Learning something new is a challenging process; it requires the learner to take risks, make mistakes, often fail before succeeding and requires persistence and empathy. In an attempt to move towards a more learning centred system, where mistakes are celebrated and learnt from and challenge is the norm, we began to develop “growing our brains” across our Reception classes in a federation of three small infant schools. This small-scale case study involved five teachers and seven TAs working together throughout a school year. Tight (2017, p.5) suggests a case study in its most basic form is “small scale research with meaning” whilst Yin (1984) defines the case study research method as an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context; when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident; and in which multiple sources of evidence are used. To this end, pupil observations, staff questionnaires, parent workshops, JPD activities and team learning conversations were used to develop and evaluate our approach.
As part of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), established in 2008 and revised in 2017, defining educational provision for children under 5 in England, the Characteristics of Effective Learning (CoEL), set out by the Department for Education (2012) provide the context for learning in the Early Years in England. Yet it is these statements, of playing and exploring, active learning and creating and thinking critically, that often prove the most problematic for practitioners to understand, provide opportunities for and assess children against. As Claxton (2002) suggest “It is quite possible to help students learn more without helping them become better at learning” (p.15).