16. Contributions to your learning and your learning community – 5389

A foundational goal of the 5389 Developing Effective Professional Learning is to analyze why examining my thinking and collaborating with others will help me in my learning process. Throughout the course, I was able to analyze and assess some of the challenges that I have had when participating in PD sessions. I became a teacher not so long ago so I have had more experience receiving Professional Development than designing and implementing it. That was my main challenge throughout the course. Unfortunately, I had a fixed mindset after looking at the assignments for the class.

During this course, I met with with a group of amazing teammates (Dwayne, Bianca, Jarred, and myself), who were always willing to be my thinking partner even at the times we hadn’t scheduled one of our regular meetings. During one of the meetings, I asked them what they thought about the PD sessions their school had for all staff las year. The conversation was not short at all. We talked for about 30-40 minutes on how the PD that has been provided was not meaningful to any of them. That was what I needed to hear. This course was giving me an opportunity to create a plan – a CALL TO ACTION – that could make a difference in my context. However, it is easier said than done! After reflecting upon my learning and the conversation I had with my colleagues, I found purpose in what the goals of the course were. During a second meeting, I had the opportunity to share the Innovation Plan I designed in order to implement blended learning as a way to engage learners in the classroom. The conversation started with all the challenges each one of us had faced due to the lack of resources and even PD each teacher had regarding integrating technology to enhance learning. I proceeded to show them some of the highlights from the Professional Learning plan I had designed for the blended learning course. They had lots of questions that helped me shaped the plan and streamlined it. I consider myself a big thinker so it takes me more time to think about the details. However, I was able to use BHAG and UbD as frameworks to organize the big ideas and make them more detail-oriented. Before this course I did not have any idea frameworks to design Professional Learning. Therefore, I have gone through a huge learning process that has allowed me to grow as a professional and have a growth mindset. Therefore, I believe that I have earned a 92 in this class. I want to continue collaborating with other teachers at school and expand such a learning community to other schools within my same school district.

Collaboration

Resources – Blogs from my colleagues:

Bianca – https://tangiblelearner.com

Wayne – https://wil32.com

Jarrett https://sirjlinzosclassroom.com/

Luis – https://luisfherrera.com/home/

15. Compilation Post – Contributions to my learning and the learning community-EDLD 5313

For this class I rate myself with a ninety. The learning objective for this course was to identify and incorporate constructivist theories to create and implement significant digital learning environments. The concept of the learning community can be defined in a simple way as a group of people learning together, using common tools in the same environment. I truly believe that the school and the stakeholders are key players in promoting educational success. But the complexity of the socio-educational processes and the current scope of school failure highlight the need to promote the interaction and initiatives of other educational agents in the school environment. These agents can contribute to school and relevant educational actions, adding value to other professionals and volunteers from the local community. In my context, the school has been working hard on creating committees in which teachers share their perspectives and build strong processes so that everyone is on the same page. Last year, teachers met to discuss different ways in which the remote learning environment could be implemented at school. The discussion was long but worth it. Each person had a different perspective on this matter and it felt good to have a streamline view of what was expected of teachers and from students.

Collaboration

During this course, I was able to collaborate with some of my teammates (Dwayne, Bianca, Jarred and myself) and some other colleagues from my context. I also collaborated with my teaching partner, Johana Cardenas. She also teaches Spanish in my school. The first time I met with the team I shared with them my learning philosophy which describes why I became an educator and what drives such a passion for teaching and learning. The discussion then centered on how teachers influence student learning. This was the perfect opportunity to share with them my post on new cultures of learning. During the second meeting I asked them questions about blended learning. I have to say that it was very kind of them to provide their input on my Innovation Plan. In our second meeting, I asked them questions regarding the UbD framework and their experience using it. Curriculum design is an area of growth in my context. Although the teachers I met with had some basic understanding about the framework, every one of them has a different experience with it and discerns what established goals are and how the framework might be used in their context. They all agree that although it is good practice, time is a burden when going deeper into designing units using the UbD framework. It is certainly something that needs to be brought up in ours school’s learning meetings so that the administrative team can support teachers in this area. I share with them the UbD unit I created for my content area as well as Fink’s Self-Directed Guide (titled Aligning Outcomes, Assessments, and Activities). I shared with them the benefits of using both frameworks in the Spanish classroom and how the frameworks support teachers in different ways. Both tasks were not finished when I met with the team, but I was able to offer some insights on the benefits they could bring to the table if teachers were allowed to use them. 

