stockport. Ana and Rhian have been great supporters of our blog with lots of retweets and positive comments and Ana had also very kindly arranged for our Spanish subject leader Bronagh to visit her faculty previously. On twitter they are known as @ana_castillo and @_rhia_rhia and they asked if they could come and see how we are implementing growth mind set and our new assessment/tracking system. This is a welcome collaborative friendship between 2 very different schools and has come via the increasing and valuable use of social media as a form of professional development.

A couple of weeks ago I explained the role visiting schools have in developing the reflective and self-critical professional development of our staff-many teachers still don’t like to be quizzed about their practice or have visitors actually enter their classrooms but times are changing and visits to other schools and vice-versa are welcome opportunities for our staff to sharpen, adapt and improve their own practice. We can hardly talk about GM for teachers and then not support open and honest collaboration to seek out and share the best practice. Ana and Rhian were asking about my own career and I explained that I did, after 20 or so years, do some consultancy for 2 and a half years and it was a lovely break sharing all of the good ideas I gleaned from schools and research. BUT whilst it is much easier advising folks how to do things, the challenge of returning into school to put the theory into practice was my driving force. Anyone can talk a good game but school leadership at any level has to deliver the learning and teaching goods and we are judged in the harsh environment of the real world of inspections, tables and our own community and peers. Writing blogs and sharing our ideas is a late in my career acquired pleasure! However the success of them can only be judged if they are not found wanting when visitors call and hopefully don’t find a shallowness to our practice where only a few colleagues actively support what I have said, some may pay lip-service only and that actually I’m only writing about my own views!



It goes without saying that the GM attitude has to begin at home and an email just landed before I began to write from Sarah who was sending me her feedback on Katie’s observation.

For the observed!

What would you like to develop next with either subject or general pedagogy? How can we [or others] help? How did today help your appraisal targets? Where next with this particular target?
Implementing more discussion and group work into my lessons rather than getting students to write for the majority of the lesson. ‘Letting go’ of control and trusting the students to stay on task. I am observing Sarah on Thursday with her year 9s where she will be using group discussion within her lesson. 



How to challenge students in the most effective way. Push more group activities. Ensure modelled answers are succinct.

It was great to see Katie asking for her own area of weakness as her PD focus [as all GM teachers should!] and equally pleasing to see that she is going to informally observe her subject leader in action. [Sarah has instigated and offered this] How widespread and consistently excellent is this practice though across our school? Ana and Rhian’s visit provided me with the chance to re-assess all aspects of our GM journey for the final time this year.

Ana is an avid reader of everything to do with GM and attendee of teacher sharing events such as Northern Rocks. She has devoured the recent GM discussions from Dweck and commentaries at the Wellington conference e.g. and I knew that she would want to see much more than a plethora of GM posters and a few assembly PowerPoints! Yes GM is for both teachers and students and yes any visitor should expect to see examples of GM beginning to be rooted in classroom practice. I know that both Ana and Rhian both realised that on a whole school scale, the push for any initiative has to come with some clout behind it before hearts and minds can begin to be gently persuaded and then won. In my new position, if I believe in GM and want to see it embedded at MCHS, I have to be the living embodiment of it and model it in every aspect of my role. I can’t pick and choose aspects of it that I find easiest and then stand up in assembly or inset and hold forth about it and then not adhere to the principles myself!

I came up with a couple of acronyms for the Sefton Head’s Conference last week to explain the philosophy we have been developing and will share it again with our middle leaders tonight, when I talk about my views on leadership and share the questions and activities from our AHT and DHT interviews. I want all to see see my expectations openly explained so that everyone can prepare to ready themselves for SLT should they wish to. I used an old fashioned home-made poster-it looked something like this!







Most school leaders and teachers have the occasional great idea, but the key to consistent excellence and long term sustainable development is to ensure that the idea is evidenced in every teacher, student, classroom, and action etc. for all of the time. I need to consider GREAT WHAM every time I begin to think about any new or current initiative.










I know that colleagues have already began to call me ‘the boss’ and there are times when fast decisions have to be made [snow!] but if I believe in GM then I do have to listen and seek honest criticism and allow discussions which may disagree with my views-e.g. our BSG assessment! But I do know that if we are to move forward as a school then my mind set has to be the least fixed of anyone-bring it on!

The agenda for Marple’s visit was this;

Ana [Spanish] and Rhian maths and AHT arrive at 9 .30

Meet me briefly-down to Aimee to look at her GM food tech plenary


Rhian to meet Alex and Beth in Beth’s room to chat about Alex’s GM questions and GM learning hub/Beth’s maths hints and general maths GM.

Ana to meet Jennie in her room to discuss GM in RE then to Greg to see his GM work.


Rhian to Zoe to join Jen in her observation-Zoe is working on differentiating the Maths hint for very low ability.

Ana to Phil’s room to discuss his recent science lesson obs –GM for the students and staff



Ana and Rhian to meet Andy and Anne in my office to chat about Andy’s GM questions and GM learning hub and Anne’s year 7 residential GM.

11.50-back to me

12.20-1.10 Lunch


Ana to meet Leon and discuss our BSG approach

Rhian to visit Jen’s year 9 maths to see GM in the classroom

2.10-2.20-back to me

I tried to include a variety of different subjects, NQTs to AHTs, visits to lessons, examples from throughout the year and examples from colleagues who were teaching or out on courses/area athletics. Some of the ideas are quick classroom activities, others are designed to support the drive to embed thoroughly-all matter and all count.

Students [and parents]

After the London Olympics I began to grow interested in Brailsford’s much lauded cycling marginal gains tactics which combined my interests in sport and school before moving on to Dweck and Syed and sharing early ideas with staff 2013-14 cumulating in sharing Huntington’s staff GM survey and surveying the whole of the school via form time surveys just to gauge how far marginal gains were being talked about and to test out the waters for a GM push. Was there a groundswell of opinion and support available that would make it worth my while launching a GM initiative. I was convinced that it would prove to be worthwhile the time and drive I would have to provide. After years of teaching your gut instincts usually tell you what will work and what won’t. I actually quite like SOLO taxonomy and was ready to launch with the whole staff and had some very willing converts but something wasn’t quite right at that time [probably Ofsted being just around the corner and then one of the damn inspectors criticising a SOLO lesson!] I didn’t push-this felt different. During the summer of 2014 I got the posters ready, staff briefings and form time activities were all written and ready to go.

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I explained the early days in this post and mentioned all of the other schools who we were grateful to for their shared GM ideas;

Our ideas were shared at different gatherings of parents throughout autumn of 2014 with maths sharing their notion of GM.


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And I asked the parents for their views of GM in our annual Review Day questionnaire;

We have changed our assessment system [no national curriculum levels anymore] and our reporting system to provide information on our new Bronze, Silver, Gold approach-have you found the information informative/clear/understandable? Has your child mentioned anything positive/negative about BSG?

We have gradually introduced the idea of the positive aspects of developing a Growth Mind Set into our lessons, assemblies and reward systems. We would like our parents to support this initiative-we think that it will make a big difference to student learning- but wonder if you understand what GM involves/would like to know more. What do you think?

Their answers were shared on our bulletin and are in this post.

Our students love stickers and stampers-even year 11-so they are always a way to engage them or at least give them the message that the in initiative is important and won’t be going away!



Postcards home based on successful learning [represented by hundreds of posters around school] have proved to be popular with both students and parents and are a great way to celebrate the learning successes of as many students as possible. Names are proposed by colleagues and appear on our weekly bulletin with specific GM or learning triumphs.




Year 8

Sarah Lyon, Ellie Blundell, Martha Jenkinson, Leonie Birch and Lizzie Gerrard have filmed scenes and edited them together with music and slides to create their own silent movie in drama recently. They have really gone above and beyond, thinking carefully about their actions and the story line as well as adding sound effects and appropriate music.

Asher Nix, Owen Campbell, Kim Machin-Grove, Farrah Evans, Tyler Shaw, Carla Rigby, Katie Hudson, Joel Silva, Jakub Ciechlecki, Luke Kelly, Max Moyle, Bianca Nascimento, Jim O’Keefe and Becky Segar have produced fantastic pieces of work while studying ‘Goodnight Mister Tom’ in English recently. They completed an extended piece of writing and a letter, which were both of a very high standard, and worked tirelessly and passionately on the independent tasks. Well done to you all; Mrs Jordan says you are such a pleasure to teach. An extra special mention goes to Bianca, who reminded her peers about the importance of using capital letters. Well done!


Year 10

Aaron Core, Bethany Greenfield, Kieran Mills, Ben Shields and Lewis Hitchcock all revised really hard to achieve success in science. Whatever their GCSE result is, they can know that they’ve tried their very best. Well done!

Year 7 students were all pushed to develop growth mind set on the residential, moving out of their comfort zones and being encouraged to do a little more than they wanted to do. There was a prize in each group for the person who was the ‘bravest’ and had pushed their limits the most. There was also a prize for the best team player. All prize winners were awarded a PGL cap.

Luke Tilley, Craig Black, Naomi Sutton, Aodhan Blackburn, Michael Lawton, Domantas Karbauskas and Daniel Hitchcock stood out on the residential for being good team players and really supportive of others.

I’ve written in more detail about our GM stars in this post;

By January, I wanted to ask the students themselves how GM was embedding in their lessons and in their approach towards learning. I used our annual Learning Walks to quiz them more.

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We can’t pretend to be a school which promotes and is embedding GM unless our staff are open to the views of our students! A full account of what was said is here;

By July, each year group will have received the annual written reports and this time, the SLT comments are firmly rooted in GM language so that both parents and students can become more familiar with, and hopefully talk about, GM in embedded action. The comments below are from our year 7 selection.

Having settled so well into secondary school it is important that you maintain your good start and begin to take even more responsibility for constantly evaluating how well your learning is progressing and what you will need to do to make further progress. Focus on any areas of weaknesses or anything you don’t clearly understand and challenge yourself to use a marginal gains approach to master difficult skills. This positive learning mind set will really help you throughout school. Aim for the stars!
Having settled well into secondary school it is important that you maintain your good start and begin to learn how to take more responsibility for constantly evaluating how well your learning is progressing and what you will need to do to make further progress. Focus on any areas of weaknesses or anything you don’t clearly understand and challenge yourself to use a marginal gains approach to master difficult skills. This positive learning mind set will really help you throughout school. Remember the key word YET!
Having settled quite well into secondary school it is important that you learn how to work consistently and effectively in all of your subjects. Read the advice that your teachers have given you carefully and challenge yourself to master any areas of weakness. Always think hard yourself about what strategies you could use when faced with a difficult aspect of learning and seek and use feedback from your peers and teachers to help you further.
I know that you will want to be much more focused on your learning in year 8 so that you are able to take home an excellent report next year. Think about the lessons that you have been successful in. What is it about your learning in these lessons that makes you such a good learner in them? I believe that you can transfer those skills into every lesson, even if you find some lessons more challenging than others. Do be ready to listen to feedback and advice from your teachers and peers so that you can use their help and your own hard work to make progress.
I can see that you have already developed an excellent attitude towards home-learning and as you move through the school, practising hard at home will really help you to strengthen your classroom learning. Keep this up!

I explained our approach here; in an earlier GM progress review.


It’s a lovely sunny day today and if my career had taken a different turn a couple of months ago, I could be lying in my garden, listening to the afternoon play on radio 4 before walking the new dog I had adopted and stopping on the way, outside the Belgian beer shop for a nice cold beer! Luxury and surely nobody could begrudge me that! The simple reason why I’m not, as I explained to staff last night, is THEM [and the students]. The huge new responsibility of the role of Headteacher is daunting, especially when I’m expected to sustain the meteoric rise of everything associated with MCHS BUT I have a magnificent team of staff to support me. I’m nowt without ‘em and for all of my mithering and cajoling, it is the staff who have adopted and delivered the Meols Cop version of GM. They got it going, they shared with each other and they modelled GM to me, each other and our students far more effectively than I can on my own. I knew that I wouldn’t have to wait long for their contributions and an early autumn post shows positive responses.

I shared more at Xmas-

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Some faculties, such as maths really began to focus on GM and saw the potential it had for their students, especially the more reluctant ones and they had a blog to themselves!

The biggest test of the impact in teacher’s heads of GM came at our Whit inset when colleagues discussed the most important aspects of learning and teaching that they felt should be seen in all of our classrooms.  There was no interference from me or any other senior leaders-staff choices only-and I was pleased to see that GM appeared in their final choices. Each choice then led to a learning hub being allocated to it with a volunteer leader.

When Ana and Rhian visited, I asked a couple of the GM hub colleagues to briefly explain what they had been trialling. Alex, and the others, have been discussing GM and in particular how they can talk about effort and possibly record/self-assess effort incorporating a GM approach.


These were Alex’s questions that she was developing and had used during the previous week. She also showed her RAG marking which she uses on the student marginal gains wheels to self-assess their own intervention needs. Andrew also shared his geography set of plenary questions with completed student versions and a snap of his GM display and Aimee, her lovely food technology GM plenary dice.


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Ana met Jennie our subject leader for RE who explained her changing GM themes which have gone from butterflies and surfing to next year’s diamonds! Both ladies are very creative and no doubt had an imaginative and alternative conversation, whilst Rhian talked maths! Jennie has already planned her initial approach for September and I’ll share a couple of the slides she sent me and showed to Ana.

