Monthly Archives: May 2014

Growth mindset part two. #hackyrclass

What!!! two posts in one week.

I was reading a blog by @chasingalyx and it got me thinking about the language we use and it’s impact on developing or smashing a growth mindset. This is some stuff I learned from Art Costa – my guru on Habits of Mind / Key competencies and I like the idea of recording it for my records as it were.

So, the context is how we as teachers use questions to promote thinking and also students perceptions of themselves as thinkers (their mindset). I used to do this badly, then I learned a few things and also had the opportunity to see a very experienced teacher also do it badly. I watched this teacher start a class with a bit of a brainstorm, ask the class a thinking type question – 20 hands went up with ideas. She called on a student and then responded with something like “great thinking” 10 hands went down. She called on another student for their idea, responded with “excellent idea” suddenly there were no more hands up wanting to share their ideas. What I think Art Costa would say just happened was that every time she placed a value on someone’s thinking, the rest of the room measured their idea against the word Great or Excellent and if they were unsure if there idea was “excellent”, the hand went down and it was no longer safe to share their thinking. Growth mindset smashed. Repeat this on a daily basis and soon you have a hierarchy of mindsets within your class.

So, what might you do differently? When asking your class to share their thinking, the teacher reply, regardless of the idea is “thanks for your thinking”. I have tried this many times and if you start with 20 hands up, you continue to have 20 hands up until you have more ideas than you can handle. Then is the time to be critical of the thinking – ranking, justifying the most relevant ideas etc.

Some other ideas (also from Art) for questioning for a growth mindset are:

  • use a positive presupposition – “as you reflect upon……” “as you think about……” – this subconsciously gets them doing it.
  • use open questions with multiple answers
  • use tentative language. instead of “what is…, what are…” try “how might….. what might be…… How could……

Put it all together and you get something like:

As you reflect upon your own teaching practice, in what aspects might you consider changing things to further promote the growth mindset of your students?

A bit wordy but I think the ideas are good.

Please feel free to add your ideas or thinking below.


Whoops, forgot to blog – #Hackyrclass

If you have read any of my past blog posts you may know that last year I was on leave as a house husband and then part time teacher at Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti School where I got to hack the curriculum a bit and learn heaps. Well……. this year I am back at my “real” job which is at a large state school on the outskirts of Christchurch.

If you have had time off, this may resonate with you but coming back full time with your wife also teaching full time and trying to manage getting a kid to school and home again and all the other stuff over a 12 week term is pretty full on. I have loved it all but crikey, I have found it hard to make the time to blog and collect my thoughts outside of the school day. I have also accepted that this year I will run my slowest CHCH marathon for ages – to date I have been getting faster with age. My twitter watching/participating has also dropped, however, I happened to sneak a peek tonight and catch a post by @ClaireAmosNZ and @GeoMouldey with the #hackyrclass. This has got me motivated and I like the chance to be directed in my thinking for a bit – a cognitive burden has been lifted.

So……if I read it right, this week is about “growth Mindsets”. I have seen this jargon on twitter and not really known what it is about. To be fair, my understanding is still a little naïve (I kind of skimmed a few things to get the vibe – so this is my “right now thinking and may change over the week”). Anyway, it resonates with me big time. I have blogged about this before and I have met teachers who believe in fixed ability and I have witnessed teaching practices that lead students to believe they have limited and fixed ability and it makes me ANGRY!!!

One of the reasons I am so into this is that at the beginning of my own learning journey, I never saw myself as a good learner. My effective strategies for success were, stay quiet and avoid the teacher calling on you. My teachers thought I was great but I had no idea most of the time. Fast forward and I got through university (with an honours degree – thanks very much) but it required a lot of effort and I was still not what I would call a good learner. Now, I would say I am an ace learner and I really love learning. I guess I accidently developed a growth mindset at some point. In fact it all happened in or around 2001. This was my second year of teaching and in my “real” job, I was supported in learning about learning. My school gave me access to Art costa, Julia Aitkin and many others. I also got the opportunity to present my thinking to others at conferences and stuff (big learning opportunity). More recently, well for the last 6 years, I have been able to learn from and with Pam Hook and SOLO Taxonomy. It was a passing comment from Pam that has guided my teaching philosophy for the last few years and I now share it with all my classes. It is this:

Success = Effort + Effective Strategies

For me, I managed to get through university with heaps of effort but not really knowing how I did it. If I had the effective strategies I do now, maybe I would have finished my masters year instead of going travelling….nahh.

Anyway, I see this playing out in classes all the time. Students are not given the strategies, do not experience success, effort disappears. For some, they may have had years of this negative cycle being reinforced by teachers. Last year I had the opportunity to work with some disengaged students who really saw themselves as hopeless. They even had some fantastic strategies to self reinforce their negative beliefs. We presented them with the equation above and everything we did linked back to effective strategies for success. It was only an 8 week course but the students self reflections showed that they had shifted their mindset about themselves as learners. the blog for that is here

This is also true for gifted kids. Success comes easily and sometimes they do not even know why. For these kids, when they do encounter something that does not come easily, they freak out. For me, as a teacher, I am conscious to use the term effective strategies whenever I can (it has a nice presupposition that we are going to be effective). It is also an easy way to teach the learning process to students and help make the learning visible to them. We are not doing this because Mr Perry is trying to fill the time before lunch, we are doing this because it is an effective strategy to make links between this new learning and that’s like what we need to do for merit and excellence and now he expects us all to strive for that.

So what are effective strategies??? There are lots of them. Anything that you think is good teaching stuff and you share the intent and reasoning with your students. For me, most of my truly effective strategies revolve around the use of SOLO Taxonomy (as you can see in my blog posts)

So summing up my initial thoughts about developing a growth mindset:

  • Believe and tell your students that everyone as huge learning potential
  • let the students know that success = effort + effective strategies
  • let the students know your a trained professional (they laugh at me when I say that) and you whole purpose in life is to help them in developing effective strategies for success – their job is to supply the effort
  • have high expectations
  • Use a SOLO Framework