Every course has provided me the opportunity to push myself and share what I have learned with others. I tend to work in isolation but such a fixed-mindset has shifted this year. Collaboration needs to be at the center of everything I do at school because it allows me to learn from others and become a better educator. All the contributions to the course were made (assignments, posts, collaborative team) in a timely manner. The videos and readings allowed me to reflect upon my own practice and motivated me to continue shifting towards a growth-mindset. 

Resources – Blogs from my colleagues:
Bianca – https://tangiblelearner.com/

Wayne – https://wil32.com

Jarrett https://sirjlinzosclassroom.com/

Luis – https://luisfherrera.com/home/

14. 5302 Compilation Post

As I progress through this program, I’m noticing that I’m adopting a growth mindset mentality. Back in the fall, I stated in my discussion “The Impact of the Growth Mindset”, I know that in the past I would get very excited about a tech tool and force it to integrate it in my classes without even thinking about the content I needed to teach. After reading about growth mindset, I understand that I have to slow down and think about the process, which is exactly what I have learned throughout the course. An individual with a growth mindset recognizes that learning is a process, that their brain will expand, and that feedback is essential to their success. Putting this into practice, I can say that I challenge myself to learn how to engage my students, how to motivate them, how to get closer to those scholars who struggled with the new (online environment) system put in place. Also, now I am able to recognize the difference between the growth and fix mindset. That differentiation gave me the opportunity to recognize myself as a person with a mixed mindset that I used to use a lot of false mindset in my daily practice. I am currently working on shifting my fixed mindsets to a growth mindset. Such a shift will help me in my Apply Digital Learning Program but also in my classes and personal life.

The COVA learning strategy can influence my learning by improving my ability set with a variety of innovations aimed at increasing student participation. When I started this program, my goal was to learn more about technology integration. However, as I advance through the classes, I am not limiting myself to that. I am reflecting upon my own practice, taking risks in the classroom, changing my fixed mindset from “the students are not able to do it” to a more “what plan can I have in place so that I can support my students”.  The COVA approach is new learning for me, so it took me some time to analyze each component and figure out how to use it in my own setting. I appreciate the challenge of learning and using new things but I know I have to be careful as to how much I want to actually use in my classroom without overwhelming my students.

The Personalized Learning Networks (PLNs) are becoming an increasingly important part of education. PLNs are a community of people from whom you can learn and develop by sharing ideas and resources. I am a member of many PLNs, but I have   to be honest,  I have to admit that I do not actively  participate in any of the networks that I am a member of. In this course, I learned the importance to be part of, to share, to contribute to PLNs. I believe that I have to work on my mindset to integrate my experiences, my knowledge, to become an active participant in the network.  A goal for me is to find networks that support me as I grow as a professional. However, I also want to contribute to such networks. At the beginning of the Applied Digital Learning Program I thought nobody was interested in the experiences I wanted to share. But as I was posting on my blog and people were commenting on them, I realized that my experiences were helpful to others. I will continue pushing myself and sharing my experiences in the classroom and reaching out to others so that I can continue growing as a professional. 

