Growth Mindset Workshop – Carol Dweck and Susan Mackie

The workshop was to explore your own mindset triggers and learn how to respond to the everyday challenges and demands to help us become the people we want to be. Prior to the workshop we were asked to complete some pre-readings/pre-viewings:

I want to be… someone who inspires others to aim for the sky and strive to be the best that they can be.

Success in life is about learning, constantly learning, finding hard things sticking to them. It’s also about finding the joy in learning. I was struck by how often the word ‘joy’ came up across the day. That is a powerful word that should be turning up more in my classroom. BUT many things that we do are turning people into non learners – we put emphasis on talent, on who is gifted and who is not. We create children that have to be infallible. This is the enemy of learning. If children think they can be infallible, they limit themselves so that they can be perfect.

How do we bring back the zest for learning?

Brain Plasticity – neuroscience shows us the tremendous plasticity of our brains – they can transform through learning. There is a lot of evidence that mindsets work and mindsets matter.

There was a section that was focused on the idea of an organisation and how there are fixed and growth cultures. A fixed setting is likely to believe in – and judge – fixed abilities. It will have a competitive culture where staff will try to be between that one another and therefore little or no collaboration. Meanwhile a growth focused organisation will support creativity, innovation and foster teamwork. Teachers being excited to go to work. Brainstorm together, feeling free to innovate, trying things, to go to others with problems and not be judged.


  • Deep fear of failure in Y11. The need to experience some success before the mindset can grow
  • Brain Training vs growth mindset – the picture of neurons in your brain making connections.
  • Brainology essential to study skills – study skills in isolation is not ok.
  • Grades in Math (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, Dweck, 2007) said one student: “You mean I don’t have to be dumb”


  • False Mindset  – of course one will always say that they have a growth mindset
  • It’s a normal thing to make a mistake, it’s a wonderful thing to learn from a mistake.
  • We must have a deep belief that everyone can raise their abilities
  • Tie the process they engaged in and connect it to their learning
  • How to raise kids with grit
  • Effort is one route to learning and improvement
  • Someone that says: “I have a growth mindset in all areas” – is a clear sign that they have a fixed mindset

Fixed mindset triggers

The following for triggers are common for switching our approaches back into a fixed mold. The slides suggest the different ways of  dealing with each of these triggers. The triggers can trap you in the fixed mindset – be aware of them and those behaviours.

1. Stepping out of our comfort zones.


2. High effort


3. Setbacks


4. Feedback



Changing your mindset

“I’ve told you a 100 times”

“Yeah, and how’s that working for you”

  • The power of “yet” or “not yet”
  • Legitimize the fixed mindset and acknowledge that we’re all a mixture

Name and claim your fixed mindset persona. Get to know it:

  • When does it show up?
  • How does it make you feel?
  • How does it affect your behaviour? Your relationships? Your goals?
  • Over time, learn to work with it

Fixed mindset persona: Joking Jerome – a persona I use to protect myself sometimes. Occasionally I rely on humour to navigate tough situations. This occurs a lot outside of school mainly, but my joking and sarcastic nature can be used as a defense at times and might prevent deep reflection and growth from a given opportunity. (True words said in jest?)

How to raise kids with grit

  • Mindfulness and mindset are related
  • The need to explore your own mental models, what you think about your learning and others learning: you show it.
  • Have an assembly about failure.
  • “Finland doesn’t teach to the test, they teach joyful effective learning
  • Nothing can tell you how smart you are and how smart you will be when you grow up. A test/assessment measures what you know now, and it will show you what you need to work on going forward.
  • The interplay between adult and child’s mindset – teachers and adults matter.

Fixed mindset triggers

  • A student struggling or confused
  • A student not listening to your lesson
  • A student with high or low test scores

There is compassion when you understand that all students have some degree of pain or fear behind their behaviour. These behaviours can all be addressed with a growth mindset. This involves working with the student and supporting them – and not putting them in a fixed mindset box. The growth mindset is part of the meta-curriculum.

