Thursday, August 25, 2016

#MTBoSBlaugust Day 16: Designing for Growth Mindset

I just finished a few days of New Teacher Orientation and it was invigorating, albeit a little overwhelming. We talked about so much that it's hard to keep track, but one of things that stuck with me is a word that came up over and over today in our discussion of the district vision: intentionality. 

This has been a huge focus for me over the past year and one that I never quite had a word to describe. I like to think that I always try to do what's best for kids with the knowledge I have at that moment and that takes a lot of intentional design. This was a huge factor in piloting my blended learning course, my STEM courses, and will remain a huge factor as I move forward. 

I've done a lot of work on mindset this summer and I'm trying to question my own practices as much as possible, always with "What is best for kids?" at the center. I feel like I have wrapped my head around how I want to present my belief in my students and in growth mindset in the opening days and I'm regularly stealing things from around the MTBoS to hang in my room (SINCE I JUST FOUND OUT I'M NOT FLOATING ANYMORE! #yassss). I have spent the last 3 years designing problem-based experiences for my students through STEM and my pedagogical approach tends towards these open-ended tasks and encouraging student collaboration. Of course I have room for improvement, but it's an area I'm more comfortable. 

But with growth mindset, I am starting to feel like the devil is in the details. We convey messages to kids through the instructional choices we make every day and these messages are often stronger than anything we say out loud.  These are my next 2 devils to tackle right now:

1) Homework

I am particularly not proud of my homework setup. Sure, I give considerably less homework than a lot of teachers and try to select meaningful problems that are worth my students' time. But in general, my students check their answers against a key that is projected and I check for effort. It's plain and it is beneficial to students who choose to use it appropriately, but not to everyone. And I'm going to be totally honest....I'm haven't worked with my whole PLC yet, but I am highly doubting they would be jumping on board to eliminating or drastically changing the nature of homework as defined by Jo Boaler in Mathematical Mindsets. I know the issues that would occur if 1 teacher decided to totally eliminate homework if others didn't also get on board. And I am still working my way towards being 100% comfortable with it. I want to make some changes that will benefit my kids and create more equity, but I need to take some baby steps to do this. 

I also want to build metacognitive skills in my class and I know that self-reflection about homework can be a vital place to infuse that.

This NCTM blog got me thinking more about my homework practice:

I totally agree that neither system promotes analysis of mistakes and I like the author's proposal to use those mistakes as teaching tools. I like the idea of student ownership over their own work and assessment, but I know there are loopholes here for students who want to take any easy way out. 

I am sooooooo open to suggestions on this. Please share your homework grading practices and why you love them. I want to be inspired, #MTBoS! 

2) Assessment

Let's be dread assessments. Any assessment. Ask them to take out a piece of blank paper and write their name and you'll see the anxiety on their faces. We need to build a different relationship for our kids, so they can start to use assessments as a tool for growth instead of a judgement of their character. 

I have high hopes that someday I can find a beautiful standards-based assessment routine where my kids will see assessment as a tool for learning instead of a judgement. This is a new road for me, as I've started to focus more and more on my assessment practices as I have gone further in my career. But SBG seems daunting to take on, especially in a public school setting where many other people are teaching the same course as you. I'm taking baby steps and I hope these are things I can build on as time goes on:

  • Writing "I can" learning targets for each unit so students can self-assess regularly
  • Instituting a retake/corrections policy for all formative assessments
  • Offering a instant messaging office hours to give students another outlet to ask for help
I know the arguments....that kids need to learn responsibility and shouldn't ever be allowed to do corrections or take retakes. I don't disagree on summative assessments- there has to be some type of deadline in our 180 day calendar. However, that doesn't mean I can't help my kids see their learning as fluid (and growing) along the way. 

I know there are tons of resources on this out there, but this is the one that got me thinking:

Again, give me your suggestions!! How do you use assessment to send a growth mindset message to your kids? And how do you do this in a PLC environment if others don't necessarily agree? 

Thinking about growth mindset...want your best ideas! 
  • How do you use homework as a growth mindset learning tool?
  • How do you use assessment to promote growth mindset?

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