This week has been hard on my teacher heart. It is the end of the semester and finals are now finished, but during the week student after student came to me with their phone in their hand and squinting at the tiny print on the screen, trying to show me some detail that is a complete mystery without my reading glasses while asking about their missing assignments or their grades. Once, I responded to a student’s inquiry by saying, “Grades don’t matter anyway. What have you learned?” You would have thought that I had grown two heads and spoken in ancient tongues for the way that student looked at me. Apparently, my students are completely entrenched in the idea that grades are the only part of education that matters.
So how can I, as a teacher, help my students develop their growth mindset? It won’t be easy, and without massive, sweeping change they will always be concerned with the grade that they earned a little more than how much they have learned, but we can begin to make progress toward this as a goal beginning with our own mindset. Previously, I write about my own Growth Mindset here. While this reflection was primarily on my own growth mindset, I can take some of these preliminary ideas and adapt them to work with my students. For example, where I like to surround myself with quotes that embrace growth mindset, it would benefit students to hear the language of growth mindset, as well.
Additionally, we can teach students the four steps to changing their own growth mindset and lead them on a metacognitive journey.
Change your Mindset
Step 1: Learn to hear your “fixed” mindset voice.
Step 2: Recognize that you have a choice.
Step 3: Talk back to it with a growth mindset voice.
Step 4: Take the growth mindset action.
The biggest step to leading my students to develop a growth mindset will be to change the conversation we have with regards to learning. Alfie Kohn suggests that we shift our focus slightly to what the students are achieving. This makes sense in my course and is something that I can do with my students. For example, when evaluating a student’s writing, I might tell them that the idea behind their claim is valid, the argument strong or weak, the details powerful or not vivid enough to allow the reader to see what the author intended. I can even see how this process can translate into grading. Each student can be graded on improvement on a skill, so the bigger gains they make on the skill, the more points they can earn. Since I teach ELA, if a student is reaching mastery we can adjust the levels to the appropriate Lexile to continue the opportunity for growth. In the beginning, students will want to know what they need to do to get an A, but if the discourse continues to emphasize growth levels, it will be picked up by the students.
This process becomes more feasible with personalized learning opportunities. If a student is being evaluated on course-work that is appropriate for their mastery level, then cheating would be less prevalent because there would be fewer opportunities for cheating. When education is not cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all cheating incidences will decline.
Growth mindset leads us to real learning. Not just task completion for a grade, but real learning. The kind of learning where who the student is as a human is affected by the process through which they travel. This kind of learning is possible when we create a significant learning environment. Throughout the last couple of weeks, I have been focused on creating a plan to implement that opens the door for this shift. I am able to demonstrate that the creation of a significant learning environment will dramatically increase the focus on learning. Planning for the significant learning environment through the 3-column table can give teachers the ability to see the big picture. For more specific planning, the Understanding by Design template is helpful for keeping the daily goals in mind.
These tools for course design, combined with my personal philosophy of teaching and learning, leads me to believe that I can help each and every student through a process of personalized inquiry to put the emphasis on learning, thereby increasing the impact of this innovation plan.
B. (n.d.). MINDSET. Retrieved from http://mindsetonline.com/
Fink, L. D. (2003). A Self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Grenny, J., & Patterson, K. (2013). Influencer: The power to change anything. McGraw-Hill Professional.
The “Mindset” Mindset. (2017, July 31). Retrieved from http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/mindset/
Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design (expanded second ed.). Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.