Finally, in my Learning Manifesto post I had the opportunity to reflect upon my teaching practice. I realized that change in education takes effort from all stakeholders, including parents, students, teachers, administrators, and even policy makers. COVID-19 forced each one of us to make a sudden change that I felt and still feel unprepared for when wanting to accomplish the mission in my school. The process of adapting to the new ways of teaching and learning and meeting the needs of our students at our school will continue requiring considerable commitment from me. These new circumstances forced educators to reinvent themselves. In my specific case, I had to change my teaching approach. Blended learning will increase the engagement in my classes. The approach offers greater flexibility through online education allowing students to study anytime, anywhere from an electronic device. In addition to that, it  offers personalized teaching. Not all students feel comfortable asking questions in front of the whole room. The online environment eliminates this fear and improves the learning process for some of my learners which is where giving learners choice in how they present, organize, and structure their ideas to influence others and solve real-world problems and issues is of utmost importance. Through my learning manifesto, I reflected upon the importance of using digital tools to enhance student learning by providing choice and voice when learning another language. I believe that by providing a myriad of ways to accomplish authentic tasks, students will have ownership of their work. As a result, they will feel a sense of pride and success. I believe that if educators teach students how to use the language to create real life experiences, students will develop empathy and expand their capacity to recognize the emotions of  their peers. This will give students a voice to be part of the learning community. I believe that teachers can improve critical thinking, a growth mindset when teaching a second language using real life experiences which will engage students in learning.

13. Learning manifesto

Learning is a continuous process through which individuals are encouraged to acquire competencies, and skills to be readily accessible in a wide variety of situations in life. Today’s world is rapidly changing as shown by a survey done by Deloitte in 2017 in which they found that about 90% of  CEOs think their company is facing disruptive change driven by digital technologies  (2019, October 22). They also found that 70 percent of the CEOs believe their organization does not have the skills to adapt. Therefore, the skills individuals are learning now will be obsolete at an accelerated rate. From my educator’s perspective, I truly believe that learning cannot be separated from teaching and vice-versa. The need for continuous learning requires educators to be constantly learning or adapt to the needs of their students to help them achieve their goals. In my context, I support students achieving their goals by teaching them a second language. 

I realized that being bilingual was instrumental in opening doors to reach my dreams. In addition to this, a second language helped me build great friendships with people from all over the world, discuss current topics and have empathy with others while discovering different ways of thinking. Teaching my own language and my own culture while discovering others puts a smile on my face every day. I love to travel, to know other places and ways of being and I want to share such knowledge with my students.  As a Spanish teacher, I want my students to have opportunities to discover the world and reach their goals. By using a Blended Learning approach, my students will feel motivated and engaged in my lessons. They will have voice and choice, make new discoveries and go from a passive role – as consumers of information – to a more active one – as producers of information while they learn another language.

My classes reflect the society we live in now. It is a mixture of cultures that coexist. It is definitely a mindshift for many but our schools need to teach empathy to students due to the diverse population we currently have in our classrooms. Teaching Spanish online is a different story. Covid-19 pushed schools to think outside of the box. Remote and Face-to-Face  learning are still present in many classrooms across the Globe. Educators have been required to learn digital tools that have existed for a while but were considered optional before. However, such tools now support and enhance the way students learn. When I started 100% remote learning due to the pandemic, I had no idea about the skills my students needed to feel successful. The learning and teaching needed to continue but it required a mindshift from the learners’ and teachers’ perspectives. Engagement became a problem and I realized that I needed to change the way I was teaching to adapt to the way my students were learning. Blended learning became one of the approaches I started digging into in order to support my students. When I was designing my courses, I wanted to combine the best aspects of the classroom experience with the flexibility and accessibility of an online format. The most difficult challenge was creating a series of digital lessons to foster Spanish skills that students would not simply click through but felt engaged and instill ownership of their learning.

Change in education takes effort from all stakeholders, including parents, students, teachers, administrators, and even policy makers. COVID-19 forced each one of us to make a sudden change that I felt and still feel unprepared for when wanting to accomplish the mission in my school. The process of adapting to the new ways of teaching and learning and meeting the needs of our students at our school will continue requiring considerable commitment from me.

