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Mindset maths at Calderglen High School, East Kilbride

In Calderglen High School, teachers have been introducing methods which consistently bring awareness of brain development into the maths classrooms.  

Explicit ‘brain growth’ teaching  

To provide students with an understanding of the culture in the maths department, some classes are devoted to explaining the impact of the way we approach our work on brain growth.  This backdrop of growth mindset is used throughout the year and integrated into the type of language used in class, the type of home learning tasks given, and the engagement expected of pupils.

Language and messages

Calderglen teachers reduce the negative association learners have with confusion. When students find themselves confused, teachers tell them this is good, as learning takes place when we work through our lack of comprehension.  

Instead of pupils thinking maths is too hard or not for everyone, staff are encouraged to remind students of images of synapses firing and connections being made. Students are given messages about the possibility of improvement through effort and practice, and pre-existing beliefs about lack of ability are not given reinforcement.  

Home learning as extension to class learning  

In place of traditional homework exercises, Calderglen gives longer term deadlines for work to be completed, with the expectation that some occurs in class and some at home. Students are made aware of the aims in terms of knowledge and understanding, and they are expected to complete work and regularly review their own work. When mistakes or gaps are noticed, they are expected to attempt to rectify these, and make notes in their jotters about this process.  

Teacher, David Marsden believes that the school’s National 5 results in 2017 can be explained by these teaching practices and culture of responsibility in learning. There was also a big emphasis on resilience, ambition and learning at home. In the previous year the S4s achieved 73 A-C passes, and this increased to 104 A-C passes (similar sized cohort).  

Engaging with parents  

Calderglen Maths Department developed, in conjunction with their Parent Council, a leaflet to describe the ethos of the department and videos which described the importance of mindset.  

It is not expected that all parents will access the online materials or attend available engagement sessions. Mike Kane suggests that an additional way he uses to work with parents, avoiding the ‘us/them’ dichotomy, is to present information in ‘draft’ form, always prepared to take on feedback about how he could be communicating better.  

Staff  

The approach the department takes is sold to teachers as beneficial to them as well as the students: by teaching the students to explore, revise, summarise themselves, there is less ‘hand-holding’ by the teacher required, which in turn is a reduction in work load. There is then more time for positive interventions, giving individual attention, with the traditional ‘bulk’ being taken on more by the students.  

If you'd like to know more, please take a look at the full Calderglen case study.