Working with a primary school on Monday on Assessment Capable Students, I was reminded of a conversation I recently had with the principal there about the Learning Support programme that my daughter, was a part of, and the importance of ‘growth mindset’.
In previous years at the school, she had been supported in both literacy and numeracy, with varying strategies. Most of the support removed her from the classroom, so for example, when maths was on, she would go and do maths somewhere else.
This model had problems: firstly, the timings were never quite synchronized, so she would do some maths in class, then be taken out, and return when the students had already moved on to something else. While we appreciated the time and strategies used, my daughter was always on the ‘back foot’ coming back into the classroom: she didn’t know what was going on and didn’t want to interrupt to find out.
She had also begun to feel conspicuous in the class, always being removed and the ease with which she accepted the model of support in previous years, was wearing thin.
The beginning of this year, however, was a little different.
Her support in literacy was reduced to a short 10 minute slot before school each morning, as her skills and confidence had grown. The support itself would focus on reinforcement and gradually decreasing each term until she no longer needed that support.
In maths, a small office space between her classroom and the next was cleared for small group work. I was told that she would be supported with a teacher in the office space or at the back of the classroom should she need it, and that pretesting would determine what level of support she needed. No more leaving at arbitrary times and being lost in the lesson when she returned! The new model reflected the pedagogy of ‘just in time’ learning, supporting her when and how she needed it.
When I spoke to the principal, she spoke about Carol Dweck’s work on Growth mindset, saying that she didn’t want students to feel that they could only be successful when working one-on-one with a teacher or EA, and in a separated environment. Dweck’s work encourages students to not fear failure, but see it as a learning moment. The use of the word ‘yet’ is key in the learning journey for a growth mindset student. I can’t solve that problem… yet. It also relates to Duckworth’s work on Grit and developing resilience. Students should be ‘allowed’ to fail at times; to develop the skills of learning how to tackle problems that aren’t readily ‘solvable’, to consider what next, and how to tackle it with a different strategy. I agree wholeheartedly with this philosophy and am glad that the school is able to personalise my daughter’s learning to the extent of providing this support. She is a happy child at school and is growing in confidence by being in the class and having to try hard with her maths, but ‘having a go’ nonetheless. As a parent/ teacher, I know that should she need extra support, she will get it, but just as importantly, she has the opportunity to develop her resilience and grit as a learner. What more could I ask for!