Carol Dweck: Developing a Growth Mindset


Engaging Students: Starters, the dreaded class and engaging strategies

Since the previous blog the ‘Engaging students’ strand of the Chew Valley teaching and learning initiative has been busy working at improving the level of student engagement. Initially, the group discussed a range of strategies to grab the attention of learners through stimulating and challenging starters. To share best practice, staff were paired across subjects and asked to observe a number of lessons, while I was able to observe all the staff involved.


A summary of some of these starters include:

Snake – Teacher held a live snake (local Chew Valley resident) and asked students to identify its characteristics and explain why it had them (Science).

Noah’s ark – Students worked collaboratively to name the animals in French (Languages).

Money – Each student was given a slip of paper with an annual wage written on it. This linked into a class discussion on the gap between the rich and poor wages in different countries (Geography).

These starters exemplified the range of activities used by Chew Valley staff to effectively engage students at the beginning of lessons. From my observations it was clear that students were quickly on task, challenged and focused on the lesson. As a result, students were observed to be discussing, debating and critically evaluating each topic within minutes of entering the classroom. This efficient start helped in developing flow, as the students progressed from the starter to the main activity with ease of transition.


Another session looked into the factors behind a lack of student engagement. Specifically, the group focused on a particular class or group of students who struggled to engage with the curriculum. Initially, staff wrote down the reasons why they believed students lacked the required level of focus to learn, before discussing these items with the rest of their group. Working in a carousel format, staff then wrote down their solutions to each of the problems.


The current stage of the teaching and learning initiative has involved staff researching a range of resources for the main activities in the lessons. A number of staff have attempted a wide range of ideas, worksheets and activities in order to discover which work most effectively. Last Monday, each staff member chose what they believed to be their best engagement method and explained it to the group. This information will now be collated and used to create a generic and easy to use ‘top 10 engaging students in the classroom’ booklet which all staff can use. It was decided that the booklet needed to be generic to allow staff to utilise it quickly in lessons and give them the opportunity to make it specific to their subject if needed.

‘It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously hat you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default’ J.K. Rowling


Carol Dweck: the power of believing that you can improve

Great TED talk from Carol Dweck herself:


This much I know about…teaching students meta-cognition & self-regulation skills for the examination hall

One for the metacognition group!


I have been a teacher for 26 years, a Headteacher for 11 years and, at the age of 50, this much I know about teaching students meta-cognition & self-regulation skills for the examination hall.


Interventions to help students learn can be done for next to nothing. The now ubiquitous Sutton Trust-Education Endowment Foundation Learning Toolkit rates Meta-cognition & self-regulation as a cheap and highly effective strategy to improve students’ learning.

How do students learn how to train their brain to operate effectively during the 90 minutes of an AS level examination? Like many people, my students’ AS mock examination results were pretty disappointing. I know they know their economics theory, but under examination conditions they do not seem to have a sharp enough grasp of how to respond effectively to score as many marks as possible. Command words are ignored; diagrams are left unlabelled; answers are expressed carelessly. On the evidence within their…

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Research Group Minutes 2.2.15

1. Outline of remaining T&L group sessions

    • 2/2/15 – Monday meeting
    • 27/4/15 – Monday meeting
    • 18/5/15 – Showcase event – whole school
    • 22/6/15 – Evaluation session
    • 29/6/15 – Evaluation event – whole school.

2. Showcase event format (18/5/15)

    • Split into 5-6 discussion groups of approx. 10-12 – 1-2 from each T&L group present
    • Feedback to larger group on work completed within your T&L group
      • Identification of Research Focus
      • Research Design and Planning
      • Ethical appraisal
      • Carrying out research
      • Evaluating research – what have you learnt from the process and how will this impact on your practice?

