Mindset: Why the way you praise student achievement can affect their life-long learning
I have a vivid memory of the first time I heard about Mindset. It was orientation day at graduate school and I asked one of the alumni what suggestions she had to prepare for school. She took one second to think, smiled, and said, “Read Mindset by Carol Dweck.” I did just that. Mindset changed my understanding of how people learn and, ultimately, of human potential.
If you are in the field of education, you are probably more than familiar with the acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). You may also have a strong opinion of the STEM movement, as it is one more initiative you may have to accommodate among several other current major overhauls of the public education system, such as the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the new teacher and principal evaluation requirements, and the new Smarter Balanced Assessment that is aligned to the new standards, just to name a few.
Over the last six decades, the American school system has been under fire and perceived as not preparing students well enough. It began with Sputnik and the race to the moon in the late 1950s and continues today as the Race to the Top, the Obama administration’s answer to school reform through financial incentives. Throughout the history of the American public school system, the need for change or reform is prefaced with a crisis.
The Power of the Growth Mindset
While researching for a project recently, I came across Dr. Carol Dweck’s idea of fixed mindset vs. growth mindset. As more schools work to build 21st Century Skills in their students,greater numbers of teachers are trying to foster the growth mindset in their classrooms. Initially, I assumed a growth mindset had to do with students creating goals and monitoring their progress, either individually or as a class. I was wrong. So what is a fixed mindset? What is a growth mindset? According to Dweck’s website, in a nutshell:
In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.
The Business of Teaching: Encouraging Innovation, Accountability, and Professionalism in Education
At The BERC Group, we visit many schools for many reasons. More often than not, they are struggling and under-performing. This fall, I had the privilege of visiting a once-failing school in a high poverty neighborhood. Despite its almost 100% free/reduced lunch status, extreme diversity, and high level of academic needs, the school had made great strides in improving student performance. Reflecting back upon many other schools I have visited, I wondered how the vibe at this particular school could be so different. Where were their excuses? Weren’t they frustrated by the deficits of the clientele they serve? Why didn’t they blame their circumstances like so many other schools?
One of the biggest differences I could identify comes down to a simple shift in philosophy: the leaders of this school ran it like a business, and everyone behaved like a professional. This is not to say that administrators and teachers at other schools are not professionals, but many schools do not adhere to such high standards. Let me see if I can explain the nuances of this difference.
Many educators ponder this question: “How do I get my students to want to learn?” Some students do not necessarily want to come to school every day and be challenged to achieve high standards. Traditionally, motivation has been applied with a simple input-output model. Teachers praise students for their hard work and support their motivation to persevere through difficult situations. This cause-and-effect model could very well work in many instances; however, educators and researchers alike need to understand that student motivation is more complex than that. Cause-and-effect may be easily replicated within a laboratory, but not necessarily in a classroom. Why? Because students come to schools with a host of social contexts, including religious backgrounds, family dynamics, race, socio-economic status, and other factors, which all affect motivation.
Washington State ASCD recently published the article below, written by Duane, on their Critical Question Blog.
Why does it seem like everything in education is changing? And, is there a way to think about the work that could make the work more manageable?
Good teachers know how important it is to give students regular opportunities to collaborate with each other. Small group discussions can be a fantastic way to challenge students to think critically, while giving them social support to work through their ideas in a circle of peers, instead of in front of the class as a whole. However, the first time I tried a small group discussion in class, I quickly realized most of my students were more interested in talking about the latest video game or weekend plans than their assigned discussion topic. Some teachers are wary of small group discussions for precisely that reason.
So how do you give students the opportunity to share their ideas with each other, while ensuring they are actually discussing the topic at hand? If a fail-safe way exists, I haven’t found it yet. However, I have found a number of strategies that help to keep students on-task.
Classroom Clips: 6th Grade Math
Observe these 6th grade math students working with each other to learn different types of angles and triangles by using strings as manipulatives. These newest additions to the Classroom Clips playlist on our Powerful Teaching and Learning channel come from Lanai High and Elementary School in Lanai City, HI.
Classroom Clips: 3rd Grade English
Clips from a 3rd grade English in Sedro-Woolley, WA are the newest additions to the Classroom Clips playlist on our Powerful Teaching and Learning channel. Janell Doggett facilitates a discussion on comparing and contrasting using George Washington and Abraham Lincoln as examples.
27 Washington School Improvement Grant Schools Outperform 1,400 Others Across the Nation
The Washington Education Association (WEA) recently published a memo sharing some details about their visits to the 27 School Improvement Grant (SIG) schools in Washington to share the good news about their high level of performance compared to the others. They were joined by National Education Association (NEA) President Dennis Van Roekel for part of the tour.
"I wanted to come to Washington to meet you. I've been talking all around the country about the great work you've been doing and thought it was time to come see it for myself," Van Roekel said.
An overview of the SIG grants is provided in the Improving Student Achievement in High-Poverty Schools: Lessons from Washington state annual report provided by the WEA.
In 2010, the United States Department of Education provided funding for three-year School Improvement Grants (SIG) to support the lowest achieving 5 percent of Title I or Title I-eligible schools identified by each state based on state math and reading test scores and high-school graduation rates. In 2011, the Education Department funded another round of three-year SIG grants.
Our research and evaluation team took part in this by providing a yearly Assessment of Progress (which we call School and Classroom Practices Studies) for each of the SIG schools in Washington. The Assessment of Progress provided schools with an overview of the school’s alignment to the Characteristics of High Performing Schools, an update on progress since the baseline report, and recommendations for continued improvement.
Interested in an objective and thorough study of your own school?
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