Thursday, 22 March 2007

Mindset a growth mentality

Tonight I came across comments on Bruce Hammond's Leading and Learning blog about recent research by Stanford Professor Carol Dweck and her colleagues , published in her book ,'Mindset: The New Psychology of Success', which recommends that students need to become aware of how their brains work. According to Bruce, Dweck suggests:

  • "That we teach our students to think of their brains as a muscle that strengthens with use forming new connections every time they learn.This certainly fits in with those who hold a constructivist view of learning.
  • That we teach students appropriate study skills and convey to them that by using these methods it will help their brains learn better.
  • That we should discourage using labels ( and streaming) that convey to students that their intelligence is fixed.
  • That we should encourage students to appreciate that there is wide range of ways of being intelligent - schools that are aware of Howard Gardner's research on multiple intelligences will be aware of this. Schools that focus on narrow literacy and numeracy targets will be giving students the wrong message.
  • Teachers ought to focus more on student's effort, strategies and progress rather than praising their talent or intelligence . Students need to see mistakes as positive rather that negative events - something to learn from and not to fear making
  • Most of all teachers need to give students relevant challenging work that students see as fun."

The blurb from Random House notes that Carol Dweck says that our mindset is not a minor personality quirk: it creates our whole mental world. It explains how we become optimistic or pessimistic. It shapes our goals, our attitude toward work and relationships, and how we raise our kids, ultimately predicting whether or not we will fulfill our potential. Dweck has found that everyone has one of two basic mindsets.If you have the fixed mindset, you believe that your talents and abilities are set in stone–either you have them or you don’t. You must prove yourself over and over, trying to look smart and talented at all costs. This is the path of stagnation. If you have a growth mindset, however, you know that talents can be developed and that great abilities are built over time. This is the path of opportunity–and success.Dweck demonstrates that mindset unfolds in childhood and adulthood and drives every aspect of our lives, from work to sports, from relationships to parenting. She reveals how creative geniuses in all fields–music, literature, science, sports, business–apply the growth mindset to achieve results. Perhaps even more important, she shows us how we can change our mindset at any stage of life to achieve true success and fulfillment. She looks across a broad range of applications and helps parents, teachers, coaches, and executives see how they can promote the growth mindset.

So, we need to work on developing the growth mindset of our students. Way to go!

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Too much talking by teachers

The last two days I've been at a professional development project called "Building Learning Capacity of Professional Learning Leaders". This is a 10 day program running over the next few months.

The building leaning capacity is from Guy Claxton and one of the readings we had was his keynote address for the British Educational Research Association last year. One of the key ideas Claxton discussed in his book 'Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind Why Intelligence Increases When You Think Less' is slow learning. We started the first session with a handout of 5 pages to be shared between two people and were expected to read and discuss it in ten minutes. I turned to my partner and asked, "What was your reaction to the task?"

She replied, "I like to have my own copy to read and write notes on."

Precisely my thoughts. I kept thinking that this was the opposite of slow learning, of slowing down, savouring the ideas, tossing them around before talking about them. But this seems to be the case of education everywhere - speed up, data, analyse, react, get it down quickly. At the end of the two days when we were asked to reflect a comment made at my table was that we talked too much. And this was coming from teachers. We all agreed we'd like more time to think; quiet time.