These new circumstances forced educators to reinvent themselves. In my specific case, I had to change my teaching approach. Blended learning will increase the engagement in my classes. The approach offers greater flexibility through online education allowing students to study anytime, anywhere from an electronic device. In addition to that, it  offers personalized teaching. Not all students feel comfortable asking questions in front of the whole room. The online environment eliminates this fear and improves the learning process for some of my learners. This is where giving “learners choice in how they present, organize, and structure their ideas to influence others and solve real-world problems and issues.” Thibodeaux, L. (n.d.).  What I really want to give my students is ownership of their learning by using a blended approach. I truly believe that by designing authentic tasks from which they can choose in my Spanish classes, my students will feel invested and own their learning process. 

I believe in the importance of using digital tools  that enhance student learning by providing choice and voice when learning another language.

I believe that by providing a myriad of ways to accomplish authentic tasks, students will have ownership of their work. As a result, they will feel a sense of pride and success. 

I believe that if educators teach students how to use the language to create real life experiences, students will develop empathy and expand their capacity to recognize the emotions of  their peers. This will give students a voice to be part of the learning community.

I believe that teachers can improve the critical thinking, a growth mindset when teaching a second language using real life experiences which will engage students in learning.https://www.youtube.com/embed/B99FXVamqMM?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en&autohide=2&start=204&wmode=transparent

For many students, digital learning can be truly transformative. It can be a powerful motivator for some. Others find it a safe place to work on specific skills that they are having difficulty with. I believe in using highly adaptive personalized online resources to engage students in purposeful independent activities with me as a facilitator, providing them with a personalized path and giving them the opportunity to immerse themselves in authentic tasks. Teaching in an online environment has changed my mindset. It was not an easy process for me but I know that I need to adapt so that I can meet the needs of my students. Schools all over the globe are going through similar changes in both teaching and learning. Learning is a continuous process which has helped me figure out different ways in which I can engage my students in learning a second language so that they are able to reach their goals. Even if the pandemic situation gets better, schools will not go back to the traditional way of teaching. Online teaching came to stay and I need to continue learning ways to engage my learners through the use of a blended learning approach. Schools will continue supporting educators to improve their teaching methodologies to meet the needs of each student. 

References

Posted December 21, 2017 by U. W. A. | B. N. (2019, October 22). Why is continuous learning 

important? https://online.uwa.edu/news/continuous-learning-important/. 

Thibodeaux, L. (n.d.). Passport to Learning: Turning Today’s Learners into Tomorrow’s Leaders

Learners Mindset. http://tilisathibodeaux.com/wordpress/?page_id=1539.     

BOLD-Blog On Learning and Development. (2020, October 20). Using digital tools to transform the

classroom [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B99FXVamqMM&t=204s

12. Feedforward: Looking towards the future

Feedforward Instead of Feedback
by Marshall Goldsmith

One of the tasks most educators do throughout the day is giving feedback. Such feedback is based on student work that has been done well; therefore, teachers praise students. But in some cases, such work needs to be improved or corrected. This feedback is judgmental and leads students to feel unmotivated. This also happens with co-workers. Collaborating with others when expectations are not the same might cause the other person to feel hurt when feedback – that is judgmental and in the past – is given. This is often called backward-looking feedback because the individual is asked about a task that was performed in the past. As an educator, this is the feedback that I usually give my students. However, feedforward is a different way to provide feedback. This concept was originally developed by a management expert named Marshall Goldsmith. Feedforward will not shut down our mental processing. When receiving negative feedback our brains receives a threat awareness and gets in defensive mode. With feedforward, I can help my students see opportunities for growth because the process “helps people envision and focus on a positive future, not a failed past.” ( Goldsmith, 2015). When wanting to receive feedback, an individual may follow these steps:

  1. Select one behavior that the individual wants to change and describe it to that person who is willing to be part of the feedforward process.
  2. Now the individual is ready to listen attentively to a suggestion that moves him/her towards a positive change in behavior in the future.

Feedforward is a way to provide effective feedback that will expand possibilities for the person receiving the non-judgmental suggestions. Moving from feedback to feedforward requires changing your mindset. It will take time but in the end, the process will move people towards positive change.