She told me that her GM belief to share with her students is, “The idea that we should trust in what we believe gets results.  Should that result in criticism, odd looks or suspicion coated in tolerance!  Who cares? “

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I am really grateful to Zoe and Jen for opening their classrooms to our visitor so they could see what we have shared in real action. Rhian moved from her conversation with Alex and Beth [maths NQT who shared her GM ideas] to Zoe’s formal lesson observation with her subject leader Jen. Maths colleagues have been working on their hints/tips to help their students access the ‘yet’ aspect of GM. I’ve previously shared Beth and Jen’s work in this area in the GM maths post and Zoe has been trying to differentiate the tactics for her low ability class so they can access the learning involved.

Context of lesson

This is the first lesson on the topic of Sequences. The students have briefly looked at identifying and following the rules of a sequence, and using this to find missing terms in starter activities prior to this lesson. The level of recall skills for the majority of the students in this class can be significantly low and often require generous reinforcement and reminders of prior learning.

Is there an area of their learning/your teaching that you have found to be challenging and have decided to focus on?

The focus for this lesson will be on encouraging challenge and growth mind set using differentiated options which allow students to set their own aims regarding how much support they require to make progress.

Getting your skates on! Which is the biggest anticipated risk/chance of failure you have planned to take in the lesson? How can we help?

Some of these students find it difficult to critique their own work and recognise improvements that could be made, even with the support of a hint. These students will be encouraged to use their hint to complete an entirely new answer which they can compare to their original afterwards.

Learning objectives/WALT

1 to be able to

Recognise and understand patterns in numbers and diagrams

2 to be able to

Apply sequences to solve problems

3 Growth mind set

Self-differentiated challenge and re-draft opportunities

4 Literacy

Use of keywords and correct terminology


I really like the maths hints after their FAIL [first attempt at learning] so that the ‘we haven’t achieved it YET’ is now possible with support. Most students can’t be asked to try harder or to ‘get tough when the going gets tough-they need tactics and support’ to help them take on and be successful in their SAIL [second attempt at learning]

Rhian enjoyed the part of the lesson she observed but the aspect she wanted to talk about most was the after lesson feedback session. She could see the powerful and meaningful conversation about actual learning and teaching that concentrating on using our lesson observations developmentally and not for grading brings.

Whilst Rhian was in maths, Ana talked to Phil who explained his recent observation when he had tried to flip his learning, with the use of his own films and had recorded the lesson using the IRIS cameras. She was interested in our lesson plans which openly ask and encourage staff to take risks and in the feedback session Ana had observed. I explained that I’m the 3rd person in the observations as much as humanly possible and my role is to coach the feedback person and to develop their mind-set to give honest professional critique. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t want to develop a few coaches amongst the staff, I want every single teacher to be involved in observations and giving feedback advice-what better professional development can you get than that! Phil was observed by Hannah, the 2nd in science who is very new to giving feedback but who has seen me do it for both lesson study and our normal [ish] observations. I couldn’t make her feedback session but was delighted to read the conversation both teachers had had. Phil has been teaching for longer than Hannah [he is a progress leader] but he has the mind-set that her views do matter and will be helpful. [How many young leaders are met with hostility, and put off leadership, when dealing with more experienced staff-not here-if you are good enough, age doesn’t come into it and all opinions matter] I could follow the conversation and see how it went and shared the paper-work with Ana and Rhian as Phil sought critical feedback and Hannah was prepared to give it, as she must.

Meols Cop Great Teaching Observer feedback comments to support development.How did each chosen strategy impact on learning? Anything you spotted for future devpt advice? Teacher view-did your teaching of each priority meet your predicted outcome and impact on student learning? Did you have to change tactics?
Flip learning


Impact:Previous homework was linked into the final activity where homework related to the questions given.  Those who had done their homework and retained the information could answer this question well.  This was evidenced by a random name generator.


Videos to support independent learning and for students to relay information to their groups was well thought out.  Most groups did send a student to watch the video, this definitely helped the groups work as a team and as guidance.


Students used their conclusion to teach others about their practical.  PJ had not said whether they were right or wrong, but they had seen model answers.  This was taken away, most students described the pattern in their results but did not explain why scientifically.


Future development:

Getting students to ask why and to explain their results.


The flipped learning aspect of this lesson worked as predicted. The students were able to tell me at the end of the lesson how concentration and temperature affected the rate of reaction without me telling them. The students could pull together the information they gained from carrying out activities in the lesson and from their homework to achieve the lesson outcomes.Students could recall their answers at the end of the lesson via a random name generator. This questioning was used to elevate any bias.


To confirm all have completed needs to be teacher checked for evidence.

During the plenary students peer assessed the work. I think it would have been better if I had put a box on the worksheet so they could have given a grade as to what they think that student achieved, this would have given students an idea as to whether or not they had achieved Gold there and then rather than waiting for it to be checked by the teacher and informing them during the starter of the next lesson where they will re draft their work.

Independent learning


Impact:Finding definitions was a good activity where students had to use books they wouldn’t normally use to find the answers.  The use of praises to encourage others to use a glossary was good.  However this did lead to a bit of coach trying to direct student’s attention to what you were doing with the praises.


Practical activity was supported with a video, each student in the group had a roll to complete the practical, and majority of groups took very well to this, and shared ideas.  They showed very good independence during this activity.


The independent learning helped students with their growth mind-set, finding out answers by not relying on the resources they’d normally use e.g. teacher, computers at the start, wrong book etc.


Future development:

Less coaching at the start, leave time for the students to look in the wrong place first and figure out not all books have the answer but need to be cross-referenced.


To have evidence of the students understanding.  Some students could verbally answer when questions but had little evidence in their booklet.

Students could be trusted to get their equipment and complete the practical without telling them how. 

Coached a little too much when looking for the definitions.

During the starter activity I would have like to have given students more time to find the definitions of the keywords as I felt I had to direct some of them as they were using the wrong textbooks. I should have just left them to realise they were the wrong ones. I also praised students who went straight to the glossary and upon reflection I should not have said why I had praised them and let the other students figure out why. The problem is that this would have taken the starter from 5mins to 15mins and this time was valuable for the independent practical, but should I have sacrificed that time for the starter?




Use of a timer allowed students to be aware of how fast to work and gave them a clear deadline.  They all finished on time at the end of the lesson.


Had to change some timing as packing away equipment took a little longer than expected. However all activities were covered in the lesson and it finished exactly on the bell.

For the observer

3 bits of great teaching that inspired and that you are definitely going to use tomorrow! Your favourite piece of student learning-best penny dropping moment-what and with whom! What did you learn most as a teacher from today’s observation?
1.       Praises for independent work, without telling them what they’re for.  Allowing other students to notice and try to figure out what that student was doing and thus helping their own independent work.2.       Resources to support independence, like the videos on the computer for them to refer too.  This could be done with many other resources to support learning too.

3.       Trust students to be independent and make the mistakes to learn from.

1.       Mae’s group worked very well, Mae took control and led her group to finishing before time.  The group worked as a team top reach a conclusion, but it was Mae who managed to link the energy types of heat and kinetic and how that means more successful collisions.2.       One group predicted the “wrong” thing.  They managed to disprove their hypothesis and explain why they had done that. 1.       To trust my students when working independently, especially with the younger classes.2.       Link homework into the lesson as extra marks etc.

3.       Give praises in a different way to usual to encourage student, not only through behaviour and outstanding work, but through initiative too.

For the observed!

What would you like to develop next with either subject or general pedagogy? How can we [or others] help? How did today help your appraisal targets? Where next with this particular target?
To have evidence written down for future reference that all students have made progress.  Random name generator can question students at random, but written evidence may not be recorded. This was the case with Freya. During the plenary her name came up on the random name generator and she was able to give an answer to my question “how does temperature affect the speed of a reaction” in scientific detail. However, she had not written this in her booklet. If I was to do the lesson again I need to make it more explicit to the students that they need to write something down. To look out for this evidence during the next round of observations.I would like the observer to check that students are writing something down when they are walking around the classrooms and feedback to me if they are not. This would be useful especially in a lesson such as this as the students needed help with the pouring of certain chemicals as they were too hot for them to handle.




This lesson made me realise that the Year 7 students are able to work independently, and I needed to take a risk to discover this.Next time, extend their science skills, e.g. can you devise a table for the practical.

Bringing GM into our lesson observation planning ensures that staff, if they didn’t already, are expected to plan for it-how well it is planned for and taught is open to discussion afterwards and best practice shared. I observed two teachers last week displaying their own mind-set in pushing their own practice out of any ‘comfort zone’ and also, of course, seeking to develop GM in their students. I shared my observations on the lessons with Ana and Rhian to show how far I feel we have moved.

Sarah delivered a wonderful poetry lesson in English and I loved her plan designed to challenge her own teaching.

Appraisal Lesson Observations

Teacher S Cunliffe  Subject English Set 9.1
Action points from the last observation Relevant appraisal learning and teaching objectives.  Which MCHS ‘great teaching’ criteria have you planned to model? 
n/a  Aim for +1 targetsChallenge HA students using higher order thinking skills and independent learning activities. Use models that show A* examples. Give them A* criteria.


Building student resilience – self-belief / aspirationsEngaging delivery – relevant / responsive

Risk taking – self discovery

Active learning


Promote independence


Context of lesson 40% of marks from the new GCSE Lit exam comes from poetry analysis. Students analysed unseen poems in Term 1. We are currently revisiting the skills required to access the higher grades – developing analysis in a detailed way and offering reasons why a writer has used certain stylistic features.

Is there an area of their learning/your teaching that you have found to be challenging and have decided to focus on?

Poetry is an area that a lot of the students lack confidence in. They understand poems but struggle at times to probe the sub-text and extend their answers by exploring the effect of stylistic features and find it difficult to offer alternative comments. They must ensure that they justify their opinions with relevant evidence.

Getting your skates on! Which is the biggest anticipated risk/chance of failure you have planned to take in the lesson? How can we help?

It is an unseen poem GCSE poem that deals with mature themes. As it is a subverted love poem it could be difficult for students to comprehend the emotions the character is feeling due to the relationship break down. It is also based on a character from Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’ and contains the word ‘spinster’. Students will doubtfully know about 19th century connotations of this word and that could limit understanding of character motivation.

This was followed with just 1 GM lesson success criteria –not a whiff of must, should, could-just all go for it!

Success Criteria

Students have a +1 target grade – class aiming for A/A*. Share A* only criteria with the class. The model answer will be A* quality.

Independent task – analysing poetic techniques – self-assessed. Exploring the how Havisham is presented in the poem – peer and teacher assessed.

Discussion of the poem using higher order thinking questions. Group feedback.

Increase their confidence in approaching an unseen poem. Create a ‘can do’ atmosphere. Group discussions – model answer before an independent task. No model given to push independent thinking and learning.

Students will be encouraged to write accurately using ambitious vocabulary. They will have access to thesauruses and dictionaries to independently look up unfamiliar vocab. Developing inference skills and probing the sub-text.

Sam and I trotted out onto a very windy field to observe Tom and his year 7 cricketers. Tom was working on a key area of mind-set and feedback- peer critique as well as trying to develop a belief in themselves so they don’t give up. Cricket is a difficult game to teach!

TeacherTom Easom SubjectPE – Cricket Set7.1 all boy group
Action points from the last observation Relevant appraisal learning and teaching objectives Which MCHS ‘great teaching’ criteria have you planned to model?
N/A – Previous observation was GCSE PE theory  Development of assessment framework (BSG) allowing for continued progression.  ·          Students will be inspired and motivated to do their best and seek further improvement within lessons·          Students will be actively engaged and engrossed in their learning and will think for themselves where necessary


Context of lesson Students to develop the key skills within cricket, these skills have been ‘touched upon’ in previous lessons but the class require further development with key areas to further develop their overall skill level in preparation for competitive games.

Throughout the lesson students will be assessing themselves against set GM criteria and skill specific criteria.  Students will be working in small groups and will have the opportunity to observe their peers in an attempt to improve their own ability, or develop their ‘leadership’ skills and assist others through specific feedback.

Is there an area of their learning/your teaching that you have found to be challenging and have decided to focus on?

The majority of students within the class have never played cricket before, with some who play on a regular basis.  The challenge for me as a teacher is ensuring all progress and achieve gold alongside extending those students who already have a good understanding of the game.  Therefore I am aiming to use those students who have prior knowledge and experience to lead others within the class.

Getting your skates on! Which is the biggest anticipated risk/chance of failure you have planned to take in the lesson? How can we help?

The idea that the students themselves are in charge of themselves, giving criteria but allowing the students to complete the tasks themselves, working together to complete challenges.

In addition to this the key skills within cricket, being bowling and batting are very difficult skills to ‘master’ and are made increasingly more difficult with the playing surface at school which is uneven, and often the ball does not ‘bounce true’.  This can affect student progress and belief as they feel they cannot achieve and in some cases give up.


Learning objectives/WALT 1 To recap skills and activities previously taught, improving their skill level through repetition.


2. To get the students thinking for themselves and how they hope to achieve Gold in each activity


2 Growth mind set

To encourage learners to take an active role in their own learning within the lesson whilst supporting each other during tasks.

4 Literacy – To monitor and record my progress identifying areas to improve in my own performance, in some cases identifying specific drills/activities to do to further improve.

