Success: The power of coaching with growth mindsets

This thoughtful talk by John Wooden gives some valuable insights into ways in which we can get the best out of our learners. John Wooden is referenced in a number of books I’ve read recently, including Carol Dweck’s “Mindset: The new psychology of success” and Daniel Coyle’s “The Talent Code”. There are some great links between his words and the work that Dweck, in particular has developed. I met with a teacher recently who is working to develop a whole-school culture of growth mindsets, with teachers, students and parents & carers alike.

I am excited to see what the change will be as a result of this very deliberate work. It would be great to hear from other schools who are embarking on similar journeys, so please leave your comments below for everybody to share.

This talk is pretty much an all-encapsulating journey into the mind of a powerfully inspirational coach. Sit back and simply immerse yourself in the experiences and love of learning that he shares here.

Visual Study Skills: bringing words and pictures together (pt2)

Sunni Brown’s TEDx talk needs to be linked up with her great article entitled, “The Miseducation of the Doodle” (you can follow her on Twitter @SunniBrown) all of which are great for the linking of pictures and words. It ties in with some work I am currently developing around how we design learning opportunities that foster visual thinking to represent information. There’s much to this, plus all the joys you’ll find in the field of infographics and a whole host of visual interpreters who are developing their techniques in an effort to make sense of the enormity of the information available to us in the digital world.

I’m sure I’ll find some more links to bring it together. But for now, it makes me think that this is an area that I need to spend more time on when I’m designing learning. One of the integral qualities of a discerning learner is their ability to sort, sift and select the most meaningful tenets of information so that others might access the knowledge that they have discovered, re-interpreted or even created from scratch. For me, this demands that we consider the ways in which we offer opportunities to our learners to be able to present their information. Such presentations of understanding can certainly serve as a valuable and public validation of learner-thinking. In addition, such visual presentations will help to consolidate their own knowledge and deepen their understanding.

The importance of being able to identify the relationships between concepts, ideas and knowledge is a valuable part of the process of understanding. To do this visually not only provides us with the opportunity to ‘show’ our thinking, but enables us to create a very uniques and personal expression of our understanding. With a class full of 30 students, the diversity of the individual expressions is a discussion point in itself. It’s a bit more than thought-showers and mind maps and, as such, seems to be something that I can certainly consider designing as a focus area for deliberate practice in lessons.

Sunni Brown is a business owner, creative director, speaker, and co-author of one of Amazon’s Top 100 Business Books in C&I titled GameStorming: A Playbook for Rule-breakers, Innovators and Changemakers. She’s best known for her large-scale live content visualizations at meetings and events, and she is also the leader of The Doodle Revolution—a growing effort to debunk the myth that doodling is a distraction. She plans to teach the world how to master “strategic doodling” in her 2nd book, The Doodle Revolution.

Serious Play: Freeing up thinking

Tim Brown gives some great insight here into practical creativity in his work place at IDEO. I’ve used many of the activities he showcases here with teachers and students. The 30 Circles activity is a particular favourite of mine. It’s a divergent thinking activity which forces you to generate as many ideas as possible within a given time limit, whilst switching off your integral quality-sensor. So often, we become inhibited by our own preconceived ideas about what is ‘good’. For many, this quality-sensor mechanism is one of the biggest hurdles for us to really tap into our creativity.

I used the activity with a group of teachers recently and they ‘wasted’ 27 seconds of the allotted minute before they made any mark on their paper at all. They spent this time looking nervously around the room at their peers, checking to see if they were ‘right’ in what they thought they had to do. Even though there was no right or wrong. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no judgement here from me on this as all it did was remind me of how great fear of getting things wrong can be when it comes to thinking.

I’ve included the template I use for the 30 circles activity. The only thing you need to remember when using this is:

(1) Be clear that any approach is the ‘right’ approach
(2) Restrict the the time to one minute
(3) Invest in feedback: How did it FEEL to think like that? How confident were you in completing the activity? What were your concerns? In what ways did you feel pressure (from others/ yourself/ me…?)
(4) How could you adapt this and make it a subject/topic specific activity to free up thinking and establish a ‘safe-to-try’ culture of learning?

Independent Learning: Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose

Daniel Pink shares his research on autonomy here. With this, he provides us with a valuable insight into the ways in which business can get the most of out their employees by (a) engaging them (b) offering them freedom and (c) enabling them to get really good at stuff. On watching this talk, I wondered if it was possible to consider giving students the 20% time that Pink talks about.

I have since discovered, thanks to the power of Twitter, that many teachers are already testing out the 20% rule in their classrooms.

Rather than offering total freedom and choice in all things, which terrifies every single control freak amongst us (and let’s face, it, that’s most teachers!), perhaps we can divide our learning ‘pie’ up into: 

(a) Task

(b) Time

(c) Group

(d) Process

And offer choices to our students in one or two of these areas within a project or a lesson.

Alternatively, we could simply ask them to plan what they would do if they were given 20% of curriculum time within a subject or topic. Once they’ve planned what they are going to do, then it’s up to them to (a) deliver and (b) reflect on how well it went so they can make more of it next time.

It also makes me wonder what we would choose to do if we were given 20% of our working week to learn and develop something of our own choosing, regardless of its connection to the curriculum. Maybe we’d reveal a new cohort of talented musicians in the maths department or water-colour painters in the PE faculty? When we ask about the learning capacities of our students, do we get the time to reflect upon and ask the same questions of ourselves? Would this help us model learning to our students, I wonder?  

Now that would surely be the mark of a genuinely learning school.

And here’s the 10 minute RSA Animate version of Daniel Pink’s message…I use these to show what I mean by ‘now draw your learning’…not intimidating at all!