Goldsmith, M. (2015, October). Try Feedforward Instead of Feedback – Marshall Goldsmith. Marshall Goldsmith. https://www.marshallgoldsmith.com/articles/try-feedforward-instead-feedback/

11. The Benefit of Networking

I started looking into professional learning networks back in 2012 when my spouse, who is a teacher as well, started reaching out to people in the Twitterverse and getting them to interact with her students to provide feedback for some of the projects her students had worked on. The experiences students were exposed to allowed them to refine their projects and make changes to their final product. What an amazing opportunity to connect students with other students in a different part of the world. Since then, I became active on Twitter by participating in chats based on my interests. At first I was exclusively consuming information. I truly believe I did not feel vulnerable enough to actively participate or felt that my experiences were not important to the wide world. That fixed mindset led me to slowly step away from Twitter. After a couple of years, I felt more confident about sharing my learning and teaching experiences. What took me so long? A change in mindset! I felt the need to connect with other educators who were going through the same situations or teaching the same content. That is when I started following:

1. Learning in Hand with Tony Vincent: https://learninginhand.com/ Tony shares useful tips on how to integrate technology in the classroom in a seamless way. He shares all his content via Twitter @tonyvincent. 

2. Shake Up Learninghttps://shakeuplearning.com/ Kasey has been an amazing resource for me. When all Google products started, she provided specific examples on how I was able to use Google Classroom effectively with my 170 students. 

3. Spanish for Educators: This is a blog I joined a couple of months ago. It offers activities that other educators use with their students. That provides me a different perspective and pushes my thinking to adjust and reflect upon my own teaching. Such a journey has become a learning experience that has led me to think outside the box with the main goal of becoming a better educator.

4.  Technology Integration for Teachers  This is a facebook group that has been a life saver this year with the number of technology tools they share. I know that it is not just about the tool but knowing how to use the tool ahead of time and the possible issues I might encounter have allowed me to maximize my instructional time.

My goal is to connect with more educators across the globe so that I can give my students a wider perspective of the positive impact they can make in the world. My current needs are related to technology integration and engagement. I plan on joining the following learning communities:

1. https://www.friedtechnology.com/blog Amy shares information on how to engage learners in the online and F2F environment. 

2. Some groups I am currently part of, BUT I do not actively participate in are:

  • DFW Teacher’s Lounge 
  • DFW Teacher Community: This is a place where I can collaborate online across districts, share ideas, inspirations, resources.
  • KQED for Educators Podcasts– This is an amazing site that has a podcast that addresses current topics in education. It is usually what I listened to during my learning commute and allows me to reflect upon my teaching.

10. Why is the growth mindset so important?

Having a growth mindset leads individuals to feel successful. Success is a continuous journey full of ideas, which are improved through the journey, persistence, passion, hard work, focus, and pushing myself out of my comfort zone (St. John, 2009). I relate having a growth mindset with success because if I accept a challenge it is because I believe I can and will get better at something. When an individual feels they are competing with others because they need to prove themselves they are better than others, they have a fixed mindset. On the contrary, when individuals believe that they are only successful when they have learned something new, they have a growth mindset. Throughout my teaching experience, which has not been long, I realized that I learn something new everyday. But this is a consequence of failing at something everyday. Failure became a constant in my career and personal life. When thinking of failure, most individuals place a negative connotation on it. However, failure leads individuals to find creative paths for them to reach success and reassuring having a growth mindset. In order to achieve this, individuals need to feel they are in a safe environment in which healthy relationships have become so important to well-being and safety that the brain creates a social engagement system to ensure the individual stays connected in good standing with others (Hammond, Z. 2015, p.73). Relationships with others are important because they build trust with one another. 

Richard St. John – Success – TED Talk

Most individuals think they have a growth mindset. However, I believe not everyone has a growth mindset in all areas of their lives. Although I enjoy learning new things and am now more open to failure, I also struggle with critical criticism. When someone is providing feedback all I hear is: “You are doing everything wrong”; “You are incapable of performing the job.”; “You wasted your time.” Such a fixed mindset, which is so focused on my perception of being judged when someone is providing feedback needs to change. The question is then, how can I improve such a fixed mindset? I truly believe that building trust and rapport, identifying fixed mindsets, setting goals, receiving feedback with a growth mindset. 

