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Growth Mindset Inquiry

9 May

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I’ve decided to use my inquiry time as an opportunity to catch up on some long overdue reading – starting with ‘Mindset’ by Carol Dweck.  The theory explored in this book is that there are two types of mindset – fixed and growth.

The diagram below summarises the main qualities exhibited by each one:

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It’s obvious to see the relevance of this to us as teachers and Dweck presents a very compelling case for it.  Whilst the theory is interesting, what I’m most interested in is what we can do in schools, in lessons, to move more of our students from a fixed to a growth mindset?  This is the real challenge of teaching. So what follows is an initial attempt to look at each of the qualities of the ‘growth mindset and some of the strategies and techniques we use as teachers to develop this in students.

 Embrace challenges

  • Tell students that they will be doing challenging learning in lessons – and tell them why you think they will be able to do it.  Build them up and show you have belief in their success.
  • Plan activities that will be ‘low stress, high challenge’ for all – so, know the abilities of your students and stretch them accordingly.
  • Use the idea of ‘extender tasks’ for the more able – so they are not just given more work to do, but specific, challenging tasks to extend their thinking.
  • Celebrate their successes when they overcome a difficult task or activity.  Discuss with them how they overcame the challenges.

Persist in the face of setbacks

  • Show students strategies they can use when they become stuck e.g. use the 5Bs:

So, when students get stuck instead of asking the teacher straight away, they are encouraged to think about it first (Brain), look in their exercise book/ text book, look on the board (or a display) and finally if they are still stuck, as a friend (Buddy).  If after all of this they are still stuck, ask the teacher (Boss).

Some reading provided me with these next steps:

  • Think carefully about your questioning.  When students are stuck, don’t just give them the answer.  Carefully scaffold your questions to support them with getting ‘unstuck’. Use exams and assessments formatively.  Most importantly, don’t let them give up.

See effort as the path to mastery

  • Praise students specifically for the efforts they are making with their learning.
  • Honesty is required. Provide them with the opportunities within lessons, or a series of lessons, to practice, consolidate  and embed skills and knowledge.  All too often we glance over things, without actually giving students the opportunity to master what they are doing. This also gives them the opportunity to see when they have mastered things – make this explicit to them and celebrate it.

Learn from criticism

  • Whilst formative feedback (written or formal) is important, it only becomes useful when students are given the opportunity to respond to it.

So, much of what great teachers already do will help to develop a growth mindset within their students – this what makes them successful teachers.  Again though, if we think about this in terms of ‘marginal gains’, we should all be able to think about small changes we can make to our classroom practice, to support and develop this even further.

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Student Investment

23 Nov

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Student investment is not just about students sitting compliantly in a classroom and not disrupting others, but in fact when students own and take responsibility for their own learning. When students are truly invested in their learning, there is a symbiotic relationship between assessment and self-regulation. As I reflect on my own experience as a building principal, I recall that the teachers who had clarity about learning, well-planned lessons, and effective assessment practices never had issues with student behavior at the end of the school year.

There is not a teacher working today who would not want his or her students to be fully invested in their own learning. Getting there is another story entirely. I often hear educators say that we teach students responsibility when we give them homework or long-term projects and deadlines. I would argue that we are giving students opportunities to practice being responsible when we provide those tasks. Students need to be taught how to be responsible before, after, and during practice. This requires a mind shift about a teacher’s role in these all-important skills.

Student investment should be the same way. If we believe that it is valuable for students, both today and in the future, to be the owners of their learning and to learn about self-regulation, then it is our responsibility to teach it and to provide opportunities to practice. I have found in research and practice four characteristics of classrooms where assessment and self-regulation work well together to create student investment: a vision for learning, meaningful and valuable work, asset-based focus, and action and impact.

This will lead to our next work which are learning progressions. Roll on 2019.

Being a Busy Leader

21 Nov

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Manaaki Tāngata.

