Growth mindset: My (missed) point of progress

Early in her career, Becky Sayers designed a method of proving her pupils’ progress that she thought was ingenious in its simplicity. Looking back, she recognises it was more about removing the need for hard work
13th March 2020, 12:05am
A (missed) Point Of Progress

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Growth mindset: My (missed) point of progress

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/growth-mindset-my-missed-point-progress

I began my career as a teacher in the age of progress. That is to say, the age of progress checks.

Within six months of starting my PGCE, I had experienced the joy of two Ofsted inspections, one in each of my placements. Before both, I was carefully instructed in the 20-minute observation, on the need for regular plenaries and, above all, the need to provide proof of rapid and sustained progress.

Thankfully, I had a solution that was ingenious in its simplicity: Ofsted inspectors or other observers couldn’t be expected to read pieces of work or ask pupils questions and it wasn’t guaranteed their 20-minute observation would line up with one of my plenary questioning points.

So I would make it simple: at the beginning of each lesson, students would stick in a “progress arrow”, which would list the lesson objective/outcomes for the lesson. Then, at stipulated points during the lesson, they would tick the box that they felt they had reached. If they had ticked all of the boxes by the end of the lesson, they had clearly made excellent progress and I had clearly taught an “outstanding” lesson.

Over time, I encouraged my pupils to become even more reflective: once pupils had ticked the box on their arrow, they were then expected to write a sentence explaining their choice. These included such gems as: “I have reached this point because we did a sheet on it.”

If you were to walk into my classroom (or the small space I carved out for myself in the staff room during my training year) on any given morning, you would have found me hunched over the guillotine and surrounded by endless slips of paper - some printed for the upcoming day, some left over from previous days and some random slips that had fallen out of books.

One morning, I had been slightly too ambitious when carrying my printing to my lesson and for a brief moment, it rained progress…arrows.

Ultimately, the entire process was an exercise in placating my own ego and conveniently removing any need for me to do the hard work of actually diagnosing and remedying pupils’ issues and misconceptions.

Fortunately, the progress arrow has now been consigned to an archive on my hard drive, to be occasionally unearthed and chuckled at when I’m on the hunt for “that sheet I made years ago”.

It has been replaced by retrieval practice, careful questioning and discussion, activities that require pupils to manipulate what they have learned and substantial written tasks.

Now, rather than relying on pupils telling me that they have progressed, I expect them to show me.

Becky Sayers is faculty leader for humanities at a 11-16 comprehensive in Wiltshire

This article originally appeared in the13 March 2020 issue under the headline “A (missed) point of progress”

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