Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success asserts that humans have two mindsets: a fixed mindset is the belief that traits, such as intelligence and personality, are permanent and the growth mindset is the belief that traits can be developed. Dweck supports this claim by sharing her research, personal reflections, celebrity examples, and various anecdotes in the contexts of athletics, business/leadership, relationships, and parenting/teaching/coaching. Dweck’s purpose is to enable readers to understand the two mindsets in order to develop growth mindsets. Writing in an informal tone that explains psychology using simple vocabulary, supported by examples from clients to working professionals to pop culture icons, Dweck writes to a contemporary adult audience with little experience in the field of cognitive psychology.
Even though Dweck does not specifically discuss educational technology, Mindset has already positively affected my work. As explained in my previous posts, I was able to calmly learn from a failure by applying a growth mindset, I can identify mindsets in my students, and I feel prepared to share Dweck’s work with my students and campus adults. It seems that individuals with growth mindsets are better prepared to learn new technology and continue to learn as pedagogy and content change in response to technology. By helping my students, colleagues, and campus adults develop growth mindsets, I will empower them to be receptive to change and motivated to learn. To expand upon Dweck’s recommendation to teach others about mindsets and use feedback to encourage growth mindsets, I will follow and engage in the ongoing mindset conversation in social media. I am looking forward to learning more about how to respond to fixed mindsets and how to nurture growth mindsets.
Over the past few years, I have inconsistently shared the work occurring in my classroom. Years ago, daily posts on my now-abandoned classroom blog, reflections on my professional blog, and posts on my students’ blogs kept invested adults current about the learning taking place in my classroom. For the past few years, I have practically gone into hiding after moving my classroom from the blogs to Edmodo and then Haiku. I have allowed ambiguous student privacy expectations of my district and partner agencies to discourage me from posting learning to an authentic global audience. Before reading Show Your Work by Austin Kleon, I was only sharing my work through Instagram and practically stopped encouraging my students to share their work.
I am still a little apprehensive about pushing my students to share their work with authentic audiences. When I read about teachers seamlessly integrating social media into their classrooms as a way to have students provide evidence of understanding as in #InstagramELE Challenge by Pilar Munday and using it to support bonding over shared face-to-face experiences as in Instagram Scavenger Hunt by Caitlin Tucker, I felt a little envious. Part of me wants to just grab these engaging activities and incorporate them into my classroom. But then, the reality sinks in. Less than half of my students have smart phones with data plans; of these, many are older devices with limited storage and low resolution cameras. Currently, students are unable to connect personal devices to the student wifi and the guest wifi is turned off during school hours. The residential agency does not provide students with wifi access. Additionally, my partner agencies have contradictory and unrealistic expectations of students’ social media use. Currently, I encourage my students to photograph and post highlights from shared learning experiences, such as field trips, guest speakers, and hands-on activities, but I do not directly integrate the use of social media into the curriculum as Monday and Tucker model.
Reading Show Your Work inspired me to return to publicly sharing the work taking place in my classroom. Since reading his book, I have created a classroom website titled Ms. Priester’s Classes. Even though it is not perfect and finished, I have published it. My students have already begun written posts documenting lessons and sharing reflections and work, such as this post “Sketchnoting by Diana and Imani.” I am piloting this in my intersession courses, but my goal is to have a student write at least one post for each course during the traditional school year. I can enhance this by adding a teacher’s toolbox to each posts containing links to copyable versions resources.
As I look toward the upcoming school year, I hope to show the work of my students and myself by:
-Reflection of experience
-Student author profile
Last year, I established classroom goals at the beginning of the year: increase rigorous academic talk, support claims with evidence, and read and comprehend expository texts. This fall, I am considering adding “show your work” to our annual goals.
Edtech leaders who are at the peak of their careers are prolific on social media. These leaders are followed by thousands of educators. They share stories of how they worked hard to achieve success through keynote speeches and recorded talks. Their tip tidbits and tiny insights zip around multiple Twitter though multiple hashtag circles. They seem to have it all figured out. Followers applaud their success through likes and retweets and send messages to seek their opinions and answers to problems. Of course, the accomplishments of these educators deserves celebration and the sharing their learning benefits many teachers and students. However, there is a danger to this “single story.”
