Developing a performance mindset culture

We are delighted to feature on the HPL blog this week. Read full article below:

At GEMS Wellington International School in Dubai, they have been using HPL to help them to develop a performance mindset culture over the last academic year. In this article, two of their teachers explain their experience of how they used the VAAs and the ACPs in order to do this. Charlotte Nwachukwu is a teacher in Lower School, and Beth Swinscoe is a teacher of English in Middle and Upper School.

The GEMS Wellington International School team will be hosting a webinar this month and share their experience of how they used High Performance Learning's VAAs and the ACPs to do this.  

Mindset shift. Find out how GEMs Wellington International School in Dubai changed staff and student mindset.

Performance Mindset. What is performance mindset and how can it help student outcomes. 

VAAs and ACPs. How HPL's ACPs and VAAs can support mindset shift in school.

Download a PDF version of their blog here. 


Introducing the VAAs

As a Lower School teacher, I needed to ensure that the introduction of the VAAs was both visual and practical. To facilitate active engagement with the VAAs, I created eyecatching posters that utilised simplified and accessible terminology; these then became a focal point in my classroom. My students noticed similarities between these new posters and the existing ACP posters which they were already familiar with. I conducted a whole class discussion surrounding the VAAs and tasked the children with the challenge of physically representing agility, hard work and empathy. Through this activity, the children were able to take ownership of the VAAs and thoroughly enjoyed the responsibility of role modelling their actions to their peers.

Using the Language

In hindsight, it may have been smoother to introduce VAAs to the children before the ACPs as they are a less abstract concept to understand. However, having already mastered the more challenging aspect of HPL first, it meant that that the children grasped the VAAs very quickly. To ensure consistency, I focused on the language I used in lessons, incorporated visual stimuli through displays and in exercise books and introduced a rewards system to praise students who demonstrated understanding of the HPL terminology. Through my experience of working with Year 1 and 2 students, I have found that repetition plays a key role in allowing children to fully grasp new concepts. As as a result of embedding HPL into their daily learning diet, the VAAs are now second nature to my high performance learners. To ensure consistency not only for the learners, but for the teachers as well, I have delivered PD sessions, one to one sessions, lesson observations and shared good practice in meetings to allow for the successful implementation of HPL across Year 2.  The use of verbal positive reinforcement has been an effective strategy to embed the use of VAAs in the classroom. One recent example from a maths lesson where a child wasn’t quite grasping the learning saw her peers confidently highlight that through the mistakes she was making and the perseverance she was showing, she was using her hardworking VAA. A simple teacher statement such as, ‘Wow 2E look at the resilience child X is displaying right now’ has had a huge impact on the mindset culture of the learners within my class. In our class, we have adopted a mature culture towards making mistakes, which means that the children can freely embed the VAAs without fear of embarrassment, which is common in learners this age.


The biggest impact I have witnessed in my class full of High Performance Learners is an increase in confidence; the rippling effect of this into other aspects of their school and personal life has resulted in increased student achievement and attainment. The confidence allows them to be agile, creative and hardworking learners who can articulate how the ACPs and VAAs have supported their learning journey in Year 2.


Embedding HPL

Embedding HPL into learning has been a steady learning curve and developed my own ability to be agile, hardworking and empathetic. As a reflective practitioner, I aim to instil these habits into the culture of my classroom. Along the way, I have made many errors and also had many successes with HPL in the classroom –but every one of them has been a learning opportunity for me and the students. My first effective development in introducing HPL into my lessons was my use of the GROW model (Whitmore, 1980) and how this strategy of problem-solving and mentoring could be utilised to encourage students to consider the processes and skills required in a lesson, a week of learning and a longer scheme of work. I developed an activity sheet for students to use to support their metathinking skills when approaching learning. This inevitably allowed students to explore the relationship between their prior knowledge, their learning in lessons and developed a clear outline of the ACPs which were their strengths as well as their weaknesses. This awareness allowed them to develop targets to move them towards success.

Introducing the VAAs

I decided to introduce the VAAs in a different way to encourage students to consider how they are approaching their learning and developing the skills needed to develop a performance mindset. By phrasing these questions, students had to discuss and consider alternative viewpoints about which VAAs were the focus of the lesson. Leading this as a Think-Pair-Share exercise allowed for students to debate and discuss the skills required for the learning journey and often led to students using the ACPs to explain how they were developing throughout learning sequences. I was able to utilise this to encourage students to consider what their learning objectives were for the lesson, based not only on the subject content but also the learner content required. As a result, students developed their understanding of the purpose of the learning in line with subject-specific outcomes, and also the impact it can have on their own personal development and growth.

Discussion and debate

To develop this further, I have designed a range of questions to encourage student discussion and debate. These are questions without an easy answer, meaning students have to approach them with a different mindset to traditional learning questions. When students respond to a question, I select an observer to explain how the student has applied the ACPs in their response and how this can impact upon their curriculum success criteria – in itself asking the student to be fluent thinkers, make wider links and consider the bigger picture of our lessons.


Embedding the VAAs and ACPs has had a noticeable difference in my classes. Students have become more reflective and they are able to independently identify their areas of strength and weakness. They can now begin to address this prior to verbal or written feedback from me. This has also had a direct impact on the quality of work being produced for homework and has allowed students in my classes to make excellent progress.

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