Tag Archives: Inquiry

Growth Mindset Inquiry

9 May

bryant-growth-mindset-ccs-iStockphoto

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:

dweck_mindset

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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Early Findings

30 Jun

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Our HOF Inquiry this year has been the following:

What will an innovative learning environment look like at Sacred Heart Girls’ College New Plymouth?

Recently I added this particular clip by Charles Leadbeater.

I am now reading the findings of the inquiry along with the HoF group. We are discussing next steps. I believe the following are key conditions that can make a difference:

  1. A vision for learning is incessantly and clearly communicated

What is our vision? Make sure you know where you are going.

  1. Learning is future-focused

The world is changing, make sure the learning context recognises this. Observe the students, how they work and communicate. Email is becoming obsolete. Find different ways to assess e.g. make a website or tweet an answer.

  1. Culture takes time and perseverance

Once you have the vision – prioritise your steps. The reality is, change will take time. If you believe it, be resolute. Help those who are struggling to change, but stick to your guns.

  1. Be student centred

Do students have voice or agency? Put current practices through the ‘learning’ filter – do they still belong?

  1. Equipped and supported staff are essential

Vision + ‘Learning’ Filter = Regular PD to support through change. (Fullan)

  1. Technology is an environment for learning, not the driver

Students live in a world of technology – the school-world needs be relevant.

  1. Relationships matter

In the midst of all the learning, technology and activity nothing matters more than quality relationships. Students need to belong, be known, valued and accepted. This is only achieved through relationship. Our GEMS programme is central to this.

  1. Learning is authentic

Set in a real-world context, skills will be learnt readily when there is purpose.

  1. Creativity and innovation have expression

There will always be barriers to innovation, find ways to break or go around them. Support those who are willing to make the first step and embrace failure. See an earlier blog on this.

The inquiry continues.

Head of Faculty Inquiry

24 May

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I am finding Maslows model useful in my own inquiry. It considers what the teachers need from the leader and outlines “a set of knowledge, skills and dispositions required for meeting those needs”. During the leader’s ascension, toward the apex there are key checkpoints, questions that leaders need to ask themselves for the vision realised. This is my simplified version of Knuth & Banks strategy:

First Level: Your actions match your words
Leaders model core values and principles. You are able to inspire trust and articulate vision. Principle-centred leaders inspire trust by displaying consistency between core values, words and actions.

Leader Checkpoint 3: Is your internal compass in or out of alignment?
If your words and actions don’t match there’s no need to go any further.

Second Level: My physical and material needs matter to you
The work environment is clean and attractive. Sound, air-quality and safety needs are considered. Teachers have the resources they need to do their job well.

Third level: I am appreciated for my contribution
Leaders actively foster a sense of belonging. Encouragement and recognition is personalised. They put a human face on policies and systems.

Checkpoint 2: Is it your priority to ensure the basic needs of your people are met?
Without valuing people, clear systems, policies and training for staff, a leader’s energy is consumed by chaos or disorganisation and probably interpersonal conflict.

Fourth level: We’re on a journey together
As a community we own the vision, good systems are in place and we are able to direct our collective energies to our core mission.

Checkpoint 1: Do you feel like settling?
It’s all humming along nicely now, let’s just enjoy this. The fourth level is considered the ‘false apex’.

The Apex: Higher order change
This is rarely linear, rational or comfortable. It is disruptive, chaotic and tested by ambiguity. Leaders here demonstrate adaptive leadership skills. This is where the disruption happens. Remember: it isn’t actually an end point.

Fullan & Langworthy (2014) – A Rich Seam: How new pedagogies find deep learning
(Ch 6 The New change leadership)

Deeper Learning

23 Aug

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I have bee doing a great deal of reading on Deeper Learning for my students. Here some conditions I have found where it occurs:

  1. There was sustained examination of a few topics rather than superficial coverage of many. Teachers that covered a large number of topics usually gave students superficial awareness and limited ability to make meaningful, deep connections.
  1. There was substantive coherence and continuity.  There was systematic inquiry, logical development, and integration of ideas over time. In contrast, teachers that taught unrelated fragments of knowledge, without pulling them together, undermined deep learning.
  1. Students were given an appropriate amount of time to think and prepare responses to questions. Promoting deeper learning required periods of silence during which students pondered and created alternative responses, developed more elaborate reasoning, and helped students to spend time in reflection.
  1. The teacher asked challenging questions and/or provided structured challenging tasks. The teacher’s questions or tasks demanded analysis, interpretation, or manipulation of material – non-routine mental work. 
  1. The teacher was a model of thoughtfulness. Teachers themselves modeled thoughtful dispositions, such as showing a keen interest in students’ ideas and in alternative approaches to solving problems; showing how he or she thought through a problem; acknowledging the difficulty of gaining a definitive understanding of what is being learned.
  1. Students offered explanations and reasons for their conclusions. Students were frequently helped and encouraged to produce explanations and reasons to support their conclusions.

