In my original growth mindset plan, I suggest that it is contradictory for schools to try to encourage a growth mindset. After all, the purpose of the current industrial system is to educate students by teaching a list of state-curated standards and grade them on their mastery of said standards to determine if they are ready to progress to the next level. When our entire system is based on grades, it seems quite foolish to then plaster the walls with posters advertising growth mindset strategies and spend time encouraging students to embrace the Power of “YET”. In addition, the Case Western Reserve University study has now shown that mindset has no significant effect on academic achievement. So the question is: Why bother with discussing growth mindset at all? The answer is this: perseverance (aka grit) and attitude.
If we expect students to adopt these characteristics, we must begin by modeling them ourselves. As we build a significant learning environment, we must allow our students to see us fail, and try again, and fail again, and repeat as necessary. While this is happening, they should also hear our self-talk about what we did right, what we need to improve on, and how we intend to accomplish the task. The concept of growth mindset can be taught with a poster or through direct instruction, but the most powerful lesson is seeing it in action. And although grades are a required part of school at this time, we can help students focus more on the learning process by providing them with assignments and feed forward that are authentic and valuable rather than just a worksheet with a red letter on it. According to the research, that red letter may not change much by adopting a growth mindset, but how the student reacts and responds to it will.
A clear advantage of flipped learning is that the student, whether in a classroom or in a Professional Learning setting, can process the information at their own pace, even pausing or rewatching portions of the lesson for deeper understanding. When the participants are then grouped to discuss the content and collaborate to create a product that demonstrates learning, they benefit from what others took away from the video. Although I have never used a walk and talk in my own PL sessions, I’m certainly going to start! The physical movement creates connections in the brain that help the learner remember.
This type of PL needs to be modeled so that teachers can see firsthand the benefits of flipping their lessons through experiencing it themselves. As they are the beneficiaries of these practices during PL, so then they will be motivated to go employ them in their own classrooms. In my environment, I have the freedom to conduct my PL however I choose, but my sessions are usually only about an hour. I think I would have to do some trimming of the content in order to successfully flip it.
As the technology integrationist for my campus, it is quite literally my job to be the inspiration for others to embrace digital learning. The best way I have found to do this is to make sure my learners - students and teachers both- see me as a learner. Very rarely do I lead a lesson or PD where I’m not asked a question that I can’t answer. When that happens, either I ask the students to try to answer the question themselves or I let them see me finding the answer. Just this week I was facilitating a training for new laptops being deployed to teachers in my district and was bemoaning the fact that the touchpad scrolls the ‘wrong’ way (I’m a die-hard Chromebook user). One of the participants in the training said, “You know, you can switch that in the settings.” 5 years ago, I would have been very self-conscious that there would be whispers of “I can’t believe she didn’t know that”, but instead I enthusiastically said “Really?!?! I can’t wait to figure that out!” I try to make finding out new information a celebration to encourage others to embrace what they DON’T know.
In my PBL innovation plan, connecting formal to informal learning will be extremely important. It’s necessary to make this connection so that students have agency - the informal learning is what makes it fun and interesting for them, the formal learning is the required curriculum that students can’t discover on their own. The hard part is looking at a standard and determining what parts need to be taught formally and then designing and connecting informal learning opportunities.
If you've visited my e-portfolio thetechchick.org you may have noticed a common thread across my pages: light. To continue with that theme, I would say the BHAG serves as the lighthouse for the course or program, acting as the guiding force for every lesson, activity, and project within its scope. As the program is being designed, the lighthouse, or BHAG, must be kept in sight in order to stay on course. This will serve not only to give the program purpose and cohesion, but also to help the facilitation of connecting vs. collecting dots for the participants. With a clear BHAG, and all facets of the program focused on that goal, making connections will come naturally. Without a BHAG, classrooms work in a framework of 5-6 ‘objectives’ a day that may or may not have any connection between them, usually to satisfy state standards timelines or district assessment calendars. By employing Fink’s taxonomy, teachers might be bucking the system of data collection and frustrating their administrators, but their students will benefit from the deeper learning that takes place.
As a young teacher in the very early 90s, I used to get a little peeved when my students would correct me or try to add to the teacher-edition fueled information I was presenting to them. With a little experience came the realization that they weren’t trying to ‘show me up’, they were legit contributing to the learning of the other students in the class and in turn my learning as well. In my most recent classroom years, hardly an hour would pass that a question didn’t arise that I had to answer with “I don’t know - who wants to find that out for us?” This type of collaborative environment is not only more conducive to learning, increasing empathy, and fostering a growth mindset, it’s way more fun!
