Showing posts with label classroom issues. Show all posts
Showing posts with label classroom issues. Show all posts

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Promoting a Growth Mindset for Academic Success

Have you ever felt like praising a student whose grade was just a little above the average? Well, that happened to me and that was exactly what I did. I wrote how glad I was to see that his efforts, better behavior and involvement paid off and that he had to keep on doing all the exercises and participating in class. Actually, what I was trying to do was to build in him a more “constructive mental model”. Well, let me share with you a very interesting article I read as part of an online course I took called “Teaching Character to Create Positive Classrooms”.

According to this article, each person holds his/her own belief about intelligence. Some believe they have a fixed mindset, in which intelligence is a fixed entity, it doesn`t change. These beholders are performance oriented, that is, in response to failure they are more likely to give up as they see failure as an evidence of low competence and effort as a sign of low ability (not as a need to change strategy). These students don`t believe in their ability to learn, when they don’t reach a goal they feel like losers, are humiliated and, eventually, they give up. They worry more about proving they are good than improving their learning skills.

However, others believe in the Incremental Theory. This theory says that intelligence can be expanded and developed. These theorists, who believe in a growth mindset, are more focused on increasing their ability, they see effort as a way to nurture and develop intelligence; they show enthusiasm to learn and are not afraid of new challenging experiences. For them, learning is more important than performance and failure is seen as an obstacle to overcome. Moreover, the challenge excites them.

Our belief in what kind of intelligence we have plays an important role in our academic outcome. It is good to know, though, that intellectual ability can always be developed. However, this does not imply we all have the same potential in every area, or will learn everything with equal ease. The good news is mindsets and skills can be taught in order to achieve academic success. Check below a list of some key elements we should be aware of to promote a growth mindset and, consequently, academic success.

Praising plays an important role in the building of a person`s mindset - Praising students for their effort fosters resilience, a key trait in those who hold a growth mindset. Comments like “That’s a really high score.  You must have worked hard at these problems.” make students understand that their effort was responsible for their success and want to work harder to be successful again. 

Cooperation rather than competition promotes a better learning environment. Studies show that students believe that cooperation activities engage students more than competitive ones.

Another predictor of academic success is the feeling of social belonging. Students who develop a bond with their peers and teachers are more engaged, get better grades and are more successful at school.

Teachers and schools need to keep standards high and challenge students. High expectations foster motivated students because teachers invest more time on them, give more attention, constructive feedback and encouragement.

High-quality feedback with clever strategies to facilitate student understanding is among the strongest predictors of student accomplishment and teacher effectiveness. That is because it shows the commitment of the teacher to learning and belief in the student`s capacity for growth. Good teachers are like good parents—at times authoritative but consistently caring.

Scaffolding – Effective teacher seldom gives direct answers and feedback. Instead, they use hints, and gradually provide more specific hints until students answer a question correctly. 

Sense of belonging – It`s important to create a sense of fellowship between students and teachers. One-on-one attention, caring relationships and good rapport is critical. Group work can bring motivational benefits because it encourages cooperation and makes students see that their difficulty with course material is another student`s difficulty as well. Moreover, this sharing lowers the sense of frustration and provides a sense of identity.

In a few words, remind your students that success is possible with dedication, and difficulty is something temporary they can overcome rather than something that is out of their control. Greater effort yields to greater competence and the more we believe in the students` ability to learn, the easier it is for us to do our jobs. 

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Reading your Students

“Reading” is a skill you will find yourself cultivating in your students from day one in the classroom until the end of the semester. They use reading to find the right classroom, to register the date and their teacher’s name, to find the Resource Center or the Coordinator’s Office. Reading ability will determine the ease (or difficulty) with which the students interpret written instructions to an exercise or participate in a scripted dialog in a textbook.

Reading may one day lead your students into enlightening research, the expansion of comfortable dimensions of knowledge, the tingle of literary adventure or romance.

But….are you “reading” your students?

