An Anchor In Rough Water
A growth mindset is something that has really been on my mind recently, mainly because I am venturing into uncharted territory this year. My innovation plan involves me facilitating a blended learning pilot group of teachers in my district. My goal is for teachers to learn how to use a blended learning model of instruction to create a more student-centered learning environment that promotes a student's intrinsic motivation to learn. Through this course, I have come to realize that applying constructivist techniques and creating a significant learning environment will support active, engaged learning.
Although I am currently working with teachers, the end result will be to increase student agency and autonomy by creating more student centered learning environment. This may not seem like such a big hairy audacious goal to some, but trust me, in my district it is indeed “hairy”. We are steeped in tradition and any type of change is a struggle. I am, in a sense, risking my credibility by even suggesting a new approach to teaching that varies from the standard. A growth mindset will be necessary for the few brave teachers, and myself, as we navigate the choppy seas of change and our continued focus on student learning will be the anchor that steadies us.
My Growth Mindset Plan states that “learning is a journey that should never end.” I still hold true to that statement. As I have worked through the various levels of understanding of what it means to create a significant learning environment and have developed my own personal learning philosophy, one thing that I have discovered is that authentic learning usually involves struggle.
Designing a blended learning course for adult learners has definitely been a challenge. I don't think I could have done it without the help of the Learning Environment outline, Situational Factors Outline and the 3 Column Table format which allowed me to think about the big picture and keep in mind where I wanted the learners to be at the end of the course. After imagining the big picture with Fink's 3 column table (2003), I then used Wiggins' and McTighe's (2008) principles of UBD (Understanding By Design)
to clearly identify and break down the instructional steps and assessment necessary for learners to meet the learning goal successfully. This proved to be my most challenging assignment primarily because I do not have a lot of experience with adult learners. I found myself second guessing how to best approach the learning objectives with the knowledge that my students are teaching professionals.
The great amount of authentic learning that I experienced in this course is testament to what a well designed learning environment can create. I just hope to be able to inspire and convince the teachers in my district that a growth mindset and a well designed, learner-centered environment can create the type of learning that will transcend the results of any chapter test, benchmark exam or state standardized assessment.
Fink, L. (2003). A Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning. [ebook] San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Available at:
Wiggins, G. and McTighe, J. (2008). Understanding by Design. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision
and Curriculum Development.
Changing My Mindset:
How to Move From a Fixed Mindset to a Growth Mindset
This question often enters my thinking when I think about what types of changes will need to happen in order for our district to truly adopt the idea of blended learning. To be honest, I sometimes think that I can’t do it alone. Although I am grateful to the wonderful teachers that volunteered for the blended learning pilot, the fact remains that we are a only a few with very little support and that feels daunting at times.I also sometimes doubt that I am qualified to carry out my plan. However, now that I recognize those negative thoughts for what they are, I am better prepared to accept them and move on.
I will encounter challenges throughout this endeavor. Knowing that helps a little, but it can also be scary. I do have a choice whether or not to listen to the insecure feelings that threaten to take over. Some of the problems that I will likely encounter are lack of support, lack of culture, scheduling conflicts, and problems with my own ability to design the learning environment to insure teachers meet the learning goals.
I must combat those feelings and frustrations by first recognizing them for what they are and then by responding in a way that supports a growth mindset. For example, I can’t take it personally if administrators are not interested, or when a teacher must cancel a meeting or doesn’t fully engage in the learning materials. These should be considered opportunities to try a new approach or tweak an existing lesson instead of being discouraged. One thing that is clear after going through the process of creating an environment that supports authentic learning, is that even if we don’t get blended learning off the ground this year, I am learning how to handle it for the next attempt. I must choose to learn from my mistakes and try again.