Success Criteria 

Growth mind set objectives/targets for all students

·          To have a mature approach to the lesson

·          To think for themselves

·          To offer advice to others and help them if they are struggling/ take advice in an attempt to improve

·          To use and understand specific terminology where appropriate

·          Be committed and determined to succeed and not give up



What are the deep learning questions which form the heart of learning in this lesson? The lesson hopes to get the students to become independent learners


Can the students;

·          have a mature approach to the lesson

·          think for themselves

·          offer advice to others and help them if they are struggling/ take advice in an attempt to improve

·          use and understand specific terminology where appropriate

·          be committed and determined to succeed and not give up


Surface level questions that will help you to get to your deep questions and deep learning [ questions you need to raise, questions you anticipate/hope the students will raise] 

Student questions / thoughts hopefully to be brought up throughout


What skills are required to complete the task set before them – e.g. how am I going to achieve 20 points in this task


Can I help others improve?


How can I get better, score more points etc?




I heard some great peer critique, especially when the more able cricketers were supporting their less able classmates. I walked behind the lads on the way in and listened to their conversation about their learning. “Did you achieve Gold today?” “No I got silver because I …” “What did you get?” “Gold because….” And then the conversation went into asking about which club the lad played for and the interest engendered in the lesson continued into break.

This was quite a new idea to Tom and he was extremely positive about the potential that trying out different GM perspectives in PE brings. His plenary sheets summarised the learning that had taken place.

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Josie wasn’t able to meet our visitors due to being on a course but she sent some art GM to share

Growth Mind-set in Art

In Art, I have started a focus on drawing skills and have been using growth mind-set as a way of developing resilience in the students to help them improve observational drawing skills.

I have been trialling a version of lesson diaries which are stapled into the back of the sketchbook and opened to cover the page/work the students are working on.

The speech bubbles are then filled in at the beginning of the lesson as a prompt to remind students what they struggled with last lesson and that they managed to overcome that challenge. I have found that this has helped students to remind them that they can succeed, if even they struggle at first. It is also useful to help me see which students can recall the intricacies of observational drawing and the skills and control required.

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Greg was also out of school and he sent us his history examples. He has used every aspect of GM to challenge his learners-there are so many of his slides, I’ll just include the links and a couple of snaps!


Growth Mind Set 4     Growth Mind Set 3     Growth Mind Set 2    Growth Mind Set 1

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Anne our progress leader for year 7 came to tell us, with the aid of her assembly presentation [far too big for the blog!] about how she used a mind-set approach on the recent year 7 residential and how she has been developing ‘The Meols Cop Way’ with her year group. When faced with the daunting challenges of climbing walls and abseiling etc. she reminded the students that our way is to take on challenges and barriers-little by little if need be! An extra 6 inches up and over the top is achievable-think positively and go for it! Anne was telling us that the year 7 enjoy shouting ‘yet’ out in assembly when any barriers are mentioned and they are already using both classroom and extra-curricular activities to shape their approach towards learning anything new or difficult.


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Both Ana and Rhian split their afternoon sessions between watching Jen and her year 9 maths class and meeting Leon to discuss ‘life after levels’ A great data and intervention system supports a ‘can do’ attitude amongst both staff and students Rhian found our data systems and the way we use them to support our +1 challenge fascinating and I was able to share our latest whole staff BSG assessment discussions. Colleagues have been working on a GM approach to thinking about what the attributes of a great Meols Cop student of any ability should look like [as well as their subject specific skills and knowledge] and how we can include that in any assessment system. English had just sent their initial thoughts so I shared that!



This is just another example of how we are trying to embed GM into every aspect of school. I did share examples from NQTs of their book monitoring/professional portfolio to show how we expect a high level of self-reflection leading to a continuous desire to become an even better professional. I will add a section on GM to our feedback self-evaluation monitoring sheets for autumn to encourage the use of GM language in teacher feedback and student dialogue.

I’ve talked enough about feedback and CPD previously so will complete this huge sharing of ideas, exactly where I should do-in our classrooms!


Jen has been a tireless champion of tying out different GM approaches, usually including at some point the maths hints idea. I shared with Ana and Rhian one of Jen’s student surveys to show how she is prepared to think and act on their critique!

An interesting tactic I have seen Jen use before, is to ask the students to give an initial reflection on how hard they believe a number of sums to be.



The rest of the lesson, of course, is dedicated to developing strategies to support a ‘can do’ mind set including ‘Beat the Teacher and ‘Speed-Dating’ and the use of ‘hints’


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Venn Diagrams and Probability Growth Mindset


Complete the Venn diagram to show the number of black cards (clubs or spades) and picture cards (jack, queen, king) in a normal pack of 52 cards.

Using the Venn diagram calculate the following:

1)     What is the probability that a card picked at random from a pack will be black or a picture card?

2)    What is the probability that a card picked at random will be a black or a picture card?

3)    What is the probability that a card picked at random will not be a picture card?

4)    What is the probability that a card picked at random will not be a black picture card?


First Attempt
Second Attempt

Venn Diagrams and Probability Growth Mindset



First Attempt
Second Attempt
The support from each other and the teacher hopefully concludes with the students being able and prepared to successfully conquer the problems they previously thought too difficult. 


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We are on our way and after a full school year, I can see concrete examples of where both teacher and student growth mind-set have made a positive impact on learning and development. As with all initiatives there are huge areas to develop and tap into. The potential of mind-set if used properly is always open to discussion and we will continue to tread carefully sharing and evaluating constantly. Today is year 6 induction day and another group of year 7 students will soon join us along with our new teachers and the process of embedding GM will begin again for some and continue to develop for others. The circle of school life!

I may have time just for a final literacy and numeracy blog-we shall see-however, if you have read our blogs and found them useful and agree that more schools should join in and share ideas-great! I wouldn’t be much of a leader if I left an idea like this that can’t be sustained after I have moved on and I do want to step aside and let others share the new ideas that I’m sure will develop next year. I imagine that I may be quite busy with other issues that face community LA schools like ourselves-no promises though!

Embedding growth mind set into our community

Since we began to push our growth mind set initiative in September, I have explained in a series of blogs how we have tried to sow basic GM seeds via posters, assemblies and postcards home whilst encouraging and reporting back on classroom examples and our teachers developing their own very positive mind-sets so that the initiative begins to embed and have a discernible impact on learning.

I did introduce year 7 parents to the main ideas in their September information evening.

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At subsequent year 8 and year 9 information evenings GM was mentioned briefly by Jen our maths subject leader to share her faculties expectation of parental support re maths.


Many of our blogs have shared the impact GM has begun to make and have provided detailed student views so that we can take into account their views and amend our planning. Unfortunately our Easter Review Day surveys from last year, revealed that not many parents read the blogs so my dilemma in engaging our parental voice made me think of different approaches. Our bulletin, so the survey told me, is far more widely read so I advertised the blog again to see if I got any more viewers and have continued to use the bulletin to share GM ideas and have continued to explain aspects of GM and share GM Stars on it.

The GM Stars and Progress Stars are popular but do parents fully understand what GM is all about?


I want our students to go home and talk about their learning and I know parents want to support their children. However education has changed so much that many parents feel out of touch with modern teaching ideas and the communication with their children can become 1 sided and thus frustrating. To help our parents understand the crucial aspects of GM and enable them to converse in a basic GM language, I’ve firstly asked them in one of the additional survey questions on Review Day about their perceptions of GM [and our new BSG assessment] and secondly created some new comments for the SLT to use on our year 7 and 8 reports to emphasise the skills we feel are important. These obviously go home to all parents and I want to drip-feed key GM learning attributes which I feel will make a big difference to learning as the students move through their years with us. If teachers, students and parents can begin to use the same language of learning, I might start to get very excited!

The questions on Review Day will include;

We have changed our assessment system [no national curriculum levels anymore] and our reporting system to provide information on our new Bronze, Silver, Gold approach-have you found the information informative/clear/understandable? Has your child mentioned anything positive/negative about BSG?

We have gradually introduced the idea of the positive aspects of developing a Growth Mind Set into our lessons, assemblies and reward systems. We would like our parents to support this initiative-we think that it will make a big difference to student learning- but wonder if you understand what GM involves/would like to know more. What do you think?

The SLT have always written their own comments on each report but this time we have gone for a uniform approach so that the main key messages are sent home by all of us. Here are some examples of our year 7 drop-down comments. What do you think?

A superb first Meols Cop High School report-name-. Very well done! All of your teachers have commented positively on your attitude and commitment towards your learning and I especially enjoyed reading the comments in-subject [s]-
Overall a good first Meols Cop High School report-name.-well done! You have worked hard in year 7 and I especially enjoyed reading the comments in-subject [s]-
A mixed first Meols Cop High School report-name-with some good positive comments. I enjoyed the comments in-subject [s],however you do need to pay particular attention to the advice given in-subject[s]
A disappointing first Meols Cop High School year report-name-. It was good to see that you can learn well in –subject[s]- but greater commitment towards your learning and consistent effort needs to be made in all of your subjects
Having settled so well into secondary school it is important that you maintain your good start and begin to take even more responsibility for constantly evaluating how well your learning is progressing and what you will need to do to make further progress. Focus on any areas of weaknesses or anything you don’t clearly understand and challenge yourself to use a marginal gains approach to master difficult skills. This positive learning mind set will really help you throughout school. Aim for the stars!
Having settled well into secondary school it is important that you maintain your good start and begin to learn how to take more responsibility for constantly evaluating how well your learning is progressing and what you will need to do to make further progress. Focus on any areas of weaknesses or anything you don’t clearly understand and challenge yourself to use a marginal gains approach to master difficult skills. This positive learning mind set will really help you throughout school. Remember the key word YET!
Having settled quite well into secondary school it is important that you learn how to work consistently and effectively in all of your subjects. Read the advice that your teachers have given you carefully and challenge yourself to master any areas of weakness. Always think hard yourself about what strategies you could use when faced with a difficult aspect of learning and seek and use feedback from your peers and teachers to help you further.
I know that you will want to be much more focused on your learning in year 8 so that you are able to take home an excellent report next year. Think about the lessons that you have been successful in. What is it about your learning in these lessons that makes you such a good learner in them? I believe that you can transfer those skills into every lesson, even if you find some lessons more challenging than others. Do be ready to listen to feedback and advice from your teachers and peers so that you can use their help and your own hard work to make progress.
I can see that you have already developed an excellent attitude towards home-learning and as you move through the school, practising hard at home will really help you to strengthen your classroom learning. Keep this up!
I can see that you have already developed a good attitude towards home-learning and as you move through the school, practising hard at home will really help you to strengthen your classroom learning. Keep this up!
Your home-learning record varied across your subjects. It is important that you develop a routine that works for you so that you are prepared for the more demanding home-learning tasks that will be expected of you as you move through school and beyond. If you are finding it difficult to plan when to do your home-learning and getting it in on time-ask your learning tutor for help and advice.
Your home-learning record worries me. It is important that you develop a routine that works for you so that you are prepared for the more demanding home-learning tasks that will be expected of you as you move through school and beyond. If you are finding it difficult to plan when to do your home-learning and getting it in on time-ask your learning tutor for help and advice

You can see that we are pushing hard work, purposeful practice, marginal gains, self and peer critique and feedback-all important GM attributes. Our year 8 students should be able to consolidate and develop their learning further again and this hopefully is reflected in their comments.

A superb report-name-. Very well done! All of your teachers have commented positively on your attitude and commitment towards your learning and I especially enjoyed reading the comments in-subject [s]-
Overall a good report-name.-well done! You have worked hard in year 8 and I especially enjoyed reading the comments in-subject [s]-
A mixed report-name-with some good positive comments. I enjoyed the comments in-subject [s],however you do need to pay particular attention to the advice given in-subject[s]
A disappointing year 8 report-name-. It was good to see that you can learn well in –subject[s]- but greater commitment towards your learning and consistent effort needs to be made in all of your subjects.
By working so well in year 8 you have given yourself the perfect learning foundation to begin your G.C.S.E. subjects in year 9. I know that you have begun to develop a resilient learning mind-set and seek excellence in all of your learning. Aim as high as you can next year!
By working so well in year 8 you have given yourself the perfect learning foundation to begin to make even more learning progress in year 9. I know that you have already begun to develop a resilient learning mind-set and seek excellence in all of your learning. Aim as high as you can next year!
Use the advice given by your teachers to ensure that you show a consistently positive approach towards every aspect of your learning in year 9. Seek feedback from your teachers and peers to help you meet your learning targets and work as hard as you can to achieve success next year.
Year 9 is a crucial year and you need to be fully prepared to develop a positive ‘can do’ mind-set in every subject. Your teachers will always support your learning but you need to be prepared to practice and work hard to meet your learning targets next year. If you work on the ‘marginal gains’ needed in each subject; you will find progress easier to achieve.
Working and practising hard at home really does help to consolidate your classroom learning and prepare you for the hard work and dedication needed to be successful with your G.C.S.E.s and beyond. It was good to see that you have shown great commitment to your home-learning.
Working and practising hard at home really does help to consolidate your classroom learning and prepare you for the hard work and dedication needed to be successful with your G.C.S.E.s and beyond. It was good to read that you have shown an overall good commitment to your home-learning.
Working and practising hard at home really does help to consolidate your classroom learning and prepare you for the hard work and dedication needed to be successful with your G.C.S.E.s and beyond. Please make sure that you show good commitment to your home-learning in every subject.

I don’t know how well the comments will be received or whether they may need adapting but I hope that all can see our purpose and can understand where we hope that the acquisition of GM attributes will take our students. Please let me know if you think that this is the right way forward.




Shuffle Your Sums! Growing Mathematical Mind-Sets.