 Something to think about this week. What do you think?

The major source for this information is an article by Fred Newmann, The Prospects for Classroom Thoughtfulness in High School Social Studies, in Collins and Mangieri, Teaching Thinking: An Agenda for the Twenty-first Century (1991), and an article in Horace, the journal of the Coalition for Essential Schools, March, 1995, p. 5.

Going Back

10 Nov

My NAPP experience is drawing to a close and next week my presentation will be the subject of my blog. At the same time I am reflecting on the end of my third year as Deputy Principal and a year of our ERO review. The following some notes in the best traditions of Marty McFly advice I would give myself if I could go back to the future.

Have a plan to drive the overall strategy for your team and its role achieving the school’s vision. Set annual goals within this plan. Focus on the process not necessarily the final result. Focus on what you know you need to solve the problem. You can’t get help if you can’t define what you’re looking for. Frame the situation: What is it you either don’t know or need to know more of? Start by defining the challenge you’re facing and what you need in order to solve it. Great leaders don’t have all the answers, but they usually have the ability to ask better questions. Staff will enjoy be included in solving the problems and setting goals.

Do Something. Sometimes a response requires doing something, even if you know it isn’t the perfect solution. By leaving the problem it can often grow.

Every year make room for new approaches. Assess the school, like a warrant of fitness, for what it needs to do, and making changes. We should not do it just because we are being reviewed by ERO.

Always try improving communication and relationships inside and outside the school. Internally everybody should feel included in making key decisions. I read somewhere this year tuning into everyone ensures that there is alignment of all.

Creating systems and frameworks to execute, track, and measuring the work so that you feel comfortable with. Review these systems. These will never be perfect. Be open, but remember you can’t possibly take every suggestion on board.

Inquire more deeply to truly unearth important ideas. When you improve the quality and quantity of questions you ask, you increase the potentially valuable information you receive.

Support staff members in becoming better leaders themselves by promoting continuous learning. I am a great believer in the philosophy of growing other leaders. A school is a place of learning and therefore we should all be learners.

Leader or Manager?

3 Aug

The way we educate students leave many of them feeling as though what they’ve “learned” is of no value; that the “lessons” they’ve received each day are of no use in the real world. We have created a system where we are assessment driven and students want to know if a task is worth credits. This leaves many teachers disheartened.

New strategies, tactics and procedures are developed to make the next school year better than the previous. Over my years in the classroom, I’ve been able to develop a few ways and means of getting the most out of my students and these overlap with staff.  This year I have also been reflecting on staff and how I can work with them in a better way. Gleaned from my inquiries, readings and experiences I made a list as I resolve this am I leading or managing.

The following site was particularly useful. http://leadonpurposeblog.com/2013/06/29/are-you-leading-or-just-managing/

So:

1. Relationships – In order to reach any group of people, you must know the audience to which you are speaking to. You have to speak their language, you must invoke their values and traditions in order to get them to go along with the information or concept(s) that you are presenting. You’ve got to meet people where they are. The learning plans we have developed for classes this year are an illustration of this.

2. Don’t Lecture – When people hear anything that sounds like a “lecture,” it is rarely a pleasant thought — it usually involves being punished. In the classroom, a lecture or talk should be more participatory in an effort to cut down the boredom of the students so they can gain the most in any lecture or talk you provide. Same with staff.  This requires patience but it is well worth it.

3. Choices – People like a choice. Often, we don’t provide our people with a choice when it comes to the assignments they have to do… maybe we should.  Giving a student the option of completing either assignment A or assignment B can create independence and ownership of the students work by the students themselves. My staff have been given choices in a number areas.  This has proven successful.

4. Let them Choose – People are opinionated: create assignments that allow them the freedom to give their “expertise.” Create a case study surrounding the content of your lessons or meetings, using language arts as the means for execution and reinforcement: verbally and on paper. This links to student voice or meaningful professional learning.

5. Examination and Discussion – Of course, I don’t mean arguing for argument’s sake. Rather, healthy discussion creates a healthy environment. Being nice is not enough.

6. Use The Technology – Make it their friend not the enemy.

7. Have Fun – Play and have fun when gaining an understanding of whether or not your students learned what you’ve taught them. Use meetings as “bonding” activities to have fun. We have initial one of our staff briefings as Fun Friday. Not nuts and bolts. Its all taking time and learning in different ways.

Professional Reading:

Indigenous Epistemology in a National Curriculum Framework

Angus H. Macfarlane, Ted Glynn, Waiariki Grace, Wally Penetito and Sonja Bateman

A real meaty piece this week which kept me occupied over the holidays. The paper discusses important parallels between western/European sociocultural theorizing on human development and learning (on which the key competencies seemed to be based), and the values, beliefs and preferred practices that are embodied within an indigenous Maori cultural worldview (Te Ao Maori).

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