  • The fishbowl – activity of coaching through some teachers when faced with this kind of conversation.
  • The conversation around assessments could be examined. How do we manage students fears and emotions through assessment?

Advice for a students in a fixed mindset?

  • See it as a challenge
  • What do you need to …?
  • Restorative questions – what’s happening/happened?
  • Look for the positive strategies and adapt them for a different context.
  • Peer to peer conection
  • Saying more effort is needed can alienate a student. They need to connect the effort with better outcomes/understanding.
  • Look up your heroes – they always find without fail that their heroes had to try really hard and had to overcome challenges.
  • Use the personas that make you afraid of risk. Something that is common and accessible.

Transmitting mindsets in the classroom

  • What can teachers do?
  • Studies showing that adults are not passing on growth mindsets
  • Rushing in and not letting the students fail
  • When students succeed – praise the process. Tie it to learning, progress.
  • When children struggle or fail – focus on the process. Talk about fabulous struggles.
  • Ask: What are you struggling with now? 
  • Give out failure of the year award
  • Make errors. Modelling the error correction process.


Growth mindset necessary for students to find their way back to the world that needs them so much.

Slides from the presentation


2016 Goal Setting

2016 Goal: to develop the learning agency of students with low self-management and low self-efficacy. 

Historical Position

  • Increasingly aware of the need to explicitly teach core skills such as the key competencies and the habits of mind. The cynic in me believes that the students that already have strong self efficacy pick up on these skills naturally when given the right environment. This is often what I get measured on because these students demonstrating these skills are often visible.
  • Self-directed units of work have become more and more frequent in my classes. Last year I pushed this to new levels in having students create and pursue their own courses in Level Three Media. A student captured what this was like in this write up.
  • 2016 is seeing my Media classes attempt a multi-level structure, which will be unit based, but with opt-in class time and opt-in assessments (with four set due dates for the whole class).
  • I want my students to have a high degree of agency, be in charge of their learning and make good choices. I believe in giving them the space to do these things, and having reflective processes in place so that we can learn from them. I have observed though that historically I don’t make significant shifts with the students with the weakest levels of self-efficacy and motivation. Two students last year only achieved 6 credits, and one achieved none in a course where they were given the power to act. In interviewing them at the end of the year I still didn’t feel they had gained much knowledge into how they learn, and therefore the approach of the course simply wasn’t valuable for them.

Action and Next Steps

  • Identify five students for a focus group to track and work with through the year. Each of these five students have low rate of participation in self-motivated tasks as observed in term one. The table below captures a snapshot of these five students. They represent a range of ethnic groups (including Pasifika and Maori) and are all boys which aligns with a our school goals of increasing achievement for these groups.


  • With these five students I’ll run an individual discussion with each of them to explain what I’m focusing on this year. I’ll then give them a formative survey to collect some data about where they see themselves in relation to some specific skills. Something I’ll repeat later in the year to measure shifts. Then I plan to run focus lunches where I’ll bring the students together to talk about agency and learning and co-construct interventions for us to follow through with.
  • Explicitly teach key competencies, self-efficacy, growth mindset, and the habits of mind. I say this often, but I don’t often talk about how. It’s on the list for a future blogpost.
  • Look into current research into motivation and ways to build agency. As a starting point, here are some gems from this post on cult of pedagogy:

What studies suggest motivates students:

  1. Students are more motivated academically when they have a positive relationship with their teacher
  2. Choice is a powerful motivator in most educational contexts.
  3. For complex tasks that require creativity and persistence, extrinsic rewards and consequences actually hamper motivation.
  4. To stay motivated to persist at any task, students must believe they can improve in that task.
  5. Students are motivated to learn things that have relevance to their lives.

Six reasons for motivation deficit:

  1. The student is unmotivated because he or she cannot do the assigned work.
  2. The student is unmotivated because the ‘response effort’ needed to complete the assigned work seems too great.
  3. The student is unmotivated because classroom instruction does not engage.
  4. The student is unmotivated because he or she fails to see an adequate pay-off to doing the assigned work.
  5. The student is unmotivated because of low self-efficacy—lack of confidence that he or she can do the assigned work.
  6. The student is unmotivated because he or she lacks a positive relationship with the teacher.