So, what is the plan to change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset?

Designed by Luis Herrera

When humans are faced with an enormous challenge that we do not feel we have any agency over, our mind can do a little trick to protect us. Such protection is shown as a fixed mindset by thinking “Maybe it is not that important. There is nothing I can do about it, so why am I trying to do something.” Change is not easy for human beings. But change is always happening and we need to accept it. The consequences of Covid-19 impacted the economy, education, businesses, amongst others. In the educational field, my teaching was impacted by having to find new ways in which I could engage students. I developed an innovation plan in which a blending learning approach could lead students to have more control and agency over their own learning (see Innovation Plan). The plan requires all stakeholders (students, teachers, administration, parents) to change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. I have identified 4 steps that I will use to accomplish this task. The steps can be applied to any other situation.

The first step is to build trust and rapport in the environment. Trust-building cannot be sped up. The process requires interactions amongst the different stakeholders on a daily basis. By being persistent with this first step, stakeholders will start feeling cared for (Hammond, 2015, p. 77). When I listen to others, it gives them the sense of respect for what they are saying and shows I am interested in what they think and have to say. I might not agree with everything the other person says, but I can seek to understand so that I can analyze the situation from their perspective. Applying this to my innovation plan, I think that teachers tend to trust others who demonstrate they have the skill and knowledge to support them (Hammond, 2015, p. 79). The stakeholders will trust me when I demonstrate the ability to show them how to integrate the blended learning approach effectively in their classes. My competence as a teacher will allow them to feel supported and cared for in the process. I can build trust by being authentic, vulnerable and sync with all stakeholders. Building trusting relationships will allow individuals to change from a fixed to a growth mindset by providing support along the process.

A second step is identifying your fixed mindsets. Carol Dweck (2006) states that a fixed mindset orientation is relatively inflexible, and it can restrict people to certain limits. People with a fixed mindset are eager to receive feedback that relates to their ability but when it is constructive they get their shield out and become reluctant to know their gaps. However, the main purpose of having a growth mindset is stretching their minds and receiving feedback that will build on their skills to become better at something (Dweck, 2006, p. 18). For me, my goal is to identify my fixed mindset, reflect upon it and change how I express myself with thoughts that are focused on growing and learning. For example, when designing my innovation plan, I felt frustrated when students were not actively participating in my lessons. I thought they were lazy and disrespectful. However, I did not stop and reflect upon my own teaching to identify what I was doing wrong. Their response to the instructional activities was “constructive feedback” that was hard to process and accept. When this happens now, I know that there is something going on and I need to consider their perspective. Identifying the fixed mindset might be challenging as it is not easy to accept the reality. But, my passion and commitment to become a better educator allows me to stop, reflect, and change my own practices.

Grit: The power of passion and perseverance – Step 3

Changing my fixed mindset is not an easy process but it is one of the most powerful things I can do to feel successful in life. Having a growth mindset assumes that challenge and failure are springboards for stretching my abilities. In order to accomplish this, a person needs to identify and set goals that they want to accomplish. Such a process helps them feel successful. But what happens if the individual does not meet the goal? People with a growth mindset will see failure as an opportunity to learn and try again. This is where the word “Yet” is important. As a teacher, I focus on the process or journey rather than the outcome. It is satisfying to know how much you learn after working on a project or task. For example, in my innovation plan, I felt frustrated several times at thinking that the steps I wanted to take were not going to be approved by my principal. I wanted praise and what I got was constructive feedback that helped me grow and become a better educator. Setting goals help me be more persistent with what I want to achieve. Although not everything was approved when I showed my principal the innovation plan, the process empowered me to be more persistent and passionate about what I was doing. Grit comes down to my habits and how consistent, and dedicated I am with my daily practice (Duckworth-Lee, 2009). The result of grit is the stamina needed to continue working hard and achieving your goals at a long term.