We are there to support and care for the people

Don’t you love watching people? It is always fascinating at conferences or meetings. At every break there is invariably the rush to the door, device to the ear or email being checked just checking in.

What do truly great leaders occupy themselves with? What takes their time, what do they prioritize, what should be important and why?

I heard a good phrase this week, “I’m not busy, I’m distracted”.

Leaders don’t have to the busiest people at school the most stressed, do the most hours, do the mahi for others, be the hero against whose everyone else’s measures their worth. Instead they should be good role models for a healthy work-life balance. I need to do this better personally.

Leaders should never be too busy that they become inaccessible: the person that no one wants to disturb because their issues would seem insignificant by contrast.

I like to set goals for the things I would like to achieve in a day. I must constantly remind myself that sometimes the distraction may be far important than the goal, particularly if it is to do with the people you serve. The moment you set yourself goals that can only be achieved behind your desk you are moving from leading to managing.

The staff member who comes into your office wanting the vent, or who is just in need of a sympathetic ear. It is in fostering these relationships, the giving of your time, that a leader is doing their most important work. It is then that they are building trust, and ultimately trust is far more important to an organisation because it unlocks the huge potential of the ‘we’.

There is nothing wrong with being busy, but what you are saying when you go on about it you don’t have time for others, you don’t have the time to cultivate what is the most important task of a leader. As a leader one of your key jobs is building the capacity of others and empowering them to do their roles so you can achieve the organisation’s vision together. We must remember the people. The students. The staff. The community.

Remember, you should never be too busy for the people you serve.

Why?

11 Nov

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At this time of year as a teacher, in any occupation, you may ask yourself why you do what you do. Why do you work where you work? Why do you make sure tamariki are treated well, encouraged, noticed, and cared for? In my akomanga or kura am I a preserving human dignity of all?

We all play a role in creating, bolstering, reinforcing, and strengthening the school environment. Every interaction with a child matters and influences how that child feels, acts, and responds. With every interaction we help create and form the climate and culture of the school. We all help determine whether or not it’s a safe, nurturing, and supportive environment for learning.

Whether we are principals, physics teachers, netball coaches, or caretakers, very few of us can be fully defined by our official titles. What we do every day and why we do it expands outside our job descriptions because we care about kids and we see ourselves as part of the bigger picture.

Education is a vast profession and we all play a part in its success, whatever our official roles may be. So, the next time someone asks you what you do, don’t just answer with your title. Think about what you dowho you serve, and how you support them.

Are you a teacher or mentor? Are you the one responsible adult for a child, a connection to the broader society, an adviser, or a caregiver? 

Leading Change at Manawa Tapu

5 Nov

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Pope Francis said recently we are not in an era of change, but in a change of era.

Have we done the following in leading change?

Start by building a collaborative culture.  Collaborative and shared leadership that is transparent to all staff, students and the community provides a powerful conduit for change.

Strategic planning is a team sport.  Leading change requires a collaborative effort.  We (leaders, teachers, students and community) need to be a committed to a common purpose.

Manawa Tapu is a complex environment so it is important to fully engage all the stakeholders especially teachers and students, but also parents, whanau, community and business interests.  It is important to hear a range of perspectives around change.

A cohesive plan.  Strategic planning is the systematic process of envisioning a desired future, translating this vision into broadly defined goals and determining a sequence of steps to achieve these.  Without a plan there will be confusion and false starts – attachment

There is no easy answer and no short cuts. Others cannot do this planning for us.  We have to walk the path to own the resulting plan. This needs to be a structured and thorough process, allocated the time and resources to ensure it will be successful.

That said, we do not have to do this on our own.  Have we tapped into the knowledge and experiences of our group? It is always useful to bounce ideas off others. Connect and converse to tap into the “wisdom of the crowd”.

It is important to incorporate expert mentoring and support.  Have you engaged with your “critical friend” – someone to look over your shoulder, to challenge your assumptions and to provide both expert knowledge and different perspectives to enrich conversations and decisions.