These trending teachers--Wait, no.--These trending educators set an unrealistic expectation for teachers who are just beginning to experiment with using technology in their classrooms. There is a strong focus on sharing today’s best tools and best pedagogy. Only hearing stories of success is overwhelming and intimidating. Where are the stories of the schools who still share computer labs? What about the districts without Google Apps for Education? What about teachers whose administrators do not support technology? What about the students whose parents will not sign release forms? These stories are not heard. Instead, a single story emerging in the edtech community is a fairy tale--currently complete with a pretty blonde princess. Even though current trends and social norms make it challenging to implement, the edtech community should taken into account the warnings Chimamanda Ngozi gives in her TED Talk, “The Danger of Telling a Single Story.” As Ngozi explains, “When we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise." Instead of believing yet another fairy tale, we should be working toward creating a diverse, lively paradise filled with the stories of educators at varying levels of edtech integration.
Fortunately, my current assignments are pushing my cohort mates and I to tell our stories. But, before I created the Storify of my tweets for the #edl680ig project, I did not even realize I was telling a story. I knew that I was sharing the learning taking place in my classroom--both mine and my students’. As I began to piece my Instagram photos together, I noticed that I was telling a story. I am telling the story of a teacher who is trying to implement current trends and novel ideas into my teaching, but I am also a student with hobbies that balance my academic activities. I am not a rockstar, ninja, or pirate--nor am I seeking to be. I just want to be a good teacher. I know that by following the learning of others, sharing my learning, and taking advantage of opportunities to learn with other educators, I am becoming a better teacher.
The single-story that is widely followed by educators on Twitter is a story that leads to notoriety, influence, and personal financial gain--not to the classroom. Sharing the stories of classroom teachers who are still learning provides a collective learning environment--instead of one in which the learners follow an expert.
The fixed mindset often appears in my classroom, compounded by the fact that many students have significant gaps in their education due to their experiences prior to, and within, the foster care system. Students are often resistant to even try to learn. These students will eagerly will show what they can do but avoid the challenge of learning new skills. The following are examples of how students’ mindsets appear in my classroom.
As a simple assessment of my students’ experience in reading and writing, I often ask new students about their favorite books. I occasionally I hear a simple, “I don’t read.” John was one of these students. But, he did more than just not read--he did not want to do anything in English class. He said he did not “do English” and avoided writing tasks by distracting himself. He refused to read aloud. When pushed, he talked on and on about one novel he read in sixth grade. When given an independent reading assignment, he purchased the same book and asked to re-read it for high school credit. His behaviors clearly stated that he did not want to do the work because he did not know how, but he was unwilling to utilize the resources around him (including upperclassmen tutors and teachers’ assistants who offered to work with him in a private setting). John’s fixed mindset convinced him that he was incapable of learning more. He successfully read that one novel and clings to it. He did not pass my class. Currently, I am attempting a new approach by asking John to read a graphic novel with a teacher’s assistant. Even though, this reading task may provide some success, I can better support John by teaching him about mindsets and creating opportunities for him to grow.
When Steven entered my class as a freshman, he was barely able to decode words. When reading silently, he was able to comprehend at a fourth-grade reading level, but he would pout or walk out of the room if asked to read aloud. A few weeks into the fall semester, I noticed that Steven would sneak into the back room during silent reading. It seemed as if he was trying to focus, but I soon discovered that he was actually using technology tools to improve his comprehension. He found audio clips of the novel that we were reading on YouTube and he was listening to them as he followed along in his text. In cooperation with the campus literacy coach, his houseparents, and upperclassmen tutors, we were able to provide Steven opportunities to read aloud. By the conclusion of his sophomore year, Steven was independently reading grade-level texts, especially teen romance novels. This spring, he passed the California High School Exit Exam on the first try and earned a 4.0 grade point average. He is open about his progress and loves to tell his peers about his improvement. Stephen’s commitment to working hard to improve his skills exemplifies his growth mindset and is becoming one of the most respected students on our campus.
“I won’t even try!”
