I’m continuing a series in which I read my friends’ dissertations and share my favorite parts. This episode features Paige’s work. She interviewed and observed a dozen teachers about their decisions in picking models of teaching.
My big takeaway: we need to be aware of our mindsets as educators. When we talk about mindsets in education, it’s typically about students. But a teachers’ mindset has a huge influence on the entire classroom.
In excerpts from Paige’s interviews, it’s remarkable how very fixed some teachers’ mindsets are. They repeatedly say what “kind of person” they are or aren’t. This reflects a belief that, while maybe some teachers can use a particular strategy, they can’t. They’re just not that kind of person. Yuck.
- “In fact, several teachers described themselves as decisively not creative.” (p154)
- “Two participants said that they simply do not possess a lot of humor.” (p104)
- “One teacher noted how she does not contribute to professional conversations, ‘I definitely am not the one to raise my hand and contribute…'” (p100)
These comments fascinated (and frustrated) me. I can’t imagine a teacher accepting those kinds of beliefs from a student!
- “Oh it’s ok Juan, you’re just not a creative person.”
- “You know, Sarah, you just don’t have a sense of humor.”
- “No big deal, Frances, you’re just not the type who contributes to discussions!”
No! We expect students to get better through effort. It’s the same for us as educators. We improve when we try.
Sidenote: I’m shocked by how many adults in education voluntarily say to me, “I’m just not a math person.” It’s, frankly, unacceptable.
There are lots of connections between Paige’s paper and Alison’s work on “narcissistic teaching” – when teachers focus on their own needs and preferences rather than students’.
This quote on selecting Direct Instruction nearly killed me:
with Direct Instruction, I am in control and that’s comfortable for me…A sage on the stage – yeah, that’s me…
Here’s the danger of a classroom run by someone with a fixed mindset: students get what the teacher’s comfortable with, regardless of its educational value.
Not All Teachers
Of course (of course!), it’s not all bad news. Many teachers made comments that reflect a growth mindset. This teacher learned to love Group Investigations, despite initial reservations:
“…she feels that student-centered learning can be uncomfortable for the teacher, but her value of the model outweighs the fear of using it.” (p152)
This teacher got better at Advance Organizers by trying Advance Organizers:
[She] described how she used to struggle to plan big ideas appropriate for Advance Organizer lessons, but that she has become much more comfortable and fluent in doing so (p157)
We want educators with growth mindsets, so let’s create environments that support them. I recommend checking out the #observeMe movement, but here are some quick ideas:
- Open up your classroom! We have to let other people see us teach if we want to become comfortable making mistakes:
- Make it easy for colleagues to frequently (and informally) watch you teach.
- In fact, make some kind of weekly (informal) observation or walk-through the expectation.
- Let people know what you’re working on:
- Make your professional struggle public. Post it on the lounge whiteboard, mention it in conversations, etc.
- Ask others what they want to improve. Pair people with similar needs. Connect experts and novices.
- Celebrate growth!
- Share personal improvements at staff meetings.
- When people improve, they’re the new experts!
- Let teachers control professional development.
- Offer useful (quick) PD for different levels of a skill (beginner/intermediate/expert).
- Ask the “experts” at school to run mini-PDs on their favorite topic for the “beginners”.
- Emphasize reflection
- Make it easy for teachers to reflect on growth: quick and informal.
- Public reflection is powerful – it helps you as well as your audience.
- Byrdseed is my nearly decade-long document of my own growth. Any educator who blogs will tell you how powerful the experience is on professional growth.
What do you or your school do to create an environment that promotes growth mindsets in teachers?