Finally, this approach is connected strongly to our school’s vision (below) and placing students’ at the centre of their learning. I hope tat I will be able to understand more about low self-efficacy learners and develop more successful ways of helping them this year, and in the years to come.


Authentic Learning in the Digital Age – Larissa Pahomov – Part Two

In my previous post on this book, I looked at  Larissa Pahomov’s take on creating an authentic learning environment using the perks of the digital age. She took on teaching research and collaboration, and then looked at presentation. She continues…

Chapter seven focuses on Making Reflection Relevant.

The key question that opens the chapter is: “If you were to do this project again, what would you change or do differently?” Of course, rarely in the culture of NCEA do we take the time to reflect adequately on a completed task before moving onto the next assessment. However, this is valuable and Pahomov argues that for meaningful reflection to occur it must be “metacognitive, applicable and shared”. I found the challenge that reflection needed to be shared the most confronting. I think I have been guilty of seeing reflection as being tunneled into an independent process, because that is what it needs to be in order to be honest. However, often we aren’t honest with ourselves, so it makes sense that reflection is brought out into the open to be navigated in a space where help is available. The challenge here is to a create a culture of infinite improvement and where “the classroom can become a place of collective support” (113).

The framework for Student Reflection (114):

  • Put reflection first
  • De-emphasize grades
  • Integrate student and teacher reflection
  • Let reflection accumulate

Chapter eight focuses on Embracing the Culture: Schoolwide Practices. This is a discussion of how the model of SLA can actually be made to work and what practices and policies are in place to make the kind of teaching and learning possible.

  • Common Language – this has been evident in my experience when the school adopted SOLO and students’ built an understanding of a common language because it was being used in all their classrooms. How powerful would it be if our values, and key competencies were more prevalent in our language rather than the back end of the curriculum which so often gets put first? The benefits here are that the language encourages learning, not assessment, it helps to empower students, and teachers support one another because everyone is reinforcing the same thing.
  • Open Doors – through using shared planning procedures, the opportunity to access everyone for conversations (no one expert) and frequent classroom visitors. They also have a peer tutoring arrangements which I found quite interesting. Academic credit is incorporated into this service and it builds role modelling and enriches the learning environment.
  • Outside Partnerships – real world learning is embraced through getting students out into authentic environments to extend their learning. Again a shift away from the teacher as the expert.
  • Advisory – a central teacher figure (sounds very similar to what ‘Form Time’ or ‘mentoring’ is trying to be as it seems to be in the NZ context). It is essential the relationship between the teacher and the students are strong in this context, and the continuity here is obviously also key.

I’ve taken a huge amount away from this book and consider it one of the best professional reading I’ve done in a long time. I’ll be recommending it whenever I can and sharing the love!

Teaching Conversations: From Inspection to Reflection

Speak in such a way as others love to listen to you. Listen in such a way as others love to speak to you

This is how an article by Shelly Arneson kicks of in a discussion around improving out reflective conversations with colleagues. The shift from arriving at the conversation as an inspector to creating a dialogue with authentic reflection comes down to Arneson’s mantra: Talk with teachers, not to them. There are two main barriers to this, time and the unknown. Arneson suggests two solutions:

  • Make better use of time – narrow the topic
  • Overcome the fear of the unknown – admit our uncertainties

Using these strategies, outlines with examples, one is able to see how conversations can be made more purposeful. To get this right, we have to improve our Communication Skills, and Arneson has the following suggestions:

  • Listen at least as much as you speak
  • Be aware of body language
  • Craft feedback that invites dialogue instead of shutting it down
  • Ask open-ended questions that will allow for future learning, not just questions that are lesson specific
  • Understand that relationships matter

The overall purpose of Arneson’s article is to promote conversations that Empower Teachers to Improve.

Teaching Videos Reflection

I came across these old videos taken four years ago and was really glad to find them. I remember asking a colleague to film a few parts of the lesson when he was observing me for an appraisal and had explained what was going on to the kids and got permission then. I can’t, however, ever remember properly reviewing them.

