I reckon Sesame Street has been ‘doing’ Growth Mindsets for 40 years. Here’s their latest contribution to promoting the effort and being resilient.
This post has languished in my drafts for a year; you’ll see this from the date references. The main reason I didn’t publish over a year ago was simply because I didn’t want to wade into what was, at the time, an extremely highly charged debate about the place of research, evidence, and practice in education. My additional reasons for not publishing until now will, possibly, be covered in another post on another day.
Anyway, a year has come around and although the charge and passion of the debate is still high, it has, perhaps calmed and softened somewhat. l have spent the morning watching the second National ResearchED 2014 Conference online thanks to the wonderful technical expertise of Leon Cynch @eyebeams through the LIVESTREAM feed. Having listened to the first of the main hall speakers (@johntomsett @huntingenglish and @dylanwiliam) advocating a practical, wise approach to what we do in our classrooms, I thought I’d go back to this post from last year, take the plunge and publish.
I haven’t edited any part of it, and my only addition to it is the inclusion of a presentation by an inspirational education consultant, Dr Julia Atkin (@Juliaatkin) South Australia who I came across a few months ago. In this talk, Dr Atkin references the Aristoltlean view of knowledge, PHRONESIS, also referenced in Dylan Wiliam’s presentation today. Dr Atkin speaks brilliantly about the need for teachers to merge their own experience with research, through the lens of deliberate practice and analytical thinking.
ORIGINAL POST (Written in September 2013)
There is always healthy discussion around research findings and sources of evidence and even more so thanks to the increasing availability of the work of academics and research centres online. Tom Bennett and ResearchED have responded to this debate in the establishment of a conference for teachers and researchers as part of ResearchED 2013 to be held at Dulwich College in London on Saturday 7th September 2013.
The growth in Master Level opportunities and engagement in accredited courses through the National College and Teaching School Alliances will continue to bolster the body of research findings and evidence for teachers to access. Alongside this, academic research is increasingly becoming more accessible through websites and direct engagement with researchers and there’s a tiny selection at the end of this post for reference. There are far more listed on the site of The Teacher Development Trust who also, on 20th May 2013, launched the second exciting phase of The National Teacher Enquiry Network: “A family of schools & colleges working for better professional development” to strengthen the link between evidence, practice and professional learning in schools.
But there’s nothing stopping anyone developing and researching their own practice right now and the summer term is a great time to have a go and try something different, new, or just to do more of the good stuff that’s already in place.
Individual practitioners can access reams of effectively communicated evidence from contemporary researchers such as John Hattie, Dylan Wiliam, Carol Dweck and Geoff Petty and even discuss their work directly with the authors through social media and by attending seminars and public lectures. The educational landscape and quality of teaching and learning is so much richer for this and for the debate and discussion these sources of evidence stimulate.
CPD: Thinking ‘as’ research
Our own evidence base and sources of inspiration continue to be drawn from the wider educational world and beyond; from business and advertising; from design and engineering; from fashion and space exploration and from medicine and architecture. As a result, we are able to adapt many different ideas, approaches, systems and processes from the many different contexts we encounter. Integral to this is access to an effective evaluation framework against which we can assess impact on learning outcomes.
Amongst all of the evidence that we have access to, it could be argued that the best evidence, i.e. the most valuable, important and accessible, is the evidence we have before us every day: the internal. First and foremost, it is this that we can begin to research, as it unfolds before us, immediately.
So we need access to everything that is available to us, in a digestible but not diluted format. We need researchers to continue to make their work accessible and practical. The Education Endowment Fund Teaching and Learning Toolkit has provided us with one highly accessible format for this. We also need to create a personal-professional evidence base drawn from our own research into our own practice. For it is only when we can understand and witness first-hand the real-life impact of teaching-decisions on learning-outcomes for our own practice and ultimately, for our own learners, that we will truly be able to bring our practice to life and have the greatest impact.
So…a mindset to adopt….? CPRD
This is my attempt to clarify the impact of ‘thinking-as’ a researcher; an activity of adopting ‘Research Thinking’. In doing so, a ‘Research-Thinking School’ will encourage a systematic implementation of Continuing Professional Research Development. Such an approach to professional development and system-wide innovation will engage practitioners in habitual meticulous self-reflection that result in deliberate and mindful teaching actions. These ‘mindful teaching’ actions will be both evidence-informed (external and internal) and research-based (external and internal). The result of this is to establish and sustain a culture where observable and measurable innovations in practice become an integral expectation and rationale of the systems throughout the organisation.