Only add something more useful – and always try to take something away! Teachers are already overloaded so we need to plan to add value by introducing interventions that not only improve their effectiveness in the classroom but add efficiencies and reduce workload.

Have we monitored our progress and evaluate the impact of our interventions and broader plan! We need to know how these strategies are bedding in and if these will improve student learning.

Have we ticked all of these?

Learning from Coaching

22 Oct

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Football coaching for the season finished in September. With my team there were lots and of ups and downs. There were days when we didn’t play so well, while there were days when everything was clicking perfectly. As a coach it was my job to find the areas that needed improvement. Putting players in the best place for them to be successful was crucial, and in the end these decisions decided whether we won or lost. It is a real challenge taking a group of 10 year olds but I do love it.

When we win, it’s real easy to celebrate, but when we lose, it can become a challenge. Players feel defeated. There were lots of days like this in 2018. In short it is difficult to find a victory in a loss, but if the team is going to make any progress, the coach must always find victories in every loss. The best way to do that is to capitalize on the strengths of every player on the team.

So translate that into the school setting. When the scores don’t come back as you expected, how did you react as the leader or the coach? Do you see only loss, or do you see victory? We must rise above the failure of policy and move toward discovering the victory in our tamariki.

Here’s three ways to find victory when you lose

1. Growth in Student Performance.
Looking at individual students or groups of students and how much they have grown is very helpful to find victory.

2. Growth in Skill Performance
Results by skill must be analyzed to determine how much growth occurred from last year.

3. Growth in Individual Teacher Performance
Teacher performance can be analyzed to find the growth that their students experienced from the previous year as well as the skills that grew in achievement. Finding these victories are critical for leaders as this is where coaches can find experts to help other teachers who didn’t experience growth areas.

Communicating to tamariki

17 Oct

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The best way to find out what type of communicator you are is to record yourself on audio or video. I prefer video because you can see the response of your students to your communication. Yes I know that we all hate to listen to ourselves speak, but this topic is too big not to investigate. If you have a kid that is struggling in your class, don’t you want to know if the student is even listening to you?  That might be the first step in intervening for the student. If you have students that are being loud and disruptive, don’t you want to know if your loud communication style is setting a poor example for how students should speak in your class or if your quiet tone is being ignored each time your correct?  If students are zones out in your class, don’t you want to know if some of your students perceive you as that teacher from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”?

If you want to improve your instruction, one of the first steps to start with is evaluating your own communication style toward students. Delivery of content is completely dependent on the manner in which you verbally communicate to your students.  How you speak sets the foundation for learning, and it is critical to know if you have a solid foundation for learning.  By evaluating the tone, cadence, and passion within your communication, you can ensure that every student, especially Charlie Brown, learns in your classroom.

He waka eke noa

9 Oct

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He waka eke noa

A canoe which we are all in with no exception

The term 3 holidays have looked a little different for me in 2019. I have just has surgery reattaching my hamstring to the top of my leg. This was an enforced rest for one week. Even now over a week later I am not that mobile, nor can I work to the degree I am used to. I have found the whole process awesome. It has given me time to think. Reflect. Revise. Evaluate. One thing I have been thinking about is workload and burnout of staff. By looking after yourself you are indeed looking after everyone.

Here are some things I am things that have come to mind:

Building positive relationships with your colleagues

We have all heard it before, relationships are the most important thing when it comes to teaching but this also is true when it comes to your relationships with colleagues.  If you surround yourself with negative people that continuously vent and never celebrate the positive, you will find yourself starting to think the same way.  We have to train our brains to see the positive.

Be willing to be flexible

This is a tough one.

 Finding mentors

Having a mentor can help as they can provide you with a heads up and support as you work through understanding building norms, expectations, and traditions of the school. I am so lucky to have many.