The majority of my freshmen students have very little experience with expository writing--a few even claim to have never written any type of essay. When Manny asked “Do you want me to include the counterclaim in this body paragraph or do you want me to make a new paragraph for it?” I was taken aback. By inquiring about his educational experiences, I learned that he attended a middle school with high expectations. His eighth grade English teacher had emphasized expository writing. I told Manny that I was excited to read his work and challenge him to improve his writing. But, within a few weeks, Manny shut down. He stopped writing. He withdrew from the class. He became defensive when I attempted to help him. I set up a meeting with his clinician after school one day. Manny begrudgingly participated in the meeting, but became visibly upset after I kindly explained, “You are fortunate that you are entering high school with advanced writing skills. Your strong critical thinking skills are evident in your participation in class discussions. The door to college will be open to you. I am looking forward to helping you get there.” Sounds nice, but that conversation led to a six-month shut down. Even after many meetings with campus adults, Manny refused to participate in class. Manny has a fixed mindset and my comments about his innate intelligence and potential put too much pressure on him. When he faced a challenge in class, he stopped trying because it caused him to feel like I had lied--if he was smart he would have been able to accomplish the task without support. Fortunately, semesters end and courses can be retaken. Currently, Manny is beginning to accept support from adults and is pushing himself to earn high grades. However, I need to be mindful of his fixed mindset and praise his growth in skills instead of his talents.
Even though many of my students seem to demonstrate fixed mindsets, the adults at San Pasqual Academy can help them to develop growth mindsets. As Dweck explains, “Every word and action can send a message. It tells children— or students, or athletes— how to think about themselves. It can be a fixed-mindset message that says: You have permanent traits and I’m judging them. Or it can be a growth-mindset message that says: You are a developing person and I am interested in your development” (2008). This reinforced the previously mentioned practice shared by experienced campus adults; balance care with challenge. To support the growth mindset, we need to emphasize development. By doing this, we help our students to overcome trauma and the fixed mindsets frequently instilled in them by their previous caregivers.
Dweck, Carol (2006-02-28). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
After just reading the first few chapters of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, I knew that I wanted to at least share the concepts of growth and fixed mindsets with my students. After reading, the chapter “Parents, Teachers, and Coaches: Where to Mindsets Come From?”, I realized that sharing the mindsets with my students would not be enough. If want mindsets to become part of the campus culture of San Pasqual Academy, I need to reach the adults, too.
Over the past few weeks, I have become increasingly aware of the popularity of mindsets among educators. Mindset is a popular hashtag, mindset infographics and articles are commonly tweeted, and many users list the mindset in their Twitter profiles. I have even received direct Twitter messages from a user stating that she is “on a mission to spread the growth mindset.” So, I was not surprised to discover that will minimal search effort, I was able to find an abundance of mindset resources.
While collecting resources, I stumbled upon the upcoming conference Academic Mindsets : Promoting Positive Attitudes, Persistence and Performance hosted by Learning and the Brain. However, once I saw the registration price of $499, I scratched it off my list. My district supports professional development, but that seems a little pricey. Additionally, the conference is not until February 2016 and I want to bring mindsets to my school this fall. I also discovered many fee-based resources that support Mindsets, including Mindset Works’ Brainology Program, which costs $6,000 per school site. Again, I moved on.
Next, I considered the idea of using the free mindset resources available online to create and facilitate a mindset professional development session for the school staff at my site. When I remembered our already packed professional development agendas, I thought of asking my district and our partner agencies to purchase copies of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success and host book clubs throughout the year. And then I remembered by preexisting list of special projects and decided that it would be unwise to start another project that would take my time away from directly supporting the learning taking place in my own classroom.
Wait! Classroom? Project? Oh! I already know the perfect way to integrate the growth mindset into my campus!
Instead of using mindset as an add-on, I decided to directly integrate it into my curriculum. Since my site is switching to block schedules and trimesters this year, I already plan to implement at least one large problem-based learning unit into each course. I am going to use Mindset as one of these large projects; the students will read the book as an anchor text and participate in problem-based learning based on Dwek’s key concepts.
Instead of a whole-class novel, I am going to teach a whole-class informational text. I will request a class set of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success from my district. I plan to customize the rhetorical reading and writing strategies utilized in the California State University’s Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum to help my students comprehend and analyze the text. We will focus on key ideas, craft and structure, and writing explanatory texts.
Instead of teaching about mindsets, I am going to have my students develop their own growth mindsets and teach others about mindsets. I will build the project by following the Buck Institute for Education’s Project Based Learning Project Planner template. The following is a summary of the project.
Dweck, Carol (2006-02-28). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.