Monday, 20 April 2015

Growth Mindset

I've read quite a bit about the importance of cultivating a growth mindset and Carol Dweck's work and heard her talk in Edinburgh and seen her popular TED video clip so I wasn't too sure if it was worth readingt her book. However, having been exasperated at myself and my negative self-talk when it came to my running I thought I could probably do with a Growth Mindset boot camp and bought her book ("Mindset" by Carol Dweck, 2006). I thought it was really worthwhile and if you were only going to read one CPD book this year, I would recommend this one.

I really liked this diagram:

Some points that I made a note of were:

The link between attachment disorder and a fixed mindset.
How sometimes it's just more comforting to maintain a fixed mindset.
We can shift between one mindset and the other and it will probably be different for different areas, e.g. many people believe they can't get better at drawing.
A fixed mindset means that we are less open to constructive feedback.

During a plenary or at the end of the day is a good time to promote a growth mindset with pupils, and Dweck recommends asking these sort of questions: “What did you learn today?
What mistake did you make that taught you something? What did you try hard at today?”

Discussing how to deal with children who are displaying a fixed mindset she says, "When your fixed-mindset son tells stories about doing things better than other children, everyone says, “Yeah, but what did you learn?” When he talks about how easy everything is for him in school, you all say, “Oh, that’s too bad. You’re not learning. Can you find something harder to do so you could learn more?” When he boasts about being a champ, you say, “Champs are the people who work the hardest. You can become a champ. Tomorrow tell me something you’ve done to become a champ.” Poor kid, it’s a conspiracy. In the long run, he doesn’t stand a chance!"

She believes we should ask ourselves, "What are the opportunities for learning and growth today? For myself? For the people around me?" And having done that and thought of the opportunities, formed a plan, and asked oneself: "When, where, and how will I embark on my plan?" Stirring stuff, and I'm sure she probably does do that.

Today was our first day back at school after the holidays and I tried to start putting some of the ideas into practice. As part of our discussions on our success criteria for our art lesson I included two extra questions, which were: Can you stick at the task even though it's tricky? Did you learn from a mistake (slashed out) learning opportunity? And there was a lot of good talk about these ideas.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Checklists and Teaching

I have just finished reading "The Checklist Manifesto - how to get things right" by Atul Gawande, 2011, and here are some notes I made on it:
  • Atul Gawande is a surgeon and author. He was asked to lead the WHO's program to reduce avoidable deaths from surgery. Gawande looked at successful global public health programmes and noted many used simple checklists. He then went on to research the use of checklists for flying planes and building skyscrapers. He decided that if checklists could be used in those complex cases they could also be used for surgery.   
  • The checklists prepared by Boeing for pilots are put into handbooks which are spiral bound with yellow tabs. Each checklist was brief, often only a few lines on a page in a large font and each one applied to a different situation. 
  • Some of the aviation checklists were for everyday routines, such as starting the engines, the others were for non-routine events, such as an engine failure. 
  • Boeing had found that good checklists were precise, to the point and easy to use but did not spell out everything; instead they provided reminders of important steps that pilots might miss. Five to nine items seemed to be the maximum to keep them in the limit of working memory. The checklists also needed to be intensely tested by using flight simulators and by reviewing accidents and near-misses.
  • When making a checklist there needed to be clear pause points when the checklist is used (unless it was started by a warning light or the like). Then it could be of two types: a DO-CONFIRM checklist or a READ-DO checklist. A DO-CONFIRM checklist is when people did their jobs from memory and then paused while the list was read out and they confirmed the items.  A READ-DO checklist was when each item was done one after the other.  
  • Interestingly, the book notes that there is a great deal of reluctance by people to use checklists as they are seen as stifling and prescriptive and yet, when properly prepared, they have proven benefits and allow people more mental time and space to take important decisions. 
It seems to me that there are several examples of where we use checklists at school already. For instance:
  • School trip planning
  • Risk assessments for trips and activities
  • Fire drills
  • Safeguarding flow charts
  • Success criteria for pupils
  • Health checklists, for example by the box where pupils keep spare inhalers in school I have a card about what to do if a pupil has an epileptic fit, an asthma attack or a head injury. 
Things to try out now for myself:
  • Try considering the points for good checklists when writing success criteria. 
  • Write one with the pupils for an end-of-day routine as they had already suggested for their classroom jobs having a pupil to do a last check that no one had left anything behind, a source of much woe for some pupils. 
  • Collect the checklists that I already have an put them in one indexed binder. 
  • Consider other areas where checklists might be useful, eg planning.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Higher Order Questions to Review History Topic

Towards the end of our Scottish History topic for my P4 and P5 pupils I was struggling to come up with higher order thinking questions to review their learning. One problem was that at their age and level of understanding many of the higher order tasks would be superficial.

Eventually, we came up with the idea of a photo quiz: the pupils would have to come up with a connection between photographs of things that you can see today with their link to the past.  I think that this would be an example of Application (Transferring) in the Bloom's taxonomy as the pupils had to apply their learning to a context different from the one in which it was originally learned.

It worked out well as the children enjoyed the photo quiz activity and then they chose one of the photos to do more personal research on and write a report on; these were then put into folders with the pictures on the cover for a photo quiz for the parents as part of our Scottish history exhibition at the end of our topic.

Answers below, in case you were wondering:

Wall is part of Hadrian's Wall - links with Roman invasion and retreat from Scotland.
Stone is a Pictish Stone - links with the Picts and their developing organization after the Romans retreated.
Sign is from the Shetlands and the name has a Norse origin, as many places around the coast do, as it was founded by the Vikings.
Song "Flower of Scotland" is sung at rugby matches as an unofficial national anthem and is about Robert the Bruce's victory over the English at Bannockburn in 1314.
Song "Skye Boat Song" is about Bonnie Prince Charlie's escape over to Skye after Culloden in 1746.
The ruined croft house links with the Highland Clearances which took place in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The photograph of George Street and the Newtown architecture link with the Georgian extension of Edinburgh and the Scottish Enlightenment.
The last photo shows a Tartan Day Parade in New York and links with Scottish emigration during the time of the Highland Clearances.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Mojo and Flow

After writing about my teaching mojo, I picked up Daniel Pink's  "Drive, the surprising truth about what motivates us". In it he talks about the work by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the 70's on flow.
 "Csikszentmihalyi conducted an experiment in which he asked people to record all the things they did in their lives that were “noninstrumental”— that is, small activities they undertook not out of obligation or to achieve a particular objective, but because they enjoyed them. Then he issued the following set of instructions: Beginning [morning of target date], when you wake up and until 9:00 PM, we would like you to act in a normal way, doing all the things you have to do, but not doing anything that is “play” or “noninstrumental.” In other words, he and his research team directed participants to scrub their lives of flow." (Daniel H. Pink, 2009).

The results were striking: after only a couple of day the adults reported severe enough psychological symptoms as to have to end the experiment. These included:

  • Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Being easily fatigued 
  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank 
  • Irritability 
  • Muscle tension 
  • Sleep disturbance 

This list sounded horribly reminiscent of difficult times when I felt stressed, and on reflection it is not surprising that losing your feeling of self control would be so damaging!

Also it makes me wonder how the children I teach feel. How many of them enjoy their play? How often do they feel a sense of flow from the tasks that I give themselves? Hmm...! I guess this will be a good point to ponder for my planning for next term and as I consider how to include personalisation and choice.