I see being uncomfortable as a side effect of a growth mindset - you are not growing if you are not uncomfortable. Growth mindset asks us to get comfortable with learning through failure, but let’s face facts - failure is uncomfortable. As we work to break out of the fixed mindset, like a butterfly beating against the chrysalis, we will struggle. I’m not sure that’s a great analogy, since the butterfly eventually gets out; I’m not sure anyone ever fully achieves a growth mindset.
As the STEAM lab facilitator, I'm always looking for hands-on, active learning challenges to present to the students. I want these experiences to ignite the imagination and require probelm solving and collaborattion. Have any of you seen Tinker Crate or Kiwi Crate? Or Googled STEM/STEAM activities? So many of them are written like a recipe: gather these materials, follow these steps, and you'll end up with.. a catapult, or whatever. Yes, the students are active and perhaps even collaborating, but are they coming up with the design themselves? What problem are they trying to solve? How is the project relevant to their lives? It's important when designing activities to remember that just because it's 'hands-on' doensn't make it valuable. Are the students merely following a recipe to achieve a predetermined result, or are they truly experimenting and making connections to develop new knowledge of their own?
The same is true for planning Professional Learning experiences. I have been in more than a few workshops that claimed to be 'hands-on', and they were. But the hands-on aspect was simply following along with the presenter, step-by-step. That certainly has its place - Robin teaches the new teachers in our district about gradebook and attendance and there's really no other way to do that. However, in my world of instructional tech, the opportunities to include constructivist elements in PL are boundless. I've discovered that many people LIKE the sit-and-get model of PL, or even if they don't, it's a hard habit to break. When I train teachers on a new program or app, I often go about it much like a STEAM lab challenge: here is the app, now create something with it! When they say "But how do you do _________?", I point them to the online training videos. I'm not there to hold their hand through the training videos, I'm there to make sure they can use that program effectively with their students, and maybe model for them a new instructional strategy as well ;)
I run the STEAM lab on my campus, where the students come twice a month to engage in engineering design challenges. Most of the challenges have a real world application, the most popular among the first graders being “I dropped my keys down the drain (a shipping tube)! Build something (out of this random pile of stuff) to help me get them out! This activity correlates with their science unit on properties of matter & magnetism. Daniel Pink’s video about motivation touches on the factors of challenge, mastery, and making a contribution in his point about what motivates highly skilled people to create products in their free time for FREE. It’s about having a purpose. All of the STEAM activities involve challenge and mastery, but I’ve noticed that they enjoy the activities even more when the challenge is framed with a greater purpose, such as helping retrieve the keys.
Further reflection got me thinking about why the students love coming to the STEAM lab so much. Aside from my sparkling personality, it’s because they get to PLAY, although I had never thought of it that way before. They are offered a game (challenge) to complete within certain limitations (time constraints & available materials).
I’m realizing that my project based learning plan is somewhat an extension of what I do in STEAM. Creating a learning environment conducive to natural inquisitiveness, providing opportunities for each student to pursue their passion, and offering students the chance to make real contributions to their school and community are the dreams that I am laying at the feet of my coworkers. I pray they tread lightly.
TED. (2010, May 24). Bring on the learning revolution! | Sir Ken Robinson [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9LelXa3U_I&feature=youtu.be
R. (2010, April 1). RSA ANIMATE: Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc&feature=youtu.be
TEDx Talks. (2012, September 12). A New Culture of Learning, Douglas Thomas at TEDxUFM [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lM80GXlyX0U&feature=youtu.be
I had this quote up in my STEAM classroom until I moved last year. In the video A New Culture of Learning (TEDx Talks, 2012), Douglas Thomas drove home the idea that students are more engaged and learn more completely when faced with obstacles in pursuing thier passion. How do we motivate babies to roll over, crawl, and eventually walk? By putting something they want just out of reach. I think a challenge to teachers today is figuring out what their students' passions are. What do they want badly enough that they will put the work in to reach it? So many seem to only want to spend copious hours playing video games or watching YouTube. Teachers are resourceful and creative enough to reach these students and discover their passions, but as Mr. Thomas goes on to say, teachers are handcuffed by the system when it comes to diverging from the norm, such as getting students interested in Shakespeare by pointing out his colorful sense of humor.
