Developing a Growth Mindset

10 02 2010

 Developing a Growth Mindset

As I walk into the office of one of the schools I teach I view these words, “What children learn and what they become depend largely upon how they feel about themselves”.   After years of reading those words I realized that this “feeling” is far more than emotion.  I realized that a child’s perception of themselves is very important to their success in school.  This questions the concept that teachers are just dispensers of knowledge.    Self-perception leads to self-confidence and that leads to.…self-efficacy.

 To quote Del Siegle,

Self-efficacy is a person’s judgment about being able to perform a particular activity.  It is a student’s “I can” or “I cannot” belief.  Unlike self-esteem, which reflects how students feel about their worth or value, self-efficacy reflects how confident students are about performing specific tasks.  High self-efficacy in one area may not coincide with high self-efficacy in another area.  Just as high confidence in snow skiing may not be matched with high confidence in baseball, high self-efficacy in mathematics does not necessarily accompany high self efficacy in spelling.  Self-efficacy is specific to the task being attempted. However, having high self-efficacy does not necessary mean that students believe they will be successful. While self-efficacy indicates how strongly students believe they have the skills to do well, they may believe other factors will keep them from succeeding.

A growing body of research reveals that there is a positive, significant relationship between students’ self-efficacy beliefs and their academic performance. ….People with low self-efficacy toward a task are more likely to avoid it, while those with high self-efficacy are not only more likely to attempt the task, but they also will work harder and persist longer in the face of difficulties. Self-efficacy influences:  (1) what activities students select, (2) how much effort they put forth, (3) how persistent they are in the face of difficulties, and (4) the difficulty of the goals they set. Students with low self-efficacy do not expect to do well, and they often do not achieve at a level that is commensurate with their abilities. They do not believe they have the skills to do well so they don’t try.

The connection between self-efficacy and achievement gets stronger as students advance through school.  By the time students are in college, their self-efficacy beliefs are more strongly related to their achievement than any measure of their ability.  If we wish to develop high educational achievement among our students, it is essential that we begin building stronger self-efficacy as early as possible.

Carol Dweck shares her thoughts on self-efficacy when she speaks of Mind Sets.

Students with a fixed Mind Set say that intelligence is static

Leads to a desire to look smart and therefore a tendency to

Avoid challenges

Give up easily

Sees effort as fruitless or worse

Ignores useful feedback

Feels threatened by the success of others

 They may plateau early and achieve less than their full potential

Students with a Growth Mind Set say intelligence can be developed

Leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to

Embrace challenge

Persist in the in the face of setbacks

Sees effort as a path of mastery

Learns for criticism

Finds lessons and inspiration in the success of others

As a result they reach ever higher levels of achievement

Here are Dweck’s tips from Mindset:

-Listen to what you say to your kids, with an ear toward the messages you’re sending about mind-set.

– Instead of praising children’s intelligence or talent, focus on the processes they used.

Example: “That homework was so long and involved. I really admire the way you concentrated and finished it.”

Example: “That picture has so many beautiful colors. Tell me about them.”

Example: “You put so much thought into that essay. It really makes me think about Shakespeare in a new way.”

-When your child messes up, give constructive criticism—feedback that helps the child understand how to fix the problem, rather than labeling or excusing the child.

-Pay attention to the goals you set for your children; having innate talent is not a goal, but expanding skills and knowledge is.

-When they teach study skills, convey to students that using these methods will help their brains learn better.

 -Discourage use of labels (“smart”, “dumb” and so on) that convey intelligence as a fixed entity.

-Teach students to think of their brain as a muscle that strengthens with use, and have them visualize the brain forming new connections every time they learn.

-Praise students’ effort, strategies, and progress, not their intelligence. Praising intelligence leads to students to fear challenges and makes them feel stupid and discouraged when they have difficulty.

-Give students challenging work. Teach them that challenging activities are fun and that mistakes help them learn.