Creating balance

Finding balance in your life between personal and professional is extremely hard but it is vital for your well-being.   How are you managing your daily stress and workload?  How are you taking care of yourself emotionally and physically?

One thing at a time

We all have things we want to improve on but it is near impossible to do it all at once. Need help?  Check in with a teaching partner or mentor for guidance as we are all stronger as a team.

Take advantage of the breaks

Some of the best advice I received a few years back was to make sure to take full advantage of the time we had off from school.  I have often not been a good role model for staff here. I will continue to make this change.

Are you looking after yourself in order to be the best you can be?

Future Learning: Have a Voice

3 Oct

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Ehara taku toa, he takitahi, he toa takitini

My success should not be bestowed onto me alone, as it was not individual success but success of a collective

With the end the term comes Pathways discussions with students as we reflect on their successes. This something that so many contribute to as the students move to their next step. We as teachers know this better than anyone.

My wife tells me this is important as we are in a changing economy with different worker skills. She was emphasising the same things the front end of our NZ Curriculum and the Tomorrows Schools review are articulating.

  • Broad knowledge base. Understanding of key knowledge and ideas in many fields.
  • Flexibility – Can adapt to new situations
  • Prepared for continuous learning
  • Pro-active engagement. Learners are active and engaged in the learning process. They are curious, develop interests and passions, take learning initiatives, conduct research, check information, become pro-active learners.
  • Learners are adaptable, flexible
  • Problem Solving. Good at using what they know to figure out how to solve a variety of complex problems that are new to them.
  • Work well with others.
  • Literacy and good communication skills. Good readers of both fiction and non-fiction material. Good writers and communicate well with others.
  • Thoughtfulness, both qualitatively and quantitatively.  “Habits of Mind” Skills and Attitudes – Have “grit”, perseverance, curiosity. Learn from failure. Disciplined, “hard-working”, collaborative.
  • Leadership. Demonstrate the ability to take charge, be proactive, plan with others, take initiative, form a positive climate and culture.

How do we build an educational system around developing this deep learning knowledge base and promoting this deep learning level of skill development?  How do we prepare our students for the future of work and citizenship? Many are already on the path towards the type of education that will prepare the next generation for both the economy and civics of the future. We must all do this together. Everybody must have their say or at the very least feel heard.

Review

31 Aug

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This week I have been writing a Faculty Review and looking at developing units of study and the matching assessments while talking about the learning skills necessary for students to experience success. In the review I’ve deliberately not used the label “21st Century” I note that we are well in the 21st century. I know that the learning skills essential for students today are certainly divergent and the teaching practices to support those skills also need to be different. How we use the data gathered from high-quality assessment is a key component to furthering and deepening the work.

We need to deepen the critical thinking skills of our students. To do this I would like to see more student “talk” time. With the advances in technology, it’s been suggested that students today communicate more. While that may be true, I think it’s equally true to claim they talk less. They can spend an hour with a peer the previous night on their devices, but hardly muster a morena at school when they pass each other in the hallway. Teachers will need to provide the time to have students explain not only their answers but also their thinking as they developed those answers. I am seeing in many classes students knowing answers but unable to explain how they got there. Asking students to explain their solutions (not just the why but also the how) is foreign to some. I love the why question. It creates deeper thinking and responses.

This will mean less teacher talk timeand more collaboration between students. This will require a shift from what I call the right/wrong dichotomy that many of us experienced in our school careers. There was one answer—the right answer- and everything else was, therefore, wrong.

Using the evidence gathered from assessments and using the assessments as formative will result in a shift in the dialogue occurring in classrooms today. It will mean more of the “beautiful noise” that is evidenced in classrooms where students are highly engaged and deeply involved in their learning, and their teachers are interested in hearing about that learning. It will mean a shift to what was once valued and haled as the most productive classroom. Teachers know the difference between disruptive and non-productive noise. Do you here that sound in your school?

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