Which brings me to standardized testing. The part of the video that dealt with the effects of standardized testing on learning environments had me throwing out some 'hallelujah's and 'amen's to my empty living room. As educators, our passion is teaching. Perhaps we should think of testing itself as the limitation, the obstacle in the way of effective and authentic teaching. Just as the architect mentioned in the video has to build around the imperfections in the landscape, we have to rise to the challenge and dig deep for the creativity we need to create significant learning environments despite the roadblock of 'THE TEST'.
TEDx Talks. (2012, September 12). A New Culture of Learning, Douglas Thomas at TEDxUFM [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lM80GXlyX0U&feature=youtu.be
The reading that I found the most impactful was the Standards for Professional Learning Quick Reference Guide. I know the title does not exactly scream ‘page-turner’, but I found it so interesting that the standards for teaching teachers sound so much like best practices for teaching students. Why has that not always been the case? We have known for decades that authentic experiences are best for students, but once a person graduates college, it becomes desirable to sit for hours listening to lectures and leaving with packets? Things that make you go ‘hmmm….’. It seems that the PL standards are catching up.
Kristin Daniels’ examples of how three types of teachers all benefit from a Go & Show method of PL was so interesting in that she was delivering the PL that the specific teacher needed at the time they needed it. How COVA is that!? I would love to do this, and remind my staff on the regular that I am available and willing, but very few people take me up on the offer. I believe my administration is willing to look at some alternative ways to deliver quality PL, but the challenge won’t be getting the horses to water, it will be making them drink. Perhaps by treating our staff more like students - making the PL engaging and meaningful, they will come to embrace and enjoy professional learning.
Learning Forward. (2021). Standards for Professional Learning. Learning Forward.
TEDx Talks. (2013, November 6). Empowering the teacher technophobe: Kristin Daniels at TEDxBurnsvilleED [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puiNcIFJTCU&feature=youtu.be
Self Score: 88
While I like to think of myself as a leader and hold a leadership role in my professional life, I have to admit that I have not been quick to take on that responsibility in my ADL learning community. There are excuses: two jobs, a teenager at home, and a tendency toward introversion. In reality, I love to collaborate in person, but I find it difficult to do in a virtual setting such as this.
That being said, I completed my coursework in a timely fashion and participated in discussion boards regularly. The 2nd job prevented me from joining the zoom meetings live as often as I would have liked, but I did watch the recordings. My core group from 5303/5305 remains intact and includes myself, Robin Ballard, Danielle Pyle, LIndsay Hoerig-Cavanagh, Lindsey Wallace, Aliscia Drummond, Maria Rodman, and Avery Nihill. The group maintained a Google slide deck to curate resources and share our work outside of the Blackboard platform as well as a GroupMe for real time communication. We also zoomed once a week to debrief and reflect on our learning and what others in the classes were doing differently. I contributed, but did I go above and beyond as a leader? I don’t believe so.
While I participate by posting in the discussions and responding to my core group and a few others, the phrase “took leadership responsibility” might be a bit of a stretch. I have engaged in more back-and-forth conversations, rather than just responding once and calling it done. Even so, I’ve really felt like a bystander this session rather than an active participant. In future classes, I will try to be a more dedicated participant in the discussions, especially when I can’t attend the weekly zooms. I must say, however, that my discussion board posts themselves have improved. In the first session I felt very out of my element with all the writing and citing sources and whatnot, but as I have settled in I feel more comfortable sharing my ideas and believe my posts reflect more depth of thinking, which is probably why my conversations with classmates have been more involved.
Last session I compared myself to the mom’s old station wagon in “Karate Kid” that needed a rolling start. Now that I’m ‘rolling’ so to speak I need to pick up some speed to merge onto the highway and go with the flow of traffic.
For me, the concept of growth mindset has permeated every aspect of this session. My discomfort in the virtual setting was met with positive self-talk about my strengths (organization, coaching, design) and how I could use them to be a more active participant in class. As I was struggling to organize my ideas for the Influencer Model, I continually reminded myself that perfection is not the goal - improvement is. The moment of truth arrived when I realized I was probably going to make a B. My fixed mindset engine roared to life and prepared to take the checkered flag, but I remembered that as long as I learn something from the B and am making progress, a growth mindset will help me win the race.
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Blog Post: reflections-on-growth-mindset.html