Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Growth-Minded Learning Environment is Intentional

In high school, I was involved with several honors-type courses; Pre-AP Pre-Cal and Calculus, Chemisty, Physics, and even AP Psychology, English, and US History. On top of, some of those classes were hard! 

I never felt that I was a "top" student, even though my ranking would have said otherwise. My friends around me were constantly competing to outrank each other, beat each other's test scores, and complete work the fastest (yeah-clearly we didn't have social media at the time to occupy us in other ways). I remember having to work and fight for the grades I received. I tried to ignore the pressure of my friends around me, and the pressure to prepare myself to get into a good college so I could go to medical school. I remember questioning often if I was cut out for all this work...if it was all worth it.

My AP English teacher taught with patience and finesse. He had ways to navigate hard text and literary critiques like they were a piece of cake. He provided critical feedback that allowed me to understand where I did not excel AND how to improve. I remember Ms. Finn, my Calculus teacher. She was such an amazing coach and taught me tenacity when academics got hard. She gave me a different mindset.
"Nothing is yet in its truest form." 
-C.S. Lewis

While I have used this quote a few posts ago, it is most appropriate when discussing a growth mindset. I believe it is the role of an educator to provide platforms for students to develop as learners. And often it take the students changing their "fixed" mindset to a growth mindset (as coined by Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success). Often what we think about ourselves drives our actions in that "...the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life" (Dweck 6). If we, as facilitators of learning, can provide a learning platform that sets students up for success, abilities can be cultivated and students will grow, but ultimately learn.
"I can't do it...yet."
We want students to become independent learners that intrinsically are motivated to grow. We can do this by helping them to fill their "toolbox" of skills so that they can ultimately succeed for themselves. By intentionally brainstorming with students what a growth mindset looks like at the beginning of the year, coming up with a game plan for when they feel like they've "failed" (or maybe they really have failed!), and one-on-one conferencing with students to provide them personal feedback they can acquire the skills they need to learn in a student-centered environment.

A growth-minded environment is intentional and students should be taught the ability to hear their own voice. Students need to be equipped to hear their fixed mindset, recognize that they do not have to listen to this voice, and move toward a growth-minded action. As their facilitator, I have to provide them feedback that is constructive to this growth-mindset as well as help them to recognize what actions can be growth-minded. Giving them simple questions as they reflect on their feedback can be powerful: What have you learned? What areas have you improved in? What skills do you have today that you didn't have yesterday? What steps can you take to improve? These questions provide a catalyst for growth.

Ultimately, I have the responsibility to create a learning environment that harbors growth. Designing significant learning environments provides this opportunity for students. When students have the "end in mind" and understand the learning objectives, they have ways to tangibly understand their personal growth. Using a constructivist's approach to learning means that the learning process is never done and that learners are always evolving their understanding. Using Fink's alignment of outcomes, assessment, and activities and Understanding by Design puts all students in a position to succeed and grow because no one is in a position where they can say “I know-it-all.” Designing significant learning environments provides purposeful engagement that develops the learner and "because they think in terms of learning, people with the growth mindset are clued in to all the different ways to create learning" (Dweck 62). A growth-minded approach allows students to think in terms of learning and development of understanding instead of percentages and grades as the end-all, be-all.
"It's like anything else in the growth mindset. It's a reminder that you're an unfinished human being and a clue to how to do it better next time" (Dweck 242).
Check out my work on significant learning environments here:

Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House, 2006. Print. 

No comments:

Post a Comment