The last step in the changing mindset process is receiving feedback with a growth mindset. Feedback is a major area where a growth mindset proves worthwhile. The issue most individuals have with feedback is the sense of personal attack felt when it is provided. Such a fixed-mindset block individuals from building a growth mindset. It is not easy to hear where my work falls short, but I understand that the feedback is not attacking my identity but is helping me become a better professional. The more I am exposed to receiving feedback, the more receptive I will be and the fixed-mindset thinking of shutting down because I am reluctant to hear bad news will lessen.

Changing a fixed mindset to a growth mindset takes time and lots of effort from each individual. Building trusting relationships with the stakeholders in your community, identifying fixed-mindset attitudes, setting goals and receiving feedback with a growth mindset will empower individuals to successfully change from a fixed to a growth mindset.

References

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.

Duckworth-Lee, Angela (2009). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance  [Video]. TED Conferences https://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_grit_the_power_of_passion_and_perseverance/transcript?referrer=playlist-what_is_success#t-178457

Hammond, Z. (2015). Culturally responsive teaching and the brain: Promoting authentic engagement and rigor among culturally and linguistically diverse students. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin  

St. John, R. (2009, June). Success is a continuous journey [Video]. TED conferences. https://www.ted.com/talks/richard_st_john_8_secrets_of_success?referrer=playlist-what_is_success

9. Specific Feedback

Week 1 – Specific Feedback – Growth mindset

In 2010 I worked at a school where the main approach used was Project-Based Learning. One of the main components of PBL is providing immediate, concise, and specific feedback to students for them to make adjustments to their product or learning path. I have to admit that I have sometimes settled for student work that underestimated the capacity of my students to create high quality work. Through PBL, I learned that with clarity, critique, and support my students were capable of much more than I ever imagined. That is the power of “YET”. It was an amazing and eye-opening learning journey for me and for my students. It was a challenge for my students to hear that the first draft of a product was not the final one. The specific feedback I learned to provide allow them to see how much they could grow form draft one to draft two and three. We focused on growth rather than achievement. It was definitely a challenging journey for all stakeholders: parents, students, and me as a teacher. For my students, focusing on the feedback to reach the learning goal – I usually created rubrics for each PBL unit – was a mindshift. The school still used letter grades but the PBL units were designed to zero in on student learning and growth. For parents, the journey was a bit different. The school tried to have PBL presentations per grade level once every term, invited parents to provide feedback regarding students’ projects, and be a part of the audience during student presentations so that they were able to see student growth. The main concern they had was grades. As a campus, we designed rubrics that were aligned to the standards, provided specific feedback and invited parents to actively engaged in the process. 

I was part of an educational system that praised qualities such as intelligence and ability – fixed mindset. As the infographic by Nigel Holmes shows, with a fixed mindset individuals give up easily at the first challenge they face. They usually see the rocks as problems that will stop them from reaching their goal rather than opportunities to learn and grow. But how can one build a growth mindset? Having an open mind and practice active listening or seek to understand. By doing so, I can see things from other’s point of view, see their reasons and understand what they mean when providing feedback. I want my students to persevere in each one of their tasks or projects in my classes. John Spencer’s work (https://spencerauthor.com/) and George Courous’ books and blog (https://georgecouros.ca/blog/) will help me dig deeper into this topic. 

8. Improving student learning

During my last learning meeting at school, my principal provided an article that I found very interesting. The article discussed the relationship between the knowledge I have of the content, the student engagement and how I challenge students academically. City, Elmore, Fiarman, and Teitel (2009) explained the Instructional Core as the complex relationships among three components: teachers’ knowledge and skill, students’ engagement in their own learning, and academically challenging content. From my perspective, the instructional core helps the instructional leader identify where the school is trying to improve so that there is a high impact on student achievement.

