I have to admit when I first started to read Carol Dweck’s book about growth mindset it seemed fairly easy to implement. As I completed the book, it was if there was a great deal of common sense mentioned and I felt I should have utilized it, my learners, long ago. My growth mindset was well on its way after digesting the theory of the growth mindset so I knew that there would be a great transformation within me and how I work with my learners. I absolutely embraced the idea of “yet” for myself and my learners. I saw great strides in my classroom and with my students outside of the classroom. My belief in their “yet” had caught on just like the spark I imagined it would. I was met with resistance from the administration which was frustrating as they could not see the big picture or the value in the small wins and even near wins for students. Although it became a little bit of a challenge with my rigid administrator, I continued to do what was in the best interest of the students. We fully took on the power of “yet” and finished last school year as more of a community instead of students saying goodbye to another teacher they’d probably forget about (or despise). I even had a few email me, once they had their own email addresses, to thank me for encouraging them and helping them to keep their mindset focus on “yet” instead of can’t. They said that felt it really has helped them to be more successful in middle school so I knew that I was heading in the right direction.
The stage was set for a significant learning environment and I could not wait to continue my growth through the application as well as immersion of the growth mindset with my learners during the next school year. The week before the students return teachers must attend professional development for an entire week. During the professional development, I learned that my grade level was going 1-to-1 and I was excited to be able to use blended learning techniques furthering the cultivation of a significant learning environment. After two weeks of having to wait to issue the laptops to my students, I was finally able to start incorporating it into their lessons. During that time I was also able to attend a wonderful conference where I gained a myriad of resources that were geared towards a purposeful use of technology throughout academic units. I took the initiative to sign up for the conference and was fully prepared to present relevant as well as actionable material when I returned to my campus. Unfortunately, there was never an opportunity for me to present it to the staff as a whole but I did share during my weekly instructional specialist department meeting. Although everyone listened and the specialist seemed excited about the information, it was never put into action by any of my department.
I decided to continue working within the growth mindset and began to outline the learning impacts that would be influenced by utilizing the new resources I returned with as well as previous recommendations that aligned with my innovation plan. My department has not bought into my proposed plan but I was determined to stay in the growth mindset and keep them in the category of “yet”. Given the strict schedule from administration due to the STAAR (Texas state assessment) test I had to come up with another way to create a call to action that appealed to their focus on the numbers as well as the overall development of the students. I used before school and after school times to ignite students with engaging activities so that they could develop maker mindsets, collaboration skills as well as a genuine love of learning. Using my course goal, I began to outline my plan using Fink’s three column table. After completing the outline, I was able to focus on the broad goal and not stray far away from the big picture which can sometimes get lost in the focus on every little detail along the way.
Details came into focus more while I used the backward design process outlined in Understanding by Design (Wiggins G. & McTighe J., 2005). Planning through my lesson in an extended three-page format took my big goal and tied it to the details needed to bring it to fruition. I spent more time thinking about the small pieces that would be needed to complete the larger picture. I spent a great deal of time digging into the details which took me down paths of great inquiry and possibilities. As I reached the last stage of my planning I reflected on my overall plan from stage one to stage three and I had mixed feelings about my final product. On one hand, I looked into the near wins that would be catalysts to move success up small steps at a time reaching the ultimate goal of accomplishing my innovation plan. On the other hand, I noticed that I spent more time than I think I should have in the whirlwind and lost sight of the big goal at times.
After completing both planning processes it was clear to me that I would need to start with Fink’s three column table then complete the detailed three-stage plan. I also recognized that I needed to keep Fink’s three column table in front of me at all times while going into the more detailed planning. The constant reminder of the big picture is vital to keep me from straying too far into the weeds of details that they began to disconnect from the goal. I have continued to incorporate significant learning experiences into my classroom and I can see my innovation plan slowly but surely come to life. Although I am able to pilot it with a small subset of my students they are embracing the maker mindset more each day and are excited to make, tinker, imagineer and even fail forward.
Thomas D & Brown, J.S., (2011) A New Culture of Learning
Dweck C.S. Ph.D., (2016) Updated Edition, Growth Mindset: The New Psychology of Success