This week, the DLMOOC was focusing on mindsets. While I have read Carol Dwek’s book and have experimented modestly with incorporating the idea of growth mindsets into how my projects are designed, I really appreciated the honest grapplings during the lens into the classroom dilemma. Matt Biller and Kevin Denton from Polaris Expeditionary Learning School. I haven’t yet figured out how to meaningfully include this philosophy of growth, change, grit, and self-improvement into every project I design for my students (although, I do think I’ve had some success with this…more on that later), so seeing how two teachers do it (and how they can do it better) gave me some great ideas.
My top three take-aways From watching the protocol:
1. Grades are a feature of schooling, and not necessarily of learning.
We have just written our report card comments and our parent-teacher conferences are scheduled for this week. A few teachers are starting to notice the challenge with students and parents focusing their attention on the numeric grade, rather than the learning, success, challenges, and next steps. I have often thought how great it would be to just do away with grades altogether (any takers on that one?), but in reality grades are a feature of the system we are part of, so how do we make grades work for growth mindsets? How do we change the focus of grades? I think a huge part of this has to do with how we talk about grades with students, how they set goals around their learning, and use the numeric grades as an indicator of how they are learning. I can’t say this is something I do regularly enough, so something I definitely want to incorporate more of in my practice. Also, this article (about how people at Google hire) solidified for me how important it is to think differently about grades.
2. Learning Goals Can Be Big or Small.
A fantastic idea for how to engage students in the process of monitoring their growth and seeing their own change is to have them set goals. Traditionally, I have had students do this at the beginning of the year (I did not this year though), but building time for this at the beginning of a project or a lesson can really help students see themselves as responsible for their own learning. Also, what a great way to build engagement, accountability, and an element of personalization.
3. You Have to Prove It
Charlie Linnik said, “you have to prove to your students that they are changing over time,” and I love this notion. Collect artifacts of their learning, pass them on to their teacher next year, and review samples of their writing to help them see their development. I once had the opportunity to do this with one student and it was hugely inspirational for her to see that she might be struggling today with expressing herself through her writing, but over the course of a year or two, real progress is made. We get better at what we work on! This, I think, is also a strong case for building a portfolio of student writing over time (like, several years).