I seem to have a very casual opening to the lesson. I like the open non-confrontational tone and how there is clearly mutual respect. I remember this being a class I had to work hard at in the beginning of the year – looking back it looks like it paid off. I say um a lot…

Oh wow! I used wait time! This is something I’ve consciously worked on, but it’s lovely to look back and see that in my second year of teaching that I waited 20 seconds for a response – and once I did the contributions rolled. It’s worth noting if I had interupted the silence and started to encourage contributions then it would have taken just as long to get the responses going. I like how every contribution is affirmed and treated positively, and even when we are laughing with one of the contributions (“persuament!”) the positive tone is still evident.

Do my hands stop? They are quite expressive – and dangerous for anyone in the front row. I’ve started to question (albeit not with the knowledge of how the rest of the lesson was run) how teacher centred it is. The discussion is hardly in depth and more introductory in nature, but it seems like this could have been done more efficiently. The students are all engaged however and like I say, they might have gone into something more substantial shortly. Another *like* goes to the system for getting contributions for different learners.

What next? I need to film myself teaching again. Preferably after I get a haircut.

Reflection Vs Refraction

I read today, and was ultimately inspired by the thoughts of Barry Saide and Jasper Fox in their post “Reflect or Refract: Top 3 Tips for the Reflective Educator“. It’s another compelling piece of evidence that the best professional learning can be found from a small journey around Twitter. They sets up the binary between reflective and refractive educators. Primarily the difference being that reflectors are constantly looking at their own practice and refractors are always finding excuses.

Reflectors do not blame students for their inattentiveness or behavioral issues.

This is something I experience often, it is a challenge to dealing with students when deaning and when fingers are pointed it can be hard to discourage the conclusion that has been jumped to. A reflector will look at the actions that they can control, and determine what actions they can change or doing differently to affect more positive outcomes. I am really strong on this idea. One of my mantras is: “how could I have done this differently?” By considering alternatives – even when things go well – I believe it helps me to be more reflective and more critical of my practice.

When we ask refractive educators to reflect on things that occurred, their lens obscures how their involvement and approach were at fault.

This might be a bit over-simplistic, because I think refraction occurs on a spectrum. I’m sure, despite the fact I pride myself on being reflective, that many of my reactions to learning experiences might be seen as refractive. However, I do agree that there is a tendency of refractive educators to blame outside factors such as the students, their background, the school system, the government – whatever they can link to! It’s deficit thinking. Finding fault. No ownership.

The blogpost then asked: “How do we support our refractive peers in their growth toward reflection?” And suggested the following three actions:

  1. Embed Professional Development – had me dreaming for a world in which we could have one timetabled hour a week where we had a compulsory observation. My best PL always comes from seeing my colleagues in action.
  2. Write Regularly – There’s a shift to make between researching every way, which is a natural daily activity for any teacher, and “actively and openly reflect on those findings.” Writing regularly, blogging, can support that process.
  3. Engage in Community Conversation – participate in the online world, engage with other educators, get reading, get tweeting, get blogging.

A really great thought-provoking read here. My main take-aways: keep questioning, keep reflecting, keep ownership, continue to engage in online PL and write as often as I can.

Expertise in contemplation transcends content and passion, setting the stage for continuous improvement. Evaluating one’s practice allows educators of all levels to better serve students’ needs.

Registered Teacher Criteria

Today’s professional learning session focused on the Registered Teacher Criteria and ways to record it. This blog is my reflective hub. But it has been pushed to use google sites – as shown here:

Why am I here on this blog? I find the idea of blogging enormously more active and open. The tabs above have become my bookmarks, locations for all the useful links I come across and something I need to find more time to explore. It is so tough to navigate the plethora of support and resources out in the teaching sphere – this home makes sense to me. It is also a public forum. A shift I have written about before is how I wish to break down the walls around my teaching practice.

The challenge, as it is for us all, is to regularly. Term Two, looks manic. Good luck to me.