Friday Mindset #84

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Happy Friday folks.

Another week bites the dust! Heads-up: with two bank holidays approaching, we can expect lots of very similar back-to-school conversations over the coming fortnight. Fancy a game of bank-holiday work-week bingo? We'd surely need to include: "Four day week, eh? I could get used to this..." and "Could we make this permanent?" as well as, "Do you know in they get to do this every week and they get paid £100K a year?"

Anyway, enough nonsense, let's dive straight in.

Something to try...

Steve's been on a tour of UK universities over the past few weeks, looking at reading lists, admissions, interviews and expectations. We've had some really interesting conversations as a result, and we've been examining some of the material he's accessed.

One piece in particular seemed worth sharing. But first some background.

Back in the day, we wanted to 'framework curiosity' by showing students what their curious counterparts did differently. So we found our most curious students - the ones getting offers from the country's most prestigious universities - and we interviewed them. The result was our experiment with curiosity sheets. We wanted the sheets to contain "five places to go if you feel the stirrings of curiosity", so that students who lacked cultural capital could still act on those impulses. Here's an example of one of our early attempts:

We'd change a lot about this now, content-wise. But the principles are pretty sound - five different sources; the book easily readable in short chapters (we'd specify chapters these days), we'd have two or three more clips under item 2, hyperlinks for the podcasts and suggested episodes... you get the idea.

Anyway, here's something Steve collected at Cambridge. It's a much better approach, and one that might be worth trying to replicate at GCSE and A Level, helping establish a culture of curiosity. The inclusion of 'competition' is an inspiring addition. Imagine one for every course! Check it out:

Something we're reading...

More from Reinhart Pekrun's work this week. He's been in the field of educational research for a long time, and a 2017 paper he produced at the University of Munich (he's at Essex now) has been an interesting read over the last fortnight. We started it last week - and this week we reach some conclusions about study-related emotions and their impact on test and exam performance in Maths. We've turned the findings into a word document for you here. Enjoyment, hope, pride, folks. That's the key...

Portal Talk...

DATA! Love it or hate it data has now become an everyday part of the teaching experience. I can hear the debate raging in staff rooms across the country, between data hungry millennials and cynical GenXers about the relative importance of recent mock exam grades and what they might be telling us. From attendance figures to interdepartmental residuals and ALPs grades to student voice scores, we've never had access to as much information as we have now.

And none of it matters if we can't use it to benefit students! With that in mind, I'd like to tell something you about all the data we have been collecting at VESPA this year.

Through conversations with our schools, we had a perception this year that overall vision scores across the country were a lot lower than they had been in previous years. It was a vague hunch, and we postulated it might have been due to a variety of factors; the bad news cycle that students had been subjected to throughout the year; perceptions of University Courses post Covid, and the uncertainty of post 16 options (T-Levels and Apprenticeships.)

So I decided to have a look and compare the average of the last 2 academic years and compare them to this year. I was shocked to find that we had been wrong! There was no significant difference in vision scores between the academic years 20-22 and 22-23. In fact the average VISION score across the whole country had risen slightly this year from 4.60 to 4.67. So, on a macro scale, students are telling us that they are in general more "future minded" than in previous years!

This reminded me of this amazing TED talk by Hans Rosling, which shows us how our ignorance can influence our perceptions of how the world works. A brilliant, optimistic, video to share with students to start the conversation around perceptions and reality. Sadly Hans passed away in 2017 but his son Ola Rosling, has continued his work with an excellent website - One I would strongly recommend to share with students... (link below the video)

Next week we will continue our musings on data, and how we are developing the use of VESPA score data to initiate positive mentoring in schools. And we'll welcome a guest author - Mrs Rachel Kehoe, lead of the VESPA project at NPTC group of colleges, South Wales.

If you are interested in finding out more about the VESPA questionnaire in your organisation pleased get in touch with me at [email protected] or book a zoom call using the link below:

Our latest offer...

A book giveaway this week! We've got a copy of a book we recommended some months ago now; we've enjoyed it and it's time to pass it on to its next owner. We're talking about David Robson's The Expectation Effect (subtitle: How Your Mindset Can Transform Your Life)

It's in decent nick - hardback too, we must've been feeling fancy - and a great read. If you're interested, just try and be the first to email us at [email protected] at around 3:30pm today. Leave us an address to post it to, and we'll oblige! Good luck...

That's it, we're done. Get out into your three-day weekend!

All the best to you and yours,

Steve, Tony and Martin