   The first element in this relationship, the teacher, refers to what the teacher does in the classroom, which depends on the level of skill and knowledge that the teacher brings to teaching the content. I see the teacher’s role as that of a decision maker. Knowing the students in the classroom, the teacher makes instructional decisions that positively impact students learning process. The second element, the student, has to do with students knowing what they are doing and why they are doing a given task in the classroom. From my perspective, students need to perceive the value in the tasks they are being asked to do so that the learning becomes meaningful to them. The third element, the content, refers to level and the complexity of the content that students are asked to learn. Teachers need to pay close attention to how concepts are presented and the tasks students are asked to complete in regards to the difficulty of content, and level of challenge.  The goal is to provide students tasks that are challenging, but attainable so that they are in a continuous learning process. 

   Elmore (2010) developed the instructional core model to provide instructional leaders with a framework on how to “intervene in the instructional process in order to improve the quality and level of student learning.” (Elmore, 2010, p. 4). Such a model is guided by seven principles that Elmore developed in order to improve student learning.

  1. According to Elmore (2010), increases in student learning occur as a consequence of improvements in the level of content, teachers’ knowledge and skill, and student engagement.
  2. Elmore (2010) argues that if one of the elements in such a complex relationship is changed, the other elements need to be addressed too. Therefore, if a campus principal works on improving the skills and knowledge of a teacher, the instructional leader needs to simultaneously work on the level of engagement of students and the rigor of the content being taught. 
  3. The instructional core defines places for instructional improvement, which need to be observable. According to Elmore (2010), the relationship between teachers, students and content helps instructional leaders predict how student learning will be expected over time. 
  4. According to Elmore (2010), students must know what they are expected to do, and more importantly how they are supposed to do a task. This involves knowing the what knowledge and skills they need to learn while working on the academic task. 
  5. Stakeholders such as teachers and instructional leaders should work collaboratively in order to define what the academic task, instructional practice and students’ outcomes look like so that there is a positive impact on student learning school-wide.
  6. Elmore (2010) states that “we learn how to do the work by doing the work.” (p. 4). Instructional leaders need to design a system in which teachers and leaders work collaboratively in improving student learning, which will lead to building a culture of teaching and learning amongst stakeholders.
  7. Elmore (2010) urges instructional leaders to develop a “common culture of instruction.” (p 5).  He claims that supervisors should create a culture of instructional practice in which they should act as if they do not know in order to learn what they need to know. The goal is for instructional leaders to analyze, predict and fairly evaluate instructional practices. 

   The implementation of the seven principles imply an understanding of the main elements that are necessary to improve student learning. As an educator who likes to reflect upon my own teaching/learning, I know that students and teachers bring knowledge, values and beliefs that play an important role in increasing student performance. Therefore, instructional leaders need to actively engage in the work that will impact student learning.

References

City, E., Elmore, R., Fiarman, S., & Teitel, L. (2009). Instructional rounds in education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press. Retrived from http://www.macombfsi.net/uploads/ 1/5/4/4/1544586/instructional_rounds_-_principles.pdf

Elmore, R. (2010). Leading the instructional core. In Conversation. 11(3), p. 1-12. Retrieved from  http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/leadership/summer2010.pdf

7. Student voice

Students are the most important part of education. There is no larger stakeholder than students in their own education. However, student voice is difficult to hear in a traditional classroom where most teachers find it difficult to let go of control to focus on a student-centered approach. Although disrupting such status quo requires time, planning, and consistency throughout the journey, the results are extremely rewarding. 

Why should we listen to student voices? When we provide students with opportunities to voice their opinions and listen to them intentionally, students feel engaged in taking responsibility for change. In addition, when student voices are heard, they feel empowered to interact with others so that their combined efforts cause social change. Our students are active citizens who contribute to our society while developing essential skills that lead them to take purposeful initiatives. Such student capacity gives all learners voice and choice in how they learn. But how can we start giving them a voice in the classroom? A legitimate way students can voice out their opinions respectfully and responsibly is through blogging. 

We should let our students blog for open reflection. As an educator, I usually end my day thinking about the changes I need to make to my teaching practice so it can positively impact student learning. Most of our students sit and get without having the time and opportunity to reflect upon their own learning. When students blog about their learning journey, they not only feel empowered and heard, but also learn to be good digital citizens.