3. Staff outlined current progress to the group on their areas of research

    1. SEJ – Questionnaires to assess the impact of UWE tutoring intervention
    2. LAG – Focus Groups on transitions between Y9 and Y10
    3. ANA – Experiment to investigate effects of student teacher reliance
    4. TIH – Experiment to trial different models of feedback on a small scale group basis
    5. JH – Observation of the prevalence and impact of opting out of challenge within PE, with a possible comparison to other lessons
    6. MTT – Interviews with students on the impact and influence of starter activities within Technology lessons
    7. PSC – Experiment to establish the efficacy of mind mapping as a revision technique relative to other forms of revision
    8. CJB – Rolling out an existing self-analysis questionnaire to a variety of teachers, to inform future teaching practice
    9. JEB – Interviews to establish the role of praise in growth mindset language, especially in challenging behaviour management situations

4. Staff completed action plans to enable completion of research projects

Actions resulting:

  • All members – to prepare feedback on progress before next meeting 27/4/15
  • TIH – to inform SEJ of date for observation and assist for in experimental feedback session (Term 4)
  • MTT – to inform SEJ of date for observation of starters vs non-starters in 2 separate lessons
  • PSC – to inform SEJ date of date to observe teaching of mind mapping skills (First 3 weeks of Term 4)
  • ANA/SEJ – to co-ordinate observations of 2 experimental teaching groups (Before end of Term 3 / end of Term 4)
  • LAG – to inform SEJ of date for first focus group (Term 4 – Mon or Fri)

Anything is possible

Climbers Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell remind us that, if you set your mind to it, anything is possible. Eight years of planning and nineteen days of climbing have seen them ascend the Dawn Wall of El Capitan using nothing but their fingers and feet to climb with.

The pair suffered bruising falls, when their grip slipped, and they would bounce off the mountain face. Only their safety ropes saved them from further harm. At one point on the climb, Jorgeson had posted online: “As disappointing as this is, I’m learning new levels of patience, perseverance and desire. I’m not giving up. I will rest. I will try again. I will succeed.”

And succeed they did.

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Differentiation Group December Meeting

Sharing good practice

There is a folder for any useful resources or plans in: staff share > general staff info 14 15 > teaching and learning > differentiation group > lesson plans and resources.   Please add to it any link/plan/resource/tip etc that might be useful to others.

To see the videos that SJP has developed, go to: student resources>ICT>help videos

‘Show and tell’ sessions were thought to be a positive initiative… but not next term.

UXI shared the progress with the cross curricular (MFL/Art) work with Steve.

DAM gave an update on an innovative differentiated maths lesson where pupils recorded themselves explaining equations.

WEI described the implementation of differentiated homework across a whole year group.

RJB made us aware of a two tiered approach to differentiation used in humanities.

PHH shared the ‘walk, run, sprint’ themes that she had been using in English to distinguish levels of challenge and we discussed whether a whole school approach to this was beneficial. The ‘Pizza menu’, ‘Standard/advanced’, ‘Bronze, Silver, Gold’ are alternatives.


We are all expected to share something that we have worked on in the T & L team. A ‘Dragon’s Den’ style format was suggested as we discussed the format. Some suggestions for our focus might be:

  • The impact of differentiation on our teaching and learning
  • Our top 3 ideas for differentiation
  • A whole school approach to differentiated homework
  • Recommendations for successful diffentiation
  • Planning for differences (4 routes to boredom?)
  • Developing strategies to support and challenge
  • Collaboration/peer coaching
  • Providing multisensory learning

Analysis of an English lesson and resources

T&L Meeting (Action Research Group) – Minutes (8/12/14)


Apologies: MTT, JH, LP

  1. Feedback from Teaching and Learning Leaders meeting
    1. Dates for showcase
      1. Told CHH we would prefer 22nd June rather than 18th May
      2. May do a split 50/50 on each date – awaiting confirmation
    2. Hotspots
      1. Discussion on idea of 10-15 min drop in sessions (maybe after school) for people to share things have worked well in lessons
      2. Staff very positive about the idea, but offered some practical advice on its application…
        1. End of the day slot not popular – 8:30am suggested as most effective (with the inbuilt bonus of it having to kept short for the purposes of attending registration!)
        2. Suggested name – “Open Mic”
        3. Not suggested we launch it in January – do it at a time of year where people feel less overloaded (eg. Summer term to link in with gained time???)
  2. Staff had time to create their research tools, with support from buddies and best practice material for applying a variety of research methods.
    1. Loads of fantastic pieces of research taking shape, with practical details beginning to be thrashed out.

Colour coded self-assessment

This year every member of our teaching staff belongs to a Teaching and Learning team. These cross curricular groups are working together to improve pedagogy as described in my post Teaching and Learning Leaders. There are six teams: Research, Feedback, Independence, Engagement, Differentiation and Mindsets, and the work of each team is posted on our […]

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Assessment for Learning – Quick Wins!

Here is the presentation from the Feedback group refreshing strategies for Assessment for Learning.

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