Jen our subject leader for maths, sent me some pictures of her latest growth mind set ideas that she has been trialling with 3 of her classes. I was intrigued to find out more not just because  I’m keen to see how far GM is being embedded in our classrooms [and staffroom] but because maths was one of my weaker subjects at school and I’m fascinated to see the strategies my colleagues use to support mathematicians like me! Our maths faculty have been changing their pedagogical approaches quite rapidly over the last year in preparation for the challenges the new G.C.S.E. will bring [if it ever actually happens] with its emphasis on confidence, fluency, problem solving and reasoning. Some of our learners however, do find some of the problem solving style of questions tough and aren’t quite as resilient in their pursuit of mathematical glory as they might be. Jen has been working on supporting a more resilient approach beginning in year 8.

I mentioned her work and initial thoughts in a previous blog

“Jen, our subject leader for maths, sees a natural relationship between the teaching of maths and GM, especially as the curriculum/G.C.S.E. requirements are changing. In between the Learning Walk interviews she asked me to drop in on 2 different maths lessons where she was introducing new GM ideas and was saying that the year 10 students found it hard to think ‘YET’-when they are finding a topic hard they shout “I can’t do it” and they know the “YET” bit is coming but getting there seems a long way off! I suggested that she needs to help them to think about getting to YET by trying to consider different possible strategies-we have to teach them, and model,  how to think strategically when they get stuck-they can’t just tough it out and come up with something. Thinking of the mantra 3BME or similar, I suggested [being in maths!] a formula for them to consider of 3BY-3 ideas to try to get to YET-see how it goes!”

She has worked hard to encourage her most recalcitrant students to try to avoid not doing anything at all other than giving up in their First Attempt At Learning by offering hints after they have tried at least something with their FAIL. The skills to ‘grow’ your maths mind set need to be taught and nurtured-the students don’t just appear ready, willing and able to accept failure or to think of different coping strategies-and nor do we. The hints given have allowed the students to see Miss model mathematical thinking and the opportunity to bridge the gap between their FAIL and Second Attempt At Learning.

You can see the problem set below for low/middle ability year 9 students.

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In their first attempts the student in the first photo worked out the number of flags but not the area of the triangle.

Hints are provided and the student moves on to their SAIL. If they get their FAIL correct, I suggested being given a NAIL-new attempt at learning so we could shout NAILed it-Jen is sleeping on selling that to her colleagues!

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The year 8 students shared their FAILS with each other as they attempted a question devised by Clair.


Joe struggled with his FAIL, received some handy hints and got SAILing.


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Jimmy’s FAIL could read the Venn but didn’t add any details.

Hints were given and the SAIL followed.

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The hints may be in the form of reminding the students what they know already or reminding them of ‘stuck’ strategies they’ve used before. Sometimes Jen just re-emphasises the question to help the students re-read and think again-just as we encourage in their exams. Building up their confidence to cope with the ‘YET’ aspect of growth mind-set, which some of our younger students raised as a concern on our learning walk, will, I feel, be well worth the patient effort on our behalf. Jen filmed a couple of the lessons with IRIS and the faculty will be able to see the reaction of some of the students who struggled at first.

Beth has also been trialling the use of ‘hints’ and I went into her lesson to see the year 9 class working on advice a rugby coach might give based on maths to make a successful kick over the posts. You can see the FAILs, SAILs and final attempt in their books-Miss gave hints between each attempt. The use of coloured pens indicates when the students tackle their ‘challenge’ questions-these are rewarded with Growth Mind Set Star school bulletin nominations and postcards home.

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It’s too early to find concrete data evidence to make comments about the impact of the idea. Jen’s year 10 class did achieve decent grades in last week’s internal exam but this may be due to other factors, although individual student success stories are beginning to build. Zoe told me that her very low ability year 11 class had responded well and they seemed to see the hints as giving them the chance to start afresh, rather than being simply wrong. If the approach can build their confidence and make them stop and think-“where have I met this problem before” rather than giving up-brilliant for their maths exam and a good lesson for life.

Being resilient and overcoming obstacles isn’t just an aspect of Meols Cop GM for students-the maths curriculum changes expect a lot of our teachers too. As teachers we sometimes think that our students will never be able to tackle tougher questions and I’m sure that the original consensus amongst the faculty might have been “OMG some of our kids will never cope with this problem solving stuff!” Always expecting excellence of your learning or teaching can be difficult when changes may make you less certain of your ability, skills and knowledge. The faculty are working extremely hard to support and encourage each other –I thanked them this morning but as mathematicians they want to see the data that will prove their ideas are working [or not] I also know that they are on their 3rd version of our new assessment system-it would be easy to run with their first idea but they want the system to work and are prepared to trial, possibly fail, adapt and go again until they get it where they know it will work best to support learning. It would be remiss of me not to also mention that in response to the curriculum changes, Jen had asked her colleagues to change their approach to the year 9 curriculum half-way through the year-faculty growth mind-set in action-thank you!

When schools, faculties or individual teachers have to take on change and introduce new ideas the levels of stress can have a negative effect on performance. All of our teachers work hard, but being asked to work or consider working in different ways can initially increase work load and anxiety and needs the support and encouragement of others from our middle and senior leaders. Jen is a young leader who began with us as an NQT and took on the role of subject leader in her 4th year of teaching. She probably didn’t expect that to happen so quickly, although as senior leaders we should always be looking for, and developing potential leaders, sometimes situations arise and unexpected leadership is thrust upon people! Jen was telling me that she wants to survey her faculty with a NPQML style 360 degrees questionnaire to get honest answers re her leadership and the path the faculty are moving along. Thriving on feedback is a brave move but ultimately we must ask our students, parents and colleagues their opinions and encourage honest FISH feedback across Meols Cop.

The role of middle leadership is absolutely crucial in defining and shaping the current and future success of our school and we have to get it right. I can remember when I first took on leadership roles and struggling to deal with the usual issues of awkward people often older and more experienced than me, trying to introduce much needed change, trying to monitor, sorting out behaviour for other classes whilst teaching a full timetable myself and being accountable for my own results and the humanities faculty. The professional expectations required of a middle leader are much greater now and the addition of seconds in faculty are a great help. Clair and Jen work well as a duo, each with different strengths and interests and the mixture of experience and youth in the faculty supports and excites the two leaders.

We tell the students to work hard and practice hard to develop their mind set and become better learners and during my conversation with Jen it became apparent that she too was purposefully practising her own teaching skills to try to deal with an issue that we have been discussing across the school-how do we get the students to learn effectively/make their learning stick?


The crucial cognitive structures of the mind are working memory, a bottleneck that is fixed, limited and easily overloaded, and long-term memory, a storehouse that is almost unlimited. If nothing has changed in long-term memory, nothing has been learned. Our teaching should minimise the overload of students’ working memories and maximise the retention in their long-term memories

@joe_kirby’s use of Willingham’s question should be posed in all of our classrooms and Jen wanted to find out more about how she could maximise retention in her math’s student’s long term memories.

Leon, our AHT, had sat down with Jen to discuss potential new approaches needed in the teaching of maths and sent her an American piece of research.

Shuffling Maths Problems

I know she has read it because I saw her notes! Along the same lines he shared this with Carmel [science subject leader]

Improving Students Learning

I had already shared an example of revision ideas building on quizzing and returning to older topics from an English school by @shaun_allison with our staff and prepared a year 11 assembly to push the interleaving theme with the students and staff.

Asking our staff to engage with research to inform and improve their practice is relatively easy and pain free when it is very practical in nature [lesson study] and they can see immediate impact. Engaging with deeper research produced by non-teacher university colleagues can honestly be a tad hit and miss! Much as I try to provide CPD time, to really engage with some of the more detailed research does impinge on own time but the ideas gleaned and potential classroom impact can make it so worthwhile. You have to be quite resilient to cut through the language researchers use to seek the appropriate ideas that we could possibly use to help us get round learning barriers effecting our student’s learning. Jen has already borrowed ideas and began to formulate an approach of spacing out student learning by revisiting older topics to reinforce ‘stickablity’ of learning. 5 a day is a simple version already in use and proven to work-this new scheme that Jen is proposing trialling with control groups involved in year 9 and using lesson study to plan collaboratively, would see ‘quizzes’ on old topics included at the end of every modular test-not necessarily re teaching-just re-quizzing. If I have got it right it may work like this;

Topic 1 Topic 2 Topic 3 Topic 4 Topic 5
Assessmenttest on content Assessmenttest on T2 content

Quiz on T1

Assessment teston T3 content

Quiz on T1/2

Assessment test on content of T4Quiz on T1/2/3/ Assessment test on content of T5Quiz on T1/2/3/4

The 5 a day approach would continue each lesson to revisit both old and new learning. Our student voice tells us that they like this approach and that it helps them memorise their learning. By ‘shuffling’ the topics Jen hopes to see further improvements in the final G.C.S.E. grades and together with the faculty approach to growth mind-set, the students who have struggled should begin to feel far more confident in approaching the harder questions they face [previously perhaps for the first time in a school year] and have a change of learning attitude. I’ll feedback on the impact of the initiative on all students and different cohorts when it has had plenty of time to embed.

As you can see in the additional section below, it’s a piece of in-house and external research we need to follow carefully. A nice post I read last night shared the possibilities of spaced learning-from @Eddie Kayshun explains his approach to spacing learning in lessons and has other links to research information. Mike Bell’s Evidence Based Teaching Network yesterday put forward spaced learning in their ‘worth trying’ section. I’m not an expert on neuroscience but experience and gut feeling tells me there may be something in it!

There is a lot of evidence that practice is absolutely necessary to form long-term memories.  It’s entirely possible for a student to appear to have learned in the lesson – but to know nothing about it next week.  This is because the brain-cells have reset to zero because the pathway has not been exercised in time.

In the research there is a distinction between ‘massed-practice’ which happens at the end of the topic (after several lessons) and ‘spaced practice’ which happens at regular intervals after the first learning.  The classroom evidence is backed-up by the neuroscience – spaced practice is much more effective (ES 0.7 – high)

BEYOND MATHS-spreading news of the same issue

We have discussed current ideas that I had gathered at our subject leaders meeting and via our regular emailing of great ideas shared by other schools and educationalists on twitter. This opens up another potential blog of how social media can support CPD-if we are to be the best teachers/school that we can be-we need to bring the best possible practice and research into our school so we can take what is appropriate for our learners and teachers and adapt it for our use. Busy teachers and middle leaders don’t always have the time for this-it should be someone’s role-it isn’t acceptable for us to wait until we go on a course or a local pow-wow to bring the best local, national and international ideas into MCHS. Nor is it acceptable to ever be complacent and rest on our progress measures/Ofsted laurels-as a school we should have the mind-set of being inspired by the success of others. There are lots of like-minded people who will help and openly share their ideas with other schools. Before our meeting I read a super blog by Rachael Edgar @Dubai_Teachmeet in which she had collated her own work and other schools ideas on assessment and making learning stick

I shared some of her summaries of ‘making it stick’ and discussed Belmont Community School’s English scheme of learning which modelled interleaving and Swindon Academies assessment and teaching ideas to encourage the retention of learning. Our scientists immediately asked me if I knew of a similar approach in science and so I tweeted Dan Brinton @dan_brinton and David Didau @learningspy who had worked on Belmont’s example and Dan put me in touch with their science leader @Julie Ryder2. Julie kindly agreed to send us her scheme of learning which includes interleaving ideas. No questions asked, just generosity of spirit. @davidfawcett27 , having seen my tweet request then sent us his PE scheme of learning so one quick message resulted in quality school to school support. For wonderful collations of thoughts, research and practical school responses to GM and making learning stick, Ruth Powley-@powley_R, is the lady I turn to and borrow from.

Face to face visits are equally thought provoking and fruitful ones provide the very best professional development. Eyes can be well and truly opened at what is happening elsewhere and needs to be happening here! Recent visitors have included South Wirral, Range, Holy Family, St Peters and St Pauls, St Augustines and KGV and we are really grateful to Wakefield City Academy for allowing in Hannah and Jen and for South Wirral [Tim, Sophie, Allan] on the 27th, Leon to Whalley Range on the same day, Wellington School for Carmel/Hannah, Flixton GS [Sam] and other arrangement talks have been opened with Lytham, Holmfirth, Crossley Heath and Poynton.

Despite the gloom that surrounds much of education, many teachers are trying to re-claim their profession and their CPD and as a consequence, shifting their own practice based on research and evidence, in a way I haven’t experienced before in my many years of teaching and leading. These are exciting times for those willing to develop their own mind set and engage. As leaders we have to set the right example by being prepared to model the traits of GM openly and explicitly-if we don’t, why should others follow?

Meols Cop Mind Set Stars

Meols Cop Mind Set Stars-is growth mind set making a difference to learning and teaching?

On our Xmas bulletin,

students and parents were given the following message:


Our Progress Stars have become a huge success since we introduced those 3 years ago. Over 800 have been sent home and appeared on the bulletin since this term began in September! They have become part of the fabric of our building and it’s wonderful to see so many names on the posters around school and to receive so many positive comments from home in praise of our initiative-thank you to everybody who has contributed to their success.

In January, the focus will change slightly with teachers and support staff being asked to look out for the attributes we associate with being a really good Meols Cop learner. Students need to be aware of these and remind their teachers if they think they have fulfilled one of the criteria and deserve recognition.