Forced Dilemma Game

10 02 2010

This game involves forcing the participants in making a choice when neither one is attractive or involves some metaphorical interpretation.  The object is to put the participants on the horns of a dilemma or between a rock and a hard place. Participants are pushed to not say “neither one” or to interpret the choice so that one would include the other so as to soften the dilemma. The object is to struggle with an either/or choice. The leader gives the choices to each participant and they must defend their choice with three good reasons. Here are two types of game play:

 Would you rather….?  (Examples)

Would you rather be rich or famous?

Would you rather ride a roller coaster or a mechanical bull?

Would you rather have the power to fly or the power to disappear?

Would you rather be a baby again or seventy years old?

Would you rather be gossiped about or lied to?

Would you rather have a life of good memories or a life full of exciting

adventures you couldn’t remember?

Would you rather have no values or have no friends?

Would you rather try everything and succeed at nothing or try only one thing and succeed?

Would you rather be convicted of something you didn’t do or see someone else convicted for something you did?

Would you rather do a job well and be grossly underpaid or do a job poorly and be paid so much it feels like stealing?

Would you rather see every movie in slow motion or at double speed?

Would you rather be really smart and really boring or really dumb and entertaining?

Would you rather have the theme song of your choice play whenever you walk or have your own mood lighting wherever you are?

Would you rather have a nose that glows red when you get excited or have steam come out of your ears when you get mad?

Would you rather be stranded on a deserted island or live your life in a bubble?

Would you rather go back in time and give your younger self advice that will change your life or go into the future and find out what you will encounter in years to come?

Would you rather always look tremendous but say the wrong thing to everyone you meet or always say the right thing but look terrible?

Would you rather have everything you say and do revealed publicly or live in total obscurity like a hermit?

Would you rather lose your ability to speak or move for one year?

Would you rather know all but be bitter or know nothing and be optimistic?

Would you rather always succumb to peer pressure or have no one ever like you?

Ways to Encourage Questions from Students

10 02 2010


Ways to Encourage Questions

A teacher cannot encourage questions solely by standing at the front of the class and asking, “Are there any questions?” There is so much pressure forcing students NOT to ask questions that it cannot be overcome by this single act. The only way to encourage questions is to create a complete “question-asking environment” in the classroom. You must encourage questions constantly, using a variety of techniques.

The most important technique that you can use to encourage questions is to always answer questions kindly. Even if you have answered the same question three times already, the fourth answer should be friendly, and should include a new example. The student may have been copying something down, or may have been daydreaming. But normally questions occur multiple times because students cannot understand the language you are speaking. Until the students understand the vocabulary, all of those answers will be completely meaningless. A student asking a question for the fourth time has just come to understand the vocabulary him/herself, and only then can understand the answer when you give it.

Here are some other ways to promote questions:

• Make students who ask questions feel like they have done you a favor by asking a question. Reward students for asking a question. Try saying, “That’s a great question” for every new question you get.

 • Leave gaps for questions that are long enough for students to actually formulate questions. Rustle through your notes or drop a pencil or erase the board – leave good sized gaps throughout your lectures.

 • Do not insult students, even subtly, when answering a question. Take a tape recorder to class one day, and then play it back and listen to how you answer questions. How do you come across? Would you like to be talked to in that way? Put yourself in your students’ shoes. Also listen to the answers you give – do you answer the questions?

• Use questionnaires at the end of class. Ask your students to write down one thing that they don’t understand from that day’s class. Then go over those questions at the beginning of the next class. Once students realize that everyone has questions, they will be more inclined to ask questions vocally during class.

• Have your students work problems during class. Put a problem on the board and let students work it in their notes. Then show them the right answer. You can do examples all day, but nothing is learned until the students do a problem themselves. It shows them exactly what they don’t understand, and this often leads to questions.

• Make lists of questions that you get asked after school, and then repeat those questions to everyone during the next class.

• Give homework assignments that force students to think about and question the material, and make time available in class to answer homework questions. If a homework assignment generates no questions, then it is probably useless.

• Use tests to find out where you have been unclear, and where questions remain. A well designed and well graded test tells you as much about your teaching as it does about your students.

• Introduce a difficult concept for 5 minutes at the end of class. Then cover the concept fully during the next class. Students will have a day or two to become familiar with the concept, and will be more inclined to ask questions when they see it again.