Sustainable school-wide systems that connect research, developmental lesson observations and coaching and place these at the heart of professional development will have the greatest impact. Many schools are using video to support a similar growth-mindset approach to professional development. When placed within a carefully personalised programme supported by skilled coaches and reflective practitioners, the benefits of such an approach are clear.
But the first port of call must be to establish a culture that both enables and encourages us to research that which we encounter every day. It is this that informs and inspires us more than anything else and it is this that we can analyse and interpret immediately and meticulously in every lesson designed and delivered. It is the activity of researching this evidence that sharpens our thinking and prompts us to pose challenging questions. It is a culture of active, on-going and daily research that will continue to excite and enrich us and, as a direct result, our learners.
Thinking and acting as a researcher of our own practice requires a habit of constant evidence collection (feedback) from our immediate experiences, often in the form of informal, ‘micro-research’ projects. These micro-research projects encourage Mindful Teaching that notice and describe rather than infer and interpret. There’s more on this on the Marginal Learning Gains METHOD page.
Couple the everyday evidence to the canon of wider research and evidence (incorporating evidence and research from the educational world and beyond) available to us, then we have a powerful framework for systematic and daily research of own practice:
(a) Discuss and share what we see, hear and sense (internal research) from our own experiences and
(b) Connect and compare our own research to the experiences and evidence from beyond us (external research) and between each other
(c) Understand and apply what we now know and understand to our own context and setting (the internal and external) so that it shapes and informs the design of the learning opportunities that we provide
(d) Research and evaluate the impact of its application so that we can
(e) Repeat the cycle from (a) and begin to embed it as everyday practice
Thinking and acting as a leading research-thinker and constantly investigating the evidence of our own practice in this way enables us to engage in an overarching process where we can be part of a constant process of collating, analysing and applying evidence from beyond and within so that it directly informs our practice and brings about sustainable and systemic change. It has an impact on:
- Frequency of feedback (an on-going cycle that includes in equal measure information from the learner to the teacher and back again)
- Systematic reflective and collaborative professional practice across a whole school (and beyond)
- Quality of specific language that communicates learning outcomes and success criteria
- Effectiveness of the communication of teacher and learner expectations
- Deliberately planned opportunities for learners to lead, take responsibility, articulate and evaluate their own progress
Instead of providing us with a detailed list of ‘teachable actions‘ that we have not developed from our own practice or professional conversations, ‘Research Thinking’ ensures that the evidence we have to hand can be used to directly, immediately and in a timely manner to inform ‘learnable behaviours’.
‘Research Thinking’ provides a bridge between the evidence before us (internal) and the evidence and research from beyond us (external). It demands that we
- analyse and dissect teaching language and actions
- clarify our understanding and interpretations
- so that we can…
- define our concepts of learning
- forensically analyse its implications, inferences and impact on learning
‘Research Thinking’ enables us to actively and habitually search out examples, experiences and findings from beyond our context so that we can make sense of ourselves and our practice in our context.
“This is my evidence.
There is much evidence like this. But this evidence is mine.
Without me, my evidence is nothing.
Without my evidence, I am nothing.”
(Paraphrased by me from The Rifleman’s Creed)
Check out the following tiny selection of online research resources available:
The Research Centre for Evidence-Informed Policy and Practice in Education (www.eppi.ioe.ac.uk)
Current Educational Research in the United Kingdom (www.ceruk.ac.uk)
The Economic Social Research Council (www.esrc.ac.uk)
The National Foundation for Educational Research (www.nfer.ac.uk)
In addition, sites are emerging that invite direct interaction between researchers and practitioners:
The Learning Emergence Site (www.learningemergence.net)
There are many, many more…
FINAL Quick note: When it comes to ‘Research Thinking’ all I am attempting to do is to articulate my own approach to pedagogical pedantry (a pejorative term that I therefore dislike) and with this, my approach to curriculum innovation and designing systemic research-driven opportunities for professional development. This post is an attempt to explain the ‘Why, How and What’ it is I try for myself and practitioners to ‘be like’ when we’re thinking and talking about learning. This approach is illustrated in the Marginal Learning Gains Theory project.
I have drawn together some ideas to form a first draft (very EoE) of a Pedagogical Model for Motivation, Growth Mindsets and Excellence. It also incorporates a Marginal Learning Gains approach as an integral part of developing Growth Mindsets for teachers and students alike.