These are the MCMS Star attributes we will be rewarding;

  • Students who have achieved above their targets.
  • Students who have deliberately taken on a demanding challenge.
  • Students who have accepted honest, critical feedback and improved their learning.
  • Students who have re-drafted work to make it ‘excellent’.
  • Student who have responded to feedback with a specific plan and successfully achieved what was suggested.
  • Students who have given really effective peer critique with clear explanations about how to improve.
  • When the going gets tough; students who get going!
  • Students who always try to persevere with a difficult question or concept without, asking for help after 10 seconds! [0B4ME!]
  • Students who have gone out of their way to help others and who enjoy others achieving success.
  • Students who may have been feeling low and who have gradually, with patient support, begun to feel more positive.
  • Students who have tried their best when faced with a significant learning barrier and want to overcome it by chipping away with marginal gains.
  • Students who have self-analysed their own performance, decided it wasn’t good enough and improved through their own hard work.
  • Students who turn up to classes and are always positive and respond to ‘yet!’-there are lots of them.
  • Students who have asked for extra work and advice or attended extra lessons.
  • Students who always produce home-learning to the best of their ability because they know that practice at home helps them improve.
  • Students who always turn up for practices and rehearsals because they want to improve and seek excellence in everything they do.

Any more you can think of!

Developing a growth mind-set to help our students acquire attributes which we believe will support their learning at MCHS and beyond, has been a key aspect of our blogs this school year. The initiative has been drip-fed since September, although many aspects are as old as our school, and I’ve shared our ‘propaganda’ posters, early classroom examples and philosophy of staff GM in these posts.

The problem with initiatives, apart from having too many at once, is that often some of the wonderful ideas I spot on blogs and in educational literature are only followed by the person themselves or just a few colleagues. For whatever reason their great idea hasn’t been successfully ‘sold’ to others and hasn’t become part of the whole school ethos/accepted good practice. Without relentless pushing and monitoring, many ideas fizzle out and colleagues always gleefully recall failed initiatives-even within faculties or year teams! To be successful, an initiative has usually to be something that all at school value and can see the worth in, [they may have devised it themselves e.g. learning and teaching policy] it is clearly understood by students, parents and staff and is accessible to all. There are times when initiatives have to happen that may not be universally popular but school leaders feel are for the benefit of the school/students-a test of leadership skills but if leaders have built up the trust of colleagues, hopefully they will go with you in the belief that you haven’t messed up with too many other ill-conceived initiatives and ideas! Sometimes I dip my toes in and see how the tide is flowing e.g. Solo taxonomy, which I quite like and introduced 3 years ago on September inset-a couple of colleagues loved it, for others it was an initiative too far and at that point I prioritised marking and feedback as being a more appropriate focus-doesn’t mean I won’t return to it! For others such as Behaviour for Learning, the 6Cs, non-grading of lessons, lesson study and marking/feedback-I genuinely believed that they had to happen to move learning and teaching here upwards and onwards. I will try to persuade, explain, justify and will actively seek out areas of potential opposition, concern whilst also seeking out areas of great practice to share how, whatever initiative it is, looks when it is working well! I will model the idea for others to see as much as I can do-if we share marking-mine must be there-if we peer observe ideas-I must offer to be observed teaching and so on.

If the initiative is to have an impact on learning and teaching [no point introducing it if it doesn’t!] I will monitor the impact, ask questions of all and change the thrust if students/teachers tell me that there is minimal impact on their learning/teaching or some aspects are working better than others. I might have to swallow my pride and change completely [I didn’t say give up!!] and it is important that I’m seen to listen and react to professional consensus. For any new CPD/initiatives it’s crucial that as a staff we get used to trialling, assessing the impact, adapting, trialling again, sharing the successes and adaptations [and reasons] with colleagues, assess again etc.-If I stand up and talk about this type of professional development [see our last blog] I have to model it myself. My ideas have failed many times in the classroom or as a leader-[Flight Path didn’t take off as I wanted!] but for younger teachers, failure can be a bitter pill at first and we need to prepare them to use their mistakes, and even encourage them-concurrent theme through many of the blogs-teacher growth


My other SLT colleagues are positive Rottweiler’s with their initiatives and once they go for an idea, they chase and support relentlessly and gain respect as they go. If I mentioned the BSG assessment system and the school reporting system as they are recently in our minds-you’ll get the gist! It’s tough as a middle leader to get everyone to agree and follow an agreed format-for an SLT initiative to work you have to consider 100 adults, 750 students, their parents and sometimes the wider community. I hope that I can wind hearts and minds with our GM push and after a term of introductory ideas/great examples and watching for initial reactions, I’m moving up a gear of trying to make the concept an integral part of our learning and teaching psyche. I knew when our 6C [whole school competencies] had made an impact when in student surveys asking about great learning characteristics, they began to tell me the names of our Cs as desirable elements and similarly when the staff devised their ‘Meols Cop Way’  of learning and teaching-the Cs were there again. The Cs had been shared via assemblies, form-time activities, parental information, appeared on lesson planning sheets, used in activity weeks, surveyed and so on until everybody used them and they assumed value and credibility. I would hope that similar tactics will work equally well with GM and that students will see the value of it and tell me and that teachers will include it in their desirable lesson characteristics to be discussed in summer.

The bulletin article begins the next step of embedding GM. Our Progress Stars have proved to be incredibly successful and popular-the school is covered in posters sharing the names of students who have worked well in their lessons with specific learning reasons and 1000s of postcards have gone home to celebrate the learning progress made. The message is loud and clear-learning and progress are good, achievable by all and are celebrated here! I want the same to happen with the GM message. I do rely on teachers sending me the names of students and giving very specific reasons for their qualification to be a MCMS Star-hence the detailed list to choose from-and then then our office staff write up the bulletin names and send postcards home whilst I produce and stick the posters up. The new postcard is this and will have details of the student and their GM achievement on the back.


The same information will appear on the bulletins for all to see and they go home electronically each week [or on paper] Further posters have been placed in the dining room of the criteria so that the students can see what is happening whilst year 7 will have MCMS explained in Monday’s assembly. They are our target group for more intensive GM!

On today’s bulletin, the first mind-set names appeared to get 2015 learning off to a great start. They included;

Kieran Bradshaw, Micha Williams and Jessica Dewhurst for coming along to maths clinic on a number of occasions to seek help with maths homework in order to complete it to the best of their ability.

Malika Guenini has asked for advice on her science homework and for revision for her test. Sat in my room during several lunch times to work, without me asking her to.

Shakil Zaman and Craig Black for showing great perseverance during textiles lessons to over-come the challenges of hand sewing.

Natalia Reczulska or accepting challenges in textiles and developing her hand and machine sewing to a high level of accuracy

Natasha Polansky for always turning up to maths with a positive attitude and always trying her best with a number of difficult topics. Natasha never gives up!

Jack Dahl – 8.3 Science – When the going gets tough, students who get going! On the last day before Christmas, when he’d been off all week because he was ill and still wasn’t fully better, he sat at the back of the class and completed his end of term test even whilst the whole class were doing a fun game.

Eve Lancaster – Art – Eve always comes to Art with a positive attitude and willingness to learn new techniques. Her enthusiasm is infectious.

Lewis Taylor – 8.3 Science – Students who have tried their best when faced with a large learning barrier and want to beat it by chipping away with marginal gains. Didn’t achieve a Bronze first time around in his test, but by slowly working through the questions he eventually achieved it.

Samantha Halloran Smith, Lalibela Bolton, Bella Kenyon, India Clark, Hollie Power, Amy Redman and Molly Crawford will often stay behind at break or lunchtimes to discuss additional questions beyond the syllabus just because they are interested and really want to do well in science.

Tom Mitchell, Daniel Powell and Luke Ashton are really keen and have a super enthusiastic attitude. They go over past papers and mark schemes so they can see how to answer GCSE questions.

Caris Dixon finds the mathematical side of science challenging, but she is coming to intervention sessions and won’t give up – she is determined to achieve.

Erin Thornton, although she missed a lot of work from the Physics unit, she still chose to sit the end of unit test and did really well. Attempted all questions, even when they were difficult.

Charlotte Tye always attempts the questions first before she asks me. When I check it for her, she’s normally right!

Kayleigh Hayes will readily ask support and attend extra lessons and shows pleasing progress in her artwork.

Katie Macdonald came to extra science revision lessons and it proved successful – she met her target in her most recent assessment.

Louise Humphries completes all work to a beautiful standard and never gives up, even when she finds it difficult.

Nathan Beard arrives at art and is always positive. Completes all work to a high quality standard and never gives up, even when he finds it difficult.

Kyle Bell has identified the topics he makes silly errors on and has attended revision after school to improve his knowledge on these areas.

Students who always try themselves to stick at a difficult question/concept:

Yr 11 Megan Harrison

Yr 10 Ellie McKinnon, Emma Gratton, Kimberley Hickey and Fraser Anderson

Yr 9 Lee Brothers, James Ray and Rachael Connell

Yr 8 Jimmy Rimmer, Erin Sharrock-Ingleby, Amelia Cummins, Michael Hignett, Emily Allen and Xloe Johnson

Yr 7 Ellis Baker, Charlotte Maher, Millie Buckley

Students who have gone out of their way to help others and who enjoy others being


Yr 11 Liam Evans and Daniel Wilcox

Yr 10 Katie Howard

Yr 9 Dylan Burrows and Owen Taylor

Yr 8 Antonia Hirons, Ellie Homewood, Macy Mordey and Alex Mackey

Yr 7 Bekki Hayes, Jasmine Hitchcock and David Keenan

Students who may have been down and who have gradually, with patient support, began to feel more positive:

Yr 11 Maisie Kewin, Laura Redman and Romana Lloyd-Drummond

Yr 10 Alex Matthews

Yr 9 Megan Flint

Yr 8 Callum Hughes and Natasha Polansky

Students who have asked for extra work/advice/attend extra lessons:

Yr 11 Abigail Knapton, Caitlin Richards and Natalie Birch

Yr 10 Alex Matthews, Emily Telford and Elle Massam

Yr 9 Carli Jackson and Megan Flint

Yr 8 Natasha Polansky

I do want the students to be able to talk about the initiative to me-I don’t have actual proof [I’ve just failed no 1 on the educational research criteria!] just an old professional gut feeling that the more we expect our students to talk about their learning-the better learners they become-and will use our Learning Walks to interview students from across all ages and abilities and from every teacher. These have become an important source of student voice for me and I’m able to use what our ‘punters’ tell me to inform their teachers [and the whole school community] about the impact of their strategies and to monitor whatever I am asking about. I’m aware that Learning Walks are not universally popular in many schools and are often seen as management hit squad visits-unannounced drop ins followed by feedback. I’m sure many aren’t like this and are used in a developmental way-I prefer either informal drop-ins to look for ‘Magic Moments’ or organised up-front professional dialogue! Ours interview 4 students [not the teacher] who the teacher chooses to talk to me and the questions are known at least a month in advance. I tell the teachers in advance which lesson I’m going to ask for students from and the student responses are returned to the teacher [for their professional portfolio] and to the faculty leader. I write both faculty and whole school reports and feedback so that we can then discuss the research and use it to inform our next moves. I think that this is perhaps the 4th or 5th year of my ‘walking’ and although staff were suspicious at first [I think because they don’t always tell me!] and wondered what I was up to; I hope now that they can see the value of Learning Walks, the MCHS way, and their place with surveys and other student voice activities.

My questions this year were on the Xmas bulletin for students and parents to see and I’ll visit every classroom before half-term. The presentation went to all staff to show in form or class as appropriate.

03 04 05 06

The questions cover more than GM, although adults in school need a positive mind-set of their own to listen to and act upon student views. This can be controversial if mishandled-I have every faith that my colleagues are dedicated and excellent classroom practitioners-we appointed them and we have developed them-blame Alison and myself if they aren’t; however student views of their teaching, like peer critique, can be based on false premises and concepts of what great teaching should look like. As much as we try to develop student knowledge of desirable learning characteristics, they sometimes struggle to articulate their views on teaching beyond ‘fun’ and ‘kind’-they have probably had ‘learning should be fun’ shoved at them for some time and can’t be blamed for repeating it or perhaps suggesting the teacher doesn’t appeal to their particular learning style! Having issued a cautionary note, I still do believe that we should ask their opinions on very specific learning and teaching issues to develop their own ‘learnish’ [language of learning] and to inform us if our ideas are effective for the individuals interviewed. It would be nonsensical to carry on with a strategy that they tell us doesn’t help their learning or not to listen when they recommend a strategy that another teacher uses. The majority of questions are about their own learning strengths and weaknesses and ask for areas of difficulty so their teacher can respond if necessary. I hope that we have created a learning environment for both students and adults where we can openly question and talk about our learning, teaching and leadership without any fear and with a honest ambition to do so simply because we all want to learn from each other and be the best students, teachers, support staff and school that we can be-Meols Cop Mind-Set in action!

Growth mind set-not just for Xmas! Beyond the posters and assemblies.


Helen’s MFL mind-set brain reminded me to consider how far we have begun to embed growth mind set into our lessons and whole school thinking. Alex Quigley, from Huntington School at York warned in his blog of the dangers of a superficial approach towards GM as the latest fad. A few quick assemblies and creative posters dotted around and we are now a growth mind set school-I don’t think so!

Alex does describe his school as a GM school and you can see that they have worked hard to inculcate GM into as many areas of school as possible. This isn’t really our aim at present-we certainly can see the benefits of GM but I’m not sure that it is of more importance than some other aspects of our philosophy-perhaps our community, over the next couple of years will conclude that it should be the key component of our vision-it’s early days yet!