Many teachers begin a semester with intense concern for the lesson plan, the materials they will use, the technologies they will employ in the process. Have they reliably led the class from point A to point D, with demonstrably positive results (evident in the students’ overall performance)?

In following the trajectory of a prescribed teaching path, the instructors become so intent on the intermediate and end goals that they may overlook the signs that indicate how the students - on a less obvious level - are absorbing or reacting to the class in question.

Are you (the teacher) attentive to the following “reading” signals: 

  • Willing and consistent eye contact 
  •  Alert and energetic posture (vs slouching and lounging)
  •  Precision in repetition (vs relatively soundless mouthing, avoidance) 
  •  Interested, forthcoming collaboration with fellow students
  •  Alacrity in response to task initiation and follow-through (vs sluggish foot-dragging that results in frustrated task completion) 
  •  Tone of voice (confident vs timid) and nature of attitude (positive projection vs reticent or somewhat surly rejection) 
  •  Choice of seating (outside the teacher’s peripheral vision or within easy visual “reach”) 
Reading accurately and with sensitivity; it can make a difference in task success, and an even bigger difference in classroom and lesson management.

Katy Cox

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Classroom Issues: The Power of "NO"

Felipe is Young – nine years of age in Junior 2 – but not new to the school. With three semesters of experience, he’s already a Casa Thomas Jefferson veteran. He’s uncordially known to guards and hall monitors; given the number of his visits, he could accurately describe the arrangement of objects in the Coordinator’s office. She’s a beast. Probably has bad breath. His teacher ( like the others ) is a nit-wit. “OK, guys, let’s….” play some silly game where we all compete with each other like mad and get virtually nothing. But he’s not a groupie. He’s a (short) heroic rebel. His friend Pedro can’t take his eyes off him. Watches his every move, even at the lunch counter. Rewards (slavishly) by repercussive imitation. Is faint with fear (of association) and admiration. “So…let’s go, guys!” Fresh and false. But – like Superman stopping a train – Felipe takes the lightening in his hands. Crosses his arms on his chubby little chest. And says “NO!”

There’s an attempt at persuasion. Great; it augments the audience potential. Felipe has already been separated from Pedro, who is inwardly applauding; look at his almost envious eyes. The arms are tighter across Felipe’s body, the mouth a facial fist of defiance. “No!” The rest of the students are speculatively waiting….How will this momentary power-play pan out? With another visit to the Dragon’s Den? Or with miraculous (unlikely) capitulation?

This is when the Power of No hangs in the balance. The teacher can bargain, in a way beg, try to integrate, make promises – and with every strategy pulled out of the deck of tactical cards, the frontal approach can be met with an impenetrable shield. The ungiving power of “no”. The teacher can expediently remove the offender. But the message is that she has had to pull rank and use the power invested in her by the rules of the system. To rid herself of a nine-year-old child, she has to call for irresistible reinforcements: the Coordinator and her henchmen. Ha!   A battle may have been won, by some means, but possibly only to be fought again at another moment.

A diversion might be tried instead. How about “Oh…you don’t want to do that? No problem. You stay here – this is where you want to be, right? And we will all move over there and play this game in a slightly different way.”  The focus is re-directed -  away from the nay-sayer. For force to be used in a way that strengthens the group (not the teacher, not the offender), it has to be divided among the students. When the students are enjoyably engaged – with Felipe in a kind of time-out situation – the dynamic will change. With no “teacher vs student” issue at stake, Felipe will be disempowered passively, frustrating the attempt to turn up the tension. Don’t worry about Pedro. With no rebellion to support, he will probably opt for relative invisibility with a noncommittal  colleague.  

“No” is powerful when it causes divisiveness, a taking of sides, a hardening of the spirit. Turning a grumbling giant into a mewling midget requires finding a tactical instrument that will simultaneously puncture the rebel’s carapace of negativity and inject the fellow students with a purpose that pleasurably ignores conflict. 

“No” doesn’t need to fill up the room;  instead, it can become a very flat balloon.

Katy Cox