This work is in its infancy in terms of a fully workable pedagogical model but I am hoping it my serve to start conversations and give practitioners some of the following:
- The Why – Rationale and research to underpin the aims of the changes that are sought
- The How – Strategic ways of thinking and designing learning to bring about those changes
- The What – Practical tools and approaches to test out to increase the teaching repertoire to achieve your stated aims
It may will be that I need to provide the narrative that I would use to accompanies any work around this document if so, please let me know! I certainly see it as the start point for:
- Some very focused action research linking into the Marginal Learning Gains approach
- A design template for learning where we can truly wrap the curriculum around the pedagogy.
If you want to find out more about what schools are doing around Growth Mindsets, then please get in touch with the EG Schools Network via the blog and follow on Twitter @EG_Schools. There’s already a fantastic bank of ideas, blogs, resources and approaches being shared by the Excellence & Growth Schools’ Network,
In the meantime, I’ll be updating this in time once I’ve had a chance to collaborate and reflect on the model…so here it is:
In this typically engaging short video piece from Hans Rosling, the world-renowned data visualisation and data-entertainment guru (see his brilliant TED Talks for more), identifies the power of explaining using props. He emphasises that although video can be used to explain some concepts, (see Ted-ED for examples to use if you’re looking to implement some flipped learning in your lessons), nothing replaces the teacher and their ability to make learning fun through the explanations they can offer. For teachers and presenters alike, being able to draw upon a vast repertoire of explaining is fundamental to being able to meet the needs of all learners/ listeners. As a result, there’s a great opportunity to keep refreshing ‘explaining techniques’ and consider the many ways we can employ quality teacher talk to differentiate, challenge and encourage learners to understand new concepts and think in new ways.
I’ve included a screen shot of an observation format I use very regularly for you to have a look at: ‘Explaining – Improving the Quality of Teacher Talk’ The original version plus others that I regularly use, adapt and tweak can be found in “Full On Learning”. You’ll notice that this is a very focused observation tool, as it ONLY looks at the quality of teacher talk in relation to EXPLAINING. Hence it can be used as part of a developmental coaching approach..which is just how I use it.
I use this particular one as part of my pedagogical coaching toolkit. I’ve got others that focus on questioning and a more generic one that looks ONLY at ‘Pupil activity during the lesson’. They’re all developmental in design as they are limited by their focus on a very specific element of pedagogy. In practice, they work as a simple tally sheet during the lesson. You can add additional layers of complexity, according to what the teacher wants to focus on, but my watchword is and always has been to keep it SIMPLE when it comes to observing the complicated world of teaching and the similarly complex world of learning.
The strength of this tool is:
1. When you work with a group of teachers to create and amend the observation format you get into wonderful discussions and sharing of expertise. In fact, it’s at THIS point when you get the really crunchy discussions about ‘quality teacher talk’ and how various concepts can be explained and what else could be used to aid the communication of complexity, of topic fundamentals and of core concepts so that learner understanding is secure.
2. When used as part of a pedagogical coaching programme, the results can be put into a simple spreadsheet to generate a visual chart (Hans Rosling would be proud!). This then forms the basis of your coaching discussion, as it places the focus of the discussion on the teacher, enabling them to reflect and consider their own practice.
3. Coupled with a skilled coach possibly also with video, you get rewarded by by using this as part of a MARGINAL LEARNING GAINS approach and find that you get those sought-after MULTIPLE GAINS from one simple pedagogical focus.
Great post – thank you for sharing!
Every teacher at KEGS is involved in a teaching and learning group called a ‘workshop’. We meet several times across the year to explore a particular aspect of pedagogy. Teachers select who to work with and what to work on. In May each year we have a non-pupil day that we call a ‘Leading Edge’ day where we run a 90 minute marketplace-style showcase of the work we’ve all been doing in our groups.
This year, the workshops covered a wide range of ideas although, interestingly, they were clumped around some common ideas:
- Learning texts by heart and reading aloud
- Testing and feedback from tests
- Using Edmodo as a platform for exchanging ideas and information beyond the classroom
- Deepening teachers’ subject-specific knowledge
- Lesson Study and IRIS as tools for self-reflection
Following some input in October, the workshops this…
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Daniel Pink’s talk at The RSA discusses how everybody today is involved in some form of selling. We all have to, at some point in our working lives, persuade other people to listen to us, to change the way they are doing things or get somebody else to allow us to do something different from what we may have originally been assigned to do. The art of persuasion is, Pink suggests, akin to the art of selling.
Similarly, every day in every classroom, every educator is engaged in the gentle and not-so-gentle art of persuasion. Of ‘selling’ learning.