I do believe that it is important for us to support the development of GM [early term blogs shared our beginnings] by sharing how some colleagues and faculties have moved quickly since September to stress the importance of GM with their students, to actively promote GM in lessons and of equal importance, to seek examples of how individual teachers and SLT have adopted a GM of their own towards their [and the school’s] professional development. Stephen Tierney, in his post below, makes the crucial point that a school cannot just talk about GM with its students-the staff have to develop GM too and SLT have to create a GM culture which encourages our teachers [and all staff] to want to become the best teacher that they can.

“I need to believe that I can improve and accept resilience, grit and hard work, over time, is required to become a better and in time a great teacher.

When teachers are working within a whole school Growth Mindset culture, which is multi-faceted, they are far more likely to be successful in making marginal gains in teaching practice.  These gains contribute to the overall professional capital of the organisation.

“The literature provides a challenge to the much quoted claim that teachers typically improve over their first 3-5 years and then plateau. Teachers working in schools with more supportive professional environments continued to improve significantly after three years, while teachers in the least supportive schools actually declined in their effectiveness.“

Coe et al (2014) p.5

Stephen also writes that; “part of a Growth Mindset is believing that students can reach even higher levels of attainment.  Our job is then to work out how.  Redefining our expectations of students and ourselves is a part of this process.”

Are we showing signs of delivering and modelling GM for both our staff and students? A few examples from the last 2 weeks illustrate, what I hope are indicators of a growing trend.

Clair and I observed Jen with her year 10 maths lower ability set and in a brief discussion as we waited for the class, Jen  explained that when she began with us, 5 years ago, she wouldn’t have attempted a lesson that involved risks for an observation but now without the pressure of grades and our developmental approach plus her positive experience with lesson study, she felt confident of trying something different to see if it would work in front of us [we could help too both in the lesson and with constructive feedback] Thus we were seeing a teacher actively growing her mind-set in a quest to become better at her craft-taking on something that might fail and the students being encouraged to improve their resilience and mind set towards difficult maths questions. Jen has deliberately chosen as one of her appraisal targets practical research into the difficulties KS2 L4 students seem to have in making good progression to support her own professional development, student learning and her faculty colleagues, as subject leader-leadership mind-set-leaders should be seen to take on ‘big’ issues and not shy away from them!

Context of lesson

Students have completed 3 lessons on reading and constructing pie charts. The SOW covers a variety of data topics that I feel the students may already be able to tackle without full instructions. This lesson is a discovery into what students can handle whilst tackling confidence levels. I need students to build resilience in student mind-set to continue to the very end of the test paper and believe they can answer the trickier questions.

Is there an area of their learning/your teaching that you have found to be challenging!? [

Not giving up – students follow instructions, answer questions well in lesson, and complete tasks less complex. When they’re faced with harder questions I hear ‘I don’t know what to do’.

Getting your skates on! Which is the biggest anticipated risk/chance of failure you have planned to take in the lesson? How can we help?

TASK 1 – I anticipate that Question 5 and 6 students will circle as a 5(would usually skip), if a student is able to answer the question already I will change to lead learners.

TASK 2 – Students may struggle to come up with their own methods to collect data. I can show a demonstration to help hint. This task is to ensure students understand a frequency table and so that they can apply their previous knowledge and understanding of the mean.

TASK 3 – Lead learners may struggle themselves! They may need to discuss the answers with the group.

The maths faculty have been pushing a ‘can do’ mind-set in maths with parents and students at our year 7 and 8 parental information evenings and I was keen to see this in classroom action.


Jen handed the students a set of questions and they had to number [1-5] the degree of difficulty they thought each would be to answer. They are often put off by big words and lots of numbers-aren’t we all! By working together, using maths leaders, thinking positively and equipping them with the necessary skills and belief; the class began to answer questions that previously seemed too hard.



The students don’t just acquire a mind –set of being resilient, mistake using, critique seeking, appreciators of other’s success, I can do anything, challenge busting all round good guys-nor do we as teachers and leaders. In the 3 appraisal observation I’ve just had the pleasure of watching, it became apparent that the teachers really knew their learners needs, strengths and weaknesses and explicitly were pushing the growth mind set buttons that they know from their professional assessment, individual students need. Nudging them along with appropriate marginal gains so that some of the aspirational targets we want them to achieve are attainable with; support, confidence building, knowledge acquiring and appropriate intervention-with this in place, we can begin to lay real foundations for successful growth mind-set. These examples are from Jen, Martin and Colin and show their thought process in working out [and believing] that their students CAN achieve higher and better in their class.

A – A struggles with questions with multiple steps involved. Paired with X to follow a structure for his answers

B – Does struggle with ‘I just can’t do it’ but when he understand he’s fine. He can make mistakes on his X tables so we ensure we practice this in all topics.

C– confident mathematician when he can do it. C can make mathematical links quicker but will give up if he struggles and produce minimal work. Will lead group well. Strength in NUMBER.

D – Has good algebra skills and logical thinking. He can miss steps out in calculations and doesn’t present finding clearly.

E – good grasp with number skills and structured answers. E has strong skills in showing all steps required in mathematical answers.

F – Is able to follow mathematical processes well however I will ensure that he is on the correct path when he is lead learner and this will help with his confidence.

A is sat at the front of lessons. He is almost always fully engaged in History and currently I am using strategies to get him to consider an answer before giving it such as consulting with a peer. In longer writing work he has the opportunity to use IT facilities. In today’s work he will be given a sentence structure to help in his paragraph

B is sat on his own table to aid concentration by limiting distraction from others. With his dyslexia I have used key terms as well as key word spelling tests focussing on basics such as capital letters and key words including America, Prohibition and Flappers. Today he will be given the writing structure to help guide him as well as key terms

C is given a range of support especially in exam style Q’s. I give him structures and frames to help scaffold an appropriate response and also provide written instructions in case he hasn’t processed the task requirements. Spelling tests and key words are emphasised and I encourage students to ask if unsure. Today he will be given a writing structure and key terms for his exam style question

X– lacks confidence and sometimes finds it difficult articulating what she want to say in classroom discussions. The Business Frisbee has helped develop her confidence as she can’t shy away and is more involved in classroom discussions and has supported other in questioning sessions.

Y– I have completed lots of intervention with Y to improve his literacy skills. He has responded very well to the PIC ruler as this has helped him to pick the relevant points form the case study and use these to expand his answers. I have also helped support Y with dealing with difficult situations through a lunch time programme called ‘New Horizons’. This has helped him deal with difficult situations in the classroom more positively

Martin also took on a challenge in his observation lesson for Greg and myself, in 1] trying to teach the Causes of the Wall St Crash [I would have avoided this!!] and 2] focusing on the links between the causal factors that the students [especially the lower ability] usually miss in their exam answers.

Is there an area of their learning/your teaching that you have found to be challenging!? [

With lower ability students, I am looking to not rely on writing as a form of expressing an opinion- These students can write and frequently produce good written work but are also very good at expressing opinions verbally. My challenge this year is striking a balance between the two within the time frame of a 2 year course rather than 3 year course.

Getting your skates on! Which is the biggest anticipated risk/chance of failure you have planned to take in the lesson? How can we help?

The biggest anticipated risk is that students will not be able to link the causes together- This requires students to take their thinking to a higher level than previous 6 markers.

To build student confidence into a ‘can do’ mentality when faced with ‘linking’ Martin provided differentiated resources so that the students were equipped with the necessary knowledge to enable them to discuss the topic confidently-without this, speaking and listening for anyone is difficult and they would give up or be inaccurate.

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What I really liked was seeing Martin, in his effort to develop his own practice even further, adapt what had already proved a successful strategy so that it became an even better one-this was a risk but with the aid of chocolate rewards worked well!


The physical links [causal web] made with tape and then explained works really well as shown in a previous lesson, however Martin improved this by providing RAG cards to allow the students to use the green card to write links that they felt were really strong and would meet with Sir’s approval, amber for quite strong and red for slightly ‘iffy’ ones. Martin rewarded them with gold chocolate coins-the winning group took all! Great to see the teacher reflecting and wanting to produce an even better learning experience.


In our feedback session Martin told me that this was the most comfortable and relaxed he had felt in an observation [he has been teaching 3 years and has performed twice for Ofsted-subject/whole school] and enjoyed taking the risks. His confidence grew with a super court scene/silent debate he taught for Helen and myself last year and without the nonsense of grades that encourage playing it safe, he wanted to teach how he wants to teach! So all colleagues should and we have to continue to create a culture of teacher mind-set that allows you all to want to improve AND try out ideas-when better to do that than in an observation with extra hands there to help and peer critique honestly and professionally on your agreed criteria.

I was delighted that Martin asked if I could cover Greg, our NQT historian, to allow him to observe too [did he really need to show an ID card to get in our Reward’s Evening!] and all of our NQTs have quickly realised that they are encouraged to try, fail, observe others, reflect and build their own mind-set-not just teach it to year 7 tutor groups with my ppts! I was equally delighted, after observing Rachael [NQT+1] with Sarah [subject leader] teach poetry to year 9 to hear Sarah immediately invite Rachael to observe her teaching poetry the next day. A supportive environment, is crucial to our continuing growth mind-set as teachers.

Since I taught Colin everything he knows about Hitler’s Rise to Power many years ago, he always wanted to be a teacher here and here he is! He really does have a growth mind set and is currently studying at Edge Hill for his MA and we have some great feedback sessions when I have to try really hard to set him a little marginal gain to satisfy his desire to deliver an even better lesson next time. We have worked on student self-questioning, peer verification using google docs [I have the ideas-he has the technological know-how!] and his latest idea was to move away ever so slightly from the business studies computers [this was difficult!] and he has introduced his Business Frisbee. The students write their own exam assessment questions-1 each-offer one to the class and then the Frisbee is passed or skimmed round to students who have to offer the next part of the answer/mark scheme. This is to engage everyone in a key activity that Colin wanted to improve as part of his own development and also to develop the confidence levels of the quieter students. His explanation of the activity is here;

The aim of the Business Frisbee is to firstly develop students own questioning skills. So, the first rule of being in charge of the Frisbee is that their role is to not catch a Business Buddy out, but instead to challenge them and use hints and tips if necessary to try and help them to answer the question the best they can!  This Frisbee is used alongside a student’s google docs question and the flexible 6 and 8 marker schemes. The Frisbee holder asks a questions about the first mark from the mark scheme.  The person answers this and then they become the Frisbee holder and then asks the peer a question about the second mark, and so on. This is carried on until they reach the end of the mark scheme. Because students don’t know if they’re going to be asked next, they tend to engage better than one person doing a 6 marker for a long period themselves (which was an action point from last lesson obs) This has really helped this group as they can be very quiet during Q&A sessions and this has helped ensure all students can contribute as opposed to one person dominating or other being too passive in discussions.

The massive emphasis in business studies is of support for each other and the celebration of each other’s success-an important but perhaps the least easy aspect of GM for both students and adults to grasp. The success of Business Buddies relies on the honesty of student feedback and the desire to really help another student succeed.

I have been running back and to between lessons to drop in on the science lesson studies running concurrently with my other observations. I’ve explained in other blogs how well our lesson study has taken off and the professional development involved, as Stephen Tierney alludes to in his blog, really does show GM in action with the teachers being prepared to look deeply at a weaker aspect of their own practice so that they can improve together and with the right enquiry question, they can equip the students with the skills to grow in confidence to develop their own mind-set around key learning barriers. The scientists have targeted Ever 6 revision and rather than expecting revision to happen at home, are working out which revision methods can work best with the biggest impact on learning [and test scores!] for our year 10 students. Whilst the focus student trios are Ever 6 the rest of the classes will obviously benefit from the classroom research. The students often don’t revise or give up when the questions get tough-we have to help them develop a stronger GM by equipping them with the tools to taste success and want more of it!

Adele and Katrina in performing arts decided that their lesson study would focus on moving beyond the G.C.S.E. requirements to offer some higher level A/S or A level type learning for their students in addition to their G.C.S.E skills and knowledge. I was keen to embrace this cracking GM idea to reach for the aspirational stars for both students and the dynamic duo! This does involve all concerned asking some searching questions of their own teaching and learning-both ladies visited 3 other schools/colleges to search for ideas and to reflect on their own practice and the students were challenged too as they were pushed to tackle some quite difficult concepts. Katrina and I observed Adele teaching year 10 about modulations and we loved this very personal plenary that Adele used!


My final lesson study of the week [just 5 minutes ago!] saw Andrew and Hannah pose the enquiry question-‘Can I motivate high ability boys to want to succeed on a daily basis?’ They are concerned that some of our highest ability lads [and 10 set 1] seem to go through the motions of learning, prefer to be left to get on with it, don’t like any interaction/communication and look like they’re miserable and not enjoying their English and geography! We had a really interesting feedback session and came to the conclusion that sometimes as teachers we have to have the mind-set to change our tactics. Hannah, especially is a high octane, 100 mph teacher who I love to watch-I would have engaged with her style immediately as a student but she is worried that she gives them her usual stuff and although they work hard and do what is required, they don’t smile much! Sometimes we have to accept that our classes are very different and change ourselves-we have to deliver what is best for our students and not always what we think is great teaching. Hannah said, “I won’t deliver great teaching if they won’t interact'” “Are they learning though?” I replied. “What are  their books and assessments showing you?” They will change the focus of the lesson study to looking at their own teaching after Xmas to develop a different style that is more suitable for these particular students-great teachers learn to do this [even though they find it uncomfortable with their personal philosophy] with experience and a strong mind-set. Learning is hard work and not always fun for both students and teachers.

