Andrew Pollard (2002) tells us that reflective teaching requires competence in methods of evidenced-based classroom enquiry, to support the progressive development of higher standards of teaching. We wanted to use the opportunity of taking part in a Practitioner Enquiry to make the most impact on the learning environment in our classrooms. In order to do this we decided to look at the underlying factor that is essential to success across all aspects of learning: attitude. The current focus in creating a positive attitude towards learning is the idea of mindset. The psychologist Carol Dweck defines two mindsets, fixed and growth (Dweck, 2008). A fixed mindset comes from the belief that our intelligence and ability are set at birth and there is little we can do to influence that. Growth Mindset however, has the attitude that intelligence and abilities can be developed through practise, persistence, learning through mistakes and being open to try different strategies. We decided to investigate how mistakes in the classroom could be embraced in order to foster a Growth Mindset in pupils and therefore help them to progress in their learning. Vygotsky’s ideas of scaffolding and the Zone of Proximal Development were used to support learning through teacher-pupil and also pupil-pupil dialogue. Vygotsky defines his Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) as ‘the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers’ (Vygotsky, 1978). He suggests that what a child can do with assistance today they will be able to do alone tomorrow. The importance of the social role and the support that is provided by teachers and peers in developing a Growth Mindset is clear. Children (and adults) are quick to compare themselves to others and decide whether they are ‘good’ at something or not. During this enquiry pupils were encouraged to become more comfortable admitting to mistakes and then working together to find a solution, rather than hiding them in order to impress their friends.
The aim of this enquiry was to investigate how teachers can have an impact on self-esteem, engagement and understanding by supporting learners to embrace mistakes when taking part in problem solving activities.