From the first to the last bell, educators around the globe are engaged in this complex and necessarily sophisticated act. We operate in a world where goal of the educator is to constantly persuade learners to make a transaction. To give their attention to the lesson topic and to invest their time in doing something different from what they may ordinarily prefer to be doing. Teachers who manage this are rewarded by learners who are motivated enough to chose to invest their time and indulge their curiosity. To explore new and alternative ideas and, in doing so, build their resilience as they stick at the task in which they have been persuaded to engage.
Day in, day out, hour upon hour, succeeding in this is no mean feat.
After all, the task of educating learners out of their own immediate context and into the one that we are persuading them to try out requires us to have expert negotiation skills. We have to convince them that it is worth it for them to jump into the multifaceted world of learning. A world that is full of complexity and unfamiliarity and where for many of them, there is no certainly of success and only small crumbs of comfort in their pre-existing understanding. Just to make it even more perilous for them, this is a world where will be expected to trust their peers. Peers who themselves are either driven or held back by their very own unique uncertainties and fears. And that’s just the first lesson on any given Monday morning.
Pink goes on to say that whilst we are all involved in some way shape or form in the act of persuasion or ‘selling’ as he refers to it, the art of selling (persuasion) itself has changed.
We all know that it is vital to be aware of how the learner feels when we are teaching as we can use this to adapt lessons to accommodate emotional needs in order to sustain their cognitive development. This is just as true, according to Pink, in the context of selling.
But, Pink goes on to say, research suggests that it is far more useful to be aware of what the buyer is THINKING. Pink says that to adapt our persuasive strategies according to what the buyer is thinking results in a far more sensitive and accommodating approach to how we chose to present our ideas and information. In the context of education, this resonates very strongly with what Hattie refers to as the need for teachers to be ‘error seekers’ (there’s more on this on the Marginal Learning Gains blog). This is where we ask not, ‘Who understands this?’ but instead, ask, ‘Who doesn’t understand this?’. This question is a double-impact question in that it produces benefits on two levels.
At one level, it enables teachers to reveal the information they really need to make their teaching the most effective it can possibly be in promoting the best possible learning outcomes; ‘What do I need to do in order to re-frame or re-explain this concept/ idea/ process so that everyone can secure their understanding before I move onto the next topic/ concept/ idea?’. At the second level, it communicates an explicit culture of learning where it’s made crystal clear that it’s okay not to understand it the first, second or even third time. A culture where it is absolutely fine, if not expected, for learners to get it wrong, use this to feed their ‘mistake monsters’ and to struggle at times during the lesson.
There are many more connections in Pink’s talk here with the complex art of teaching, so enjoy the talk, particularly the pen-bit (you’ll see!)…
There’s also a lovely and very speedy RSA Animate Short you can watch here…
In his Ted Talk, Mark Ronson explains the process of creating his own music through sampling previous music recordings, “I can bully our existences into a shared event…I can insert myself in that narrative, or alter it, even.” He says that this has always been true of music, and that the explosion of technology has simply accelerated and democratised this over the past 30 years.
The #NTENRED Conference last weekend hosted by Huntington School, York, was an example of what Ronson refers to as just such a ‘shared event’. Every one of the 200 who attended and every one of those who watched online, followed the tweets and who have since caught up with post-event blogs have been invited to ‘insert themselves in that narrative’ of the conference-conversation. They are all now in a position to decide how they might ‘alter it’ and decide how to build on and implement what they learnt.
By increasing education practioners’ accessibility to and engagement with, the body of research about learning, there is a golden opportunity to integrate this with individual observations and insights in a balanced and measured way. In other words, practitioners can deliberately ‘sample’ the information they gather from external sources (the body of research) with the information from internal sources (their own practice and context). In doing so, practitioners are empowered to design learning that is directly informed by the existing body of research intertwined with the unique needs of their individual students. They can then tailor their design to their own specific contexts whilst remaining consistently clear and well-informed about the specific changes they want to bring about.
The real creativity in teaching and learning happens when we weave our reflective practice into the rich understanding we can draw from our sampling and fusing of research and practice and in doing so, increase our profession’s collective consciousness. The ‘fresh and new’ that Ronson refers to is that unique mix of our own expertise, the uniqueness of our own learners and the specific context in which those elements find themselves in at any given moment in time.
So by continuing to nurture an on-going dialogue between practice and research, we bring ever closer the day when we can say of education what Ronson says of music,
“…the dam has burst…we take the things that we love and we build on them, that’s just how it works and when we add something significant and original…then we have a chance to be a part of the evolution of that [education] that we love and be linked with it once it becomes something new again.”