During a discussion with maths Jen, I mentioned marking in maths-“what’s wrong with it!” she asked. It’s a natural riposte but the point I was making is that we need to be constantly re-evaluating our practice in every aspect of what we are doing. Is STAR marking working best in maths, is everybody using it the same and is it having an impact-can you prove it, what has the book monitoring shown-you know the questions! As a whole school mind-set we have to believe that we are never good enough and constantly want to be that little bit better-it is hard on a deep and dark December to keep this resilience and grit up but we simply have to! By sharing ideas and supporting each other it becomes easier for ourselves and for our students-GM begins in the staff-room! My maths colleagues were listening and thus a simple piece of mind-set was born. In maths lessons the students are always being asked to take on challenging problem solving sums. I explained my thoughts to colleagues when I emailed round some of Beth’s year 7 and 9 challenge sums. After Clair’s observation, Jen, Clair and I were talking about the challenge questions that happen in maths lessons-above and beyond the other normal maths! I suggested using different colours to make them stand out [they already use purple for student response] so treated them to some nice new pens! You can see early answers from Beth and the year 7 quote. With regards to GM the use of the bright colour is encouraging the students to say-bring on challenging questions and we’ll answer in a highly visible colour-no hiding from them-challenge us! That’s the theory anyway!


Some teachers mock the use of coloured pens but we are dealing with children! Beth sent this comment with her photos; Year 7’s love them: “Can we answer a problem so we can use the nice pens” Of course you can!


One of the attributes I look for in our GM teachers is the ability to share but also that difficult skill of having people take your idea and adapt or change it! Mmm- for the common good! Helen F shared her NQT magic moments with her account of how she had been using dot marking as a form of fast feedback. The MFL faculty have been taken with her idea and have now all worked together to extend it. Marion sent me the new versions which can be used in MFL and PSD and demonstrate the desire to be constantly searching for something that can make us professionally more effective [in this case at marking] and share our ideas internally [and externally on our blog] I really like this and hope that it helps the students too to self and peer critique in DIRT more effectively. Again this equips them with the self-evaluative tools that makes the development of GM that little bit easier.

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As a whole school and as a leadership team how far should we take growth mind–set and do we have a future vision for further whole school discussion and implementation? Some argue that mixed-ability teaching is more appropriate to GM, other have an issue with gifted and talented and GM and so on. Plenty more to think about and Leon speaking at a London conference last week, received some great reviews and lots of interest in our BSG approach. Moving beyond NC levels and supporting every student to achieve their GOLD target in a subject mastery appropriate to their ability, is perhaps the greatest commitment we can show in terms of GM from us as teachers and from them to us a GM students! We have to believe that we can make this happen and we have to convince the students that they can achieve our aspirational targets. To achieve +1 residuals is a huge ask-all of those lovely green bits on FTT and RAISE are great to see when achieved but the work that goes into getting there needs every GM quality known to Carol Dweck!


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Moving students who have been identified as falling behind, up Leon’s matrix is tough, but we can clearly focus on our intervention students and teach to the very best that we can.



I shared this comment from a recent outstanding Ofsted this week;

Teachers’ performance is managed very well. Expectations are high, and procedures are rigorous. Teachers are set targets which are based on students making very challenging rates of progress.

Students’ progress towards their ambitious targets is checked carefully. School leaders have made sure that teachers’ assessment of students’ attainment are frequent and accurate. Teachers are held to account for the progress of the students they teach. Extra help is readily available for students who need it, with a wealth of opportunities for students to receive additional support from their teachers.

Our targets are challenging too, help is available as I’ve seen in numerous observations and discussions and the emphasis on developing GM for both staff and students MUST have a positive effect on these final outcomes. In 2012 Ofsted commented on Meols Cop that;

This school crackles with ambition. Leadership at all levels demonstrates a unified determination to drive further improvements in outcomes for students. In addition, a vibrant culture of continuous improvement has been established, which is shared by all members of the school community.

It sounds great but that was 2 years ago! Our GM has to take us far beyond that to sustain the best learning and teaching for our students that is possible and to open the best possible life opportunities for them. We are committed to learning from the best and improving-none of us can be ‘precious’! We have successfully joined a potentially fantastic research opportunity-RISE- Research-leads Improving Students’ Education – project which will help our English and maths teachers to become involved in classroom based research looking critically at the impact of their own practice [and others] to help their development. For non-teachers reading this you may think that all teachers naturally want to dissect their performance so that they become even better-I’m not quite sure if this is always true or indeed true of any profession-the truth isn’t always welcome! It has to happen here though and this has to be the case for leaders too-I agreed this morning to accept an invitation to join Edge Hill’s research into leadership-we have to show our GM too-we have to believe that we aren’t the best leaders we can be-yet!

The Faculty of Education at Edge Hill University through its Schools and Colleges Teacher Education Research Centre (SCaTE) would like to create a partnership with local schools to pilot a programme to develop research leadership at school level.  Central to the collaboration is the notion that research for schools and colleges should be conceived from practice by practitioners rather than by academic researchers.   This in turn suggests that research and evidence-informed practice have to establish processes and systems that recognise the needs of teachers in classrooms and by working with schools to develop research leadership. SCaTE intends to strengthen the ability of participating schools to utilise current practice knowledge and extend understanding of research knowledge.

Growth mind-set isn’t just for Xmas or for assemblies and posters-it’s basically damn good learning and teaching and school leadership. Embrace the aspects of it that are best for our school-nice little challenge for 2015!




Magic Growth Mind Set Moments

The first weeks of term are always busy ones for our adults in school as new classes are met, new schemes of learning and assessment began and Open Evening is planned for. I wrote about the difficult nature of parental/student high school choice last year.

I’ve been out to talk to our feeder primaries last week and over the next few weeks year 5/6 parental requests to visit school on a ‘normal’ day occur every day and it isn’t as easy for me to get into our classrooms, talk to students and teachers and collate all of the learning and teaching ideas that have become part of our collaborative development. Our inset days that I mentioned in previous blogs, introduced the Growth Mind Set ideas that we will begin in year 7 and gave time to read our feedback blog on marking/feedback which colleagues had kindly contributed to in July.

Our first ‘Magic Moments’ blog of the term will focus on-

Growth Mind Set

I explained our Growth Mind Set ideas and shared other great examples from other schools in last week’s blog.

I introduced the concept to parents at our year 7 information evening last night and have begun to drip feed more and more resources and ideas to both staff and students. I think it’s a great idea but that isn’t enough to ensure that GMS has an impact on learning across school. It looks good on paper and the posters are lovely but if it isn’t in the minds of everyone and seen as relevant by all here; I’m wasting my time with it! Of course I monitor any initiative or agreed upon pedagogy and check how it is progressing in lesson observations, book monitoring, lesson study, learning walks etc. but it’s up to me to persuade colleagues and students that this is a worthwhile learning and teaching tactic. When colleagues begin to grasp an idea and then adapt it for use in their own subject areas-I’m eternally grateful and of course begin the process of sharing their ideas. Take a bow Miss Filson, because Jen has taken my original GMS presentation, mixed it in with a bit of DIRT and adapted it to share with her maths faculty and the rest of our staff. Just a little taster below.


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Jen used the slide below to share her approach with the year 7 parents and I then tweeted it out over the weekend to show others how our mathematicians were developing their GM approach. The tweet received a lot of interest and deservedly so-thank you! Zoe, who has set up our maths twitter account, said her phone went crazy with retweets and favourites-it’s good to share and symptomatic of a successful school, faculty and individual growth mind set.


It’s also great [and encouraged] for our staff to trawl social media to find the best ideas possible from colleagues at other schools and Zoe used ideas from

to create her GM classroom display. Thank you to the original author and thank you to Zoe for using this to provide a GM learning environment. I’ll feedback on the impact of the maths aspect of our GM initiative later in the year.

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Our other Jen in RE is renowned for her challenging, creative, imaginative and often totally crazy mind set ideas! You won’t see formulaic teaching in her hippy room and having bought her off with chocolate she has kindly photographed her latest ideas.

Jennie spotted the McDonalds cup idea on a US site and developed it to make a happy meal of work.  Students need to fry up all components of the exam questions written on fries. [Fries with questions on are in the holders and match the exam level] Once they have checked model answers below they can hand in their completed happy meal. There are ‘real’ meals available for the most successful. This is a very brief description which doesn’t do the idea justice and I’ll return to it in greater detail in a later blog. The challenge to be excellent is an absolute constant feature of RE lessons.


Last year Jennie used the concept of butterflies to motivate and engage-it worked-look at the amazing exam results! This year she has adapted our flight path idea into her own ‘waves’ creation whereby the students will track their own progress and interventions. She didn’t want to reveal too much-YET- as the concept begins to develop and the students leave the beach behind for the open sea.

“Coral reef display.  Here students have been challenged to dig deep in the coral reef and like the little mermaid, aim to reach the shore and be ‘part of your world’. For us ‘our world’ is the beach of success on the shore.  In my opinion, unless students unravel the barriers to learning on the coral reef or grass roots level, (i.e. motivational setbacks, lack of confidence etc.) they cannot begin to unpack their exam paper and have the correct mind set. 

Once students reach the shore, they will be further challenged to ‘make waves’ and then reach for aspirational targets as they surf across the progress matrix.  Hopefully if all goes to plan we can really push dreams at this stage and look at the majesty of the ocean and explore the concept that life should be lived on high tide!”


The wave matrix stages

Stage 1- Coral reef- challenging barriers to learning, emotional/social. Using data from summer projects to plot how many waves are required to be a +1 student.

Stage 2- Shore- looking at exam skills and how to develop

Stage 3- Waves, using a mixture of exam and motivational tools to tailor teaching to students individual requirements for success. – Both in  academic terms and in terms of their individual  needs. At this stage they will be directing their intervention.  Do they need; more skills? Support? Encouragement? Accountability? Care? Advice? A bit of fun even and sometimes just a hot drink.

Stage 4- Once making waves across the wave matrix, teacher will assess who is drowning despite support.

Stage 5- Emergency intervention lists will be drawn.  Data analysed.  Mocks set. Progress then measured against English grades and other Humanities subjects.

Stage 6- Waves will then become very individual….. and deep as we look at the majesty of the ocean and inspirational stories of the sea.  We will at this stage encourage students to reach aspirational targets- A/A* and host themed intervention which will awaken all the senses to making waves.  Constant reference to position on Matrix….intervention and revision specific and targeted.

Supportive growth mind set at its best!

Jennie enlisted the aid of Katie Gall to create this GMS poster for Anne’s [progress manager of year 7, RE teacher and huge fan of GMS!] RE classroom [next to the McDonalds fries!] Anne assures me that by spring, the tree will be in full blossom, but with what, we shall have to wait and see!


Adele has created her own musical ‘Wall of Excellence’ to promote musical mastery and challenge and encourage a ‘can do’ mind-set in a subject where students sometimes say they “can’t, it’s too hard.” They might not be able to produce a fanfare at the beginning of year 9 YET but with perseverance and support from each other they will.


To help further with engaging the students with ideas and making any key initiative a ‘routine’ aspect of learning I supply a range of personalised marking/feedback stampers and stickers which may sound a tad ‘cheesy’ but experience shows that they work [along with chocolate and lollies!]

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I’ve included some literacy ones from last year’s ‘push’ and you can see, bearing in mind our key growth mind set, deliberate praise for students who challenge themselves, show resilience, overcome learning obstacles, give and accept FISH feedback and who achieve their BSG targets [explained to parents by Leon Walker] As Sarah Cunliffe, our English subject leader, mentioned at the information evening, time is given in lessons for the students to reflect on their own learning and progress-DIRT-Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time-so that they have the opportunity to consider what ‘excellence’ and subject mastery should look like for them as individuals, how they can achieve this and how they can also support other learners and celebrate their success too. By every means possible, the skills and mind-set we know will make a difference, will become part of learning excellence and developed and rewarded as you can see below from this week’s bulletin. [Wendy Senior’s science class]


Over the weekend I read an excellent post from where he made the point that;

 First, those who use growth mindset as pedagogy fail to dignify the lives and experiences of the students, who often show plenty of grit and perseverance in their home lives, much less their managing to make it through time in school where they’re considered unsuccessful. If anything, it’s actually the students coasting through our classes, schools, and assessments who don’t understand what it is to work through adversity and need to be coached in resilience.

Well worth remembering to add my concerns in our last blog-think hard about how and with whom we introduce these concepts. I deliberately have avoided some of the ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ themes that some GMS posters use. I was also interested to see him finish his post with;

In their groundbreaking book, Professional Learning Communities at Work, Richard DuFour and Robert Eaker say it clearly when pointing out the issue that comes about when change initiatives are considered “a task to complete rather than an ongoing process.” If we really want to improve our schools, our work, and the education of our students, we can do so by adopting a new mindset — for everyone — that would include:

  1. Being humble enough to accept that there are things about ourselves and our practices that can improve
  2. Becoming part of professional teams that value constructive critique instead of criticism
  3. Treating setbacks as formative struggles within the learning process instead of summative failures
  4. Realizing the restrictive role that timelines can play in reaching high standards, and using foundational philosophies such as Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to map systems so that everyone’s growth is supported
  5. Create flexible grouping at all times so that nobody’s trapped in any one course level or particular type of work.

How do you encourage a growth mindset in your school or classroom?

