Blog by Tracy Dutton, Maths Curriculum Leader, Tameside College, one of our Centres for Excellence in Maths (CfEM).
Like many CfEMs, Tameside College and network partners embraced the 2020-2021 academic year keen to commence the action research projects that would allow us to explore our refined investigative aims.
We had already, through analysis of emerging themes, decided that the development of a growth mind-set underpinned both of our research aims and with the legacy of 2019-20 and with Covid-19 restricted environments in which we all found ourselves teaching, never had this been more fundamental to learning and growth for all of us.
It was then with great trepidation that we received the news of the second lockdown. We had already refined our objectives in line with the ever-changing practice that Covid brought, would this mean further modifications?
The surprising answer is that far from encumbering the research, the continuation of our investigation and analysis during this period is providing us with some rich data that we may not otherwise have encountered. Through this serendipity we have been reminded of the importance of receptivity and curiosity to shape our action research.
A new emerging theme is the shift in the barriers to learning that impacts on the motivation and mindset of our learners. The more obvious barrier pertaining to digital poverty is having the expected impact but case studying is revealing barriers such as prior online bullying which has left a legacy of a reluctance to learn online. Similarly, additional barriers are developing relating to students who are now finding themselves working on tasks independently with teacher support. For some students, the reduction in peer support leads to the perception of isolation which in turn can have a significant impact on their motivation. This can contribute to the return of fixed mindset which then becomes more entrenched.
However, conversely, some students are blossoming and the shift has become positive. Barriers appear to have become reduced providing an opportunity to work with these students to continue to promote a growth mindset.
What then does this mean for the Tameside CfEM? Certainly, it has accelerated the need for a deeper analysis of findings in order to develop the intervention. It also needs careful consideration of the recoverability criterion for the next iteration of our action research. Perhaps equally as important is the growth in the mindset of the people who are working ethnographically within this project. By embracing and adapting to this change, they are uncovering some exciting findings which may help us understand even more about the mindset and motivation of the FE maths learner to further shape the sector.