I hope that our blogs, especially the ones on CPD and professional portfolios have explained how we have worked hard on 1-3 and it is really important that we introduce our NQTs to the whole school mind-set from the very start. They are incredibly busy as they begin their new career, so I apologise for asking questions of them BUT colleagues who choose to work here, are aware that our aim is to develop them to be the best teachers that they can be in a collaborative learning environment-self-reflection can be a pain when you have books to mark and lessons to plan but it has to happen!

I like to introduce our new NQTs to our collaborative CPD ‘sharing’ of Magic Moments immediately and asked them to consider these early questions;

We will begin our big sharing of ideas later in the term but just to warm you up-please let me know;

1] Have you tried an idea with your class/classes that you have been really pleased with and think it helped their learning? How do you know?!

If you have a slide or photo of the idea/learning-send it to me so I can share with the rest of the staff. Give me a brief description of your idea, how it worked and how your evidence for its success.

2] What’s the best idea you have heard about at a] school b] social media or other means lately. How do you plan to use it/what do you feel that it will bring to your teaching and student learning?

3] Is there an area of your teaching that you feel is tricky for you and would like to see another colleague teaching? Let me know so I can arrange a drop in informal obs for you.

4] It is a sign of strength [and GMS!] not weakness that you let us know if any classes or students are bothering you and causing you to worry-let your subject mentors or me know a.s.a.p. We can talk, give advice, team-teach, model or pop in to have a look.

Greg Thornton has begun his GMS conversations with his year 7 tutor group every Thursday and he has enjoyed using these clips [I think I found them on ideas tweeted by ]

“My form really responded to this as they took for granted that these famous people were just always successful

I do like to show these ‘People are Awesome’ videos to my form to demonstrate what working hard can achieve.”

Beth, our mathematician, shared her thoughts with me and I was absolutely delighted to be able to see and read her thought process as she tries new ideas, takes risks and learns as she goes. I’m not sure that I was as thoughtful and reflective as this when I began teaching and when the NQTs come into my lessons, I’m going to have be on top form! Beth raises her concerns with ‘challenge’ and ‘peer critique’-these will be met by ‘head-nodding’ by far more experienced teachers and even I don’t have all of the answers BUT I know that by discussing pedagogy, sharing ideas and planning and collaborating together [both internally and externally] we will find what is best for our students and our teaching.


I’m trying to engage with the marking and feedback policy of the Maths department as this was one of my main focuses for this first term.


Example below of how I’ve tried to further the learning of my year 9 students by setting targets and questions in feedback.


DIRT for this class is on Weds afternoon, will send pictures of the responses.


For the more able in the class I have set a further challenge. An open ended task which I feel are so important in maths, in particular to challenge the high ability students. So often in Maths there is often one correct answer. Open ended tasks allow pupils the flexibility to come up with (a number of) imaginative and unique responses, whilst also stretching their mathematical ability.


Example shown below.


I also used an open ended task during a lesson as an extension task, again challenging the more able pupils. This is with a year 10 class who were also on the topic of index laws!


My challenge:


The response:


I have actually just ordered a “Miss K’s Challenge” Stamp. This is for me to use during a lesson to set open-ended activities as extension task. (like the one above) I suppose it’s using myself and my subject knowledge as a tool for differentiation to enrich the learning of more able pupils.


Will send a picture once it has arrived! [it arrived as I was finishing the post, so the picture is below!]


2. One more strategy which I think has worked well is the use of “progress trackers” I have seen examples of these being used in online blogs, and trialled it a few times in my PGCE year.


This time I used it with my year 10 class, who were covering a difficult topic of negative and fractional indices. I asked the pupils to answer the questions right at the start of the lesson. Many of them just put “Don’t know” or guessed at answers (I assured them that this was fine!] They weren’t expected to be able to do them yet and they set aside the trackers and we proceeded with the lesson.


During the last 5 minutes, I asked the pupils to turn back to their trackers and have another go. I’ve shown one response below. The pupils were really pleased that they could now answer the questions, and one pupil commented “Miss this is a well good idea, can we do this again”. This was great to hear! Not what you would expect from a typical year 10 “lad”.

It really helped to build their confidence, and we ended the lesson on a high note.


3. I’m struggling to implement peer-assessment in mathematics rather than the usual “swap your books and mark your partner’s answers” which I don’t see as true peer assessment, it’s peer-marking as all they are doing is ticking and crossing!

I trialled asking my year 7 class to write a question for their partner. This worked well, but I would like to see more strategies for peer assessment in maths.


4. A is still having his moments. I’ve had a chat with Jen and we are both going to have a chat with him tomorrow at lunchtime if needs be.”

Beth sent me her early examples and as the term develops she will be able to see great practice in other areas and discuss FISH, peer verification and decide for herself which of her strategies have the biggest impact and which don’t work! Usually the same tactic which makes you feel like the best teacher in the world with 1 class, dive-bombs with another! Be flexible and be prepared to fail folks!

“Have attached some responses to the questions that I set, and also some responses from those pupils who had to try the open-ended task.

They marked each other’s work. Then each pupil wrote a response on how they now feel with the topic of index laws.”

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“Chatted with Jen about how to input higher quality peer-assessment into maths lessons. I’m trying a peer-assessment task with two classes next week. Will let you know how it goes!”

Beth’s Challenge stamper is now here and in use!

“Two of my year 10 pupils were “coasting” through their work on LCM and HCF. So I set them a harder challenge.

Have attached photos of them “coasting” and then the challenge and their responses.”

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Developing staff mind-set to constantly self-evaluate is crucial to continuing the progress made in learning by both staff and adults. Nationally [and internationally] we do have an issue with retaining some of our brightest young teachers and the loss of any potentially great teachers and leaders of the future needs to be arrested now and ALL schools and school leaders need to carefully consider the best ways of developing and not losing teachers after their initial 2/3 year period. They need to feel valued, supported practically and provided with personalised development plans reflecting their needs as subject specialists and their own perceived areas of ‘marginal gains’ that working on will make them even better teachers. Beth’s ideas have been circulated around the maths faculty [and now everyone!] and will be followed with interest to see where she takes her learning next.


Never give up!

Our year 7 GM photo of the week.

Our next blog will share some more of latest marking/feedback ideas currently being trialled in science.

When the going gets tough….


Recorded in 1985, before half of our teachers were born, Ocean’s hit record used a phrase that most involved in education have probably used, in some form or other, to encourage resilience, thinking in ‘cans and not cant’s and so on. Trying your best and not giving up easily ‘when the going gets tough’ [although some may see it as a sensible option and knowing your limits] has tended to be seen as a desirable characteristic for students to possess and a worthwhile life-skill.

Over the last couple of years in the UK the Growth Mind-Set movement/body of research has begun to increase in popularity amongst school leaders and teachers and we first mentioned GMS a year ago and began to drip-feed ideas to our staff and students. The September inset 2013 gave a brief synopsis of Carol Dweck’s ‘Mindset’ ideas that I’d read and pinched the diagram below from, although I’d actually enjoyed the more sporty ‘Bounce’ by Matthew Syed which pushed purposeful practice to achieve excellence. From the basic left hand side notion of the GMS student, as a pose to the fixed mind set characteristics shown on the right of the diagrams, it’s quite obvious to see why many schools would favour highlighting the GMS characteristics of their students as desirable ones. They seem, on the surface, to be an up-dated version of ‘when the going gets tough’ and the self and peer critique aspects of assessment for learning. The books and research goes deeper and I’ve discussed in other blogs aspects of the validity of using praise as feedback and there is a constant stream of evidence that Professor Dweck is able to use to demonstrate the success of her theory and the numbers attending her inset seems to have grown tenfold. I’m not an educational research expert and aren’t able to comment on the validity of the research. There are dissenting voices and my health warning to our staff is to consider carefully the power of some of the phrase associated with GMS and to be sensitive in how they are used with individual students. This isn’t a different approach than we would expect for all teaching strategies-our young people are complicated individuals and we need to know their personal situations-expecting someone to accept criticism, to be happy for others and so on; isn’t always possible for them [or us!] BUT at this particular time in our school’s life, much of what is good and positive about developing a growth mind-set, should be helpful, relevant and supportive in helping our students [and adults] become stronger and better learners.

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I began to share GMS ideas throughout the autumn term of 2013 and linked it with ‘marginal gains’, the tactic made very public by the Olympic cycling team’s concentration on improving small aspects of their performance, based on data, to help them to make big improvements [and win gold!] Some teachers really went for the idea and planned great marginal gains wheels and when I interviewed the students in their learning walks, they were incredibly positive about, and could give examples, of the impact that using the marginal gains approach had had on difficult bits of their learning.

I’ve explained some of our development of learning skills in a previous blog

They weren’t as clear on some of the aspects of growth mind set, although a whole school survey and some staff pushing the ideas meant that most I interviewed had some idea and as this was a seed sowing year; that was fine and pleasing. Some other schools/teachers were generously beginning to share their ideas via twitter and blogs and we joined the ‘Excellence in Schools Growth Network’ so we could be part of this exciting collaborative venture with like-minded colleagues. I have listed some of the great ideas I’ve shared with our staff below-there are so many and so many people willing to share ideas and work that will have taken ages to plan-thank you and apologies to all the brilliant ideas I will have missed! Great practical ideas from Lorraine –check it out! Chis Hildrew-lots of great ideas and a must read for all schools who are interested in GMS. All of Chris’s blogs are worth reading-very practical, great links and always generous of spirit. Peter Jones-corridor of excellence-creative ideas par excellence and many schools, I would imagine, are copying Pete and Shaun’s corridors of excellence and GMS displays and welcome. Shaun Alison. 3 blogs full of ideas to support any school wanting to see a whole school approach towards GMS superbly delivered and as with the other blogs; a captivating read. another must read and another school who feel that GMS should permeate everything they do-should we change our school vision and motto to reflect our current ethos? what is a mind-set classroom? From Matt Bromley is a really useful read for teachers wondering how they can introduce GMS practically into their everyday teaching. A great accompanying visual image of Matt’s thinking below.


Using a tactic I had used before when introducing our school competencies [6Cs], I decided to push GMS with our new year 7’s, introducing the idea to our parents via the school bulletin, our September information evening and this blog. Each year 7 learning tutor has a set of discussion resources aimed at each of the GMS areas that they can use in form time.

Expect Excellence

Thrive on Feedback

Be resilient and overcome obstacles

I need to work hard and practice hard to succeed

Be inspired by the success of others

Support and encourage each other


We will begin with Expect Excellence a.s.a.p.

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Each GMS characteristic will be supported by many other resources and assemblies and we have a set of posters around school that complement the tutor discussion. These are the ones that accompany the Expect Excellence strand. [There are 60 plus!]

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We used our own year 7 [year 8 now] students to put with quotes I had gathered [or made up!] rather than using celebrities/famous people-we do use clips and quotes from them too-I just thought that this would make more of an impact. Of course, as year 7 develop their thoughts, it will be their faces and their own GMS thoughts that will be on the posters and displays so that they have ownership of the initiative.

Each week I have asked that learning tutors and subject teachers ask their students to think about their GMS learning that week.


There are plenty of other similar ideas and I liked Chris Hildrew’s flow chart.


Another of my favourites, for assembly or form is Carol Webb’s GMS movie to the tune of ‘Kung Fu Fighting’!

I also like Pete Jackson’s planner Lots for us to think about and borrow.


GMS ideas will still be used with the older students this year and forms part of our ‘Great Learner’ skills which support the retention and development of subject specific knowledge and skills. They mirror our bronze, silver and gold assessment and individual student target focus. You can spot the GMS strands in the overall scheme [page 1 below] and these are broken down for classroom discussion into separate strands which can be discussed when appropriate with the students. I’ve included a few examples of the feedback and supporting others elements.

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There will be a whole series of stickers, stampers, certificates and awards to engage and motivate the students and as I’ve emphasised in so many posts, it is absolutely vital that the adults in the school also adopt GMS characteristics and that SLT are the leading protagonists and modellers of GMS behaviour! When the original ‘tough got going’ it was far more of an individual response than the collaborative approach that GMS asks of both students and adults. The rigorous and critical self-evaluation and honest professional peer critique expected in our lesson study, development of IRIS cameras to observe our own lessons and the support that colleagues give to each other so that all are successful [as we are asking our students to model] changes the lyrics slightly-“When the learning going gets tough-all of Meols Cop get going and learn together” Doesn’t quite flow the same but you know what I mean!

Our professional portfolio formalises the rhetoric and makes the GMS model a required set of attributes for teaching staff here. In the wider world of schools and education, at this weekend’s ResearchEd event in London, leading researchers and school leaders/teachers met to discuss the role of research in schools. I’ve explained before that it’s an area that our school must become involved in-we absolutely need to know which learning strategies have a proven track record of success to help us support our students in the best way possible, we need to learn from the very best and find out what they are doing successfully and as senior leaders, we have to equip our staff with the knowledge to use research themselves to support their professional development. This can be frightening for students, staff and leaders! Looking honestly at your own practice, accepting criticism, having to be critical of colleagues and so on-scary! Leaders have to make it happen though and if you have time to skim through the 2 weekend presentations below, you will see the same GMS traits that I’ve discussed throughout this blog-could be another inset session activity! David Weston [TDA/NTEN] How do you develop the world’s best teachers? Philippa Cordingley [CUREE] What makes exceptional schools exceptional?

Who wouldn’t want their school to be exceptional and have the world’s best teachers working there/teaching their children? Engaging all at Meols Cop with the ‘Growth Mind-Set’ model is, I believe, another huge step in the right learning direction for our school.