"Mindsets are not all or nothing. They are not fixed, but they can be deveoped."
- Carol Dweck
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 was due to a media pass provided by the event organisers
Day one of the EduTECH 2017 conference dawned grey and wet. It was not conducive to bouncing out of bed with vim and vigour. I had stayed in Sydney overnight and I headed off to ClickView HQ as I was scheduled to present a webinar with Ryan Gill about Cultures of Thinking. I have had the benefit of hearing Ryan present on Cultures of Thinking a few times now, and this webinar was just a taster of the overall concept of Cultures of Thinking, but the feedback that I have been receiving from those who watched it live and also the recording afterwards has been overwhelmingly positive. Ryan definitely excited people for the potential of cultures of thinking as a framework for encouraging thinking moves in our students. You can watch the session below.
I ended up being late to EduTECH as a result of the webinar and missed the first ten or so minutes of CarolDweck's talk. I have not heard her speak before and I have never invested the time to dive deep into the theory of growth mindset and I acknowledge that my understanding is fairly basic and superficial. Considering the topic, I would have expected a passionate talk, however, it came across to me as rather rote. Maybe it is because I have not presented anywhere near the number of times that Carol has, but I still get excited to share with people. While I was incredibly nervous leading up to the breakout sessions later in the afternoon, I was excited for them as well as it was a chance to share my little area of knowledge with people.
One of the questions that Carol asked early on in her presentation (I am only aware of this thanks to Twitter) was where did the joy of learning and tackling challenges go? I struggle with this; and perhaps it is because I do not fully comprehend the concept of growth mindset. We all, at times, get excited to be learning about something and to be challenged in an area of interest to us or in a completely new field of learning. At the same time, we all, at times, hate being challenged and having our understanding shown to be lacking; we just want to get on with whatever it is we are doing knowing that we know enough and have a solid enough understanding. I think the joy of learning and tackling challenges is still present, however, as witha great many things in life it is contextual.
Carol Dweck indicated that mindsets are dynamic, not fixed. From my limited understanding of Growth Mindset that is clearly an inherently fundamental concept that is implied in the very name and making this a statement of the obvious. Perhaps there was a method to it, however, as Carol also gave some background to growth mindset origins, speaking about the origins of the IQ test, originally developed by Alfred Binet (though modified andupdated many times since). I have admit that I missed the context here, but she remarked that Binet very much had a growth mindset and would be horrified at the way in which they were being used now. I am not sure about this; based upon a quick Google search (yes, I am well aware of the pitfalls of such a thing), it appears that the original purpose of the Binet-Simon IQ Test was to assist in identifying intellectually challenged children in France after mandatory education for children was made law in the late nineteenth century (per this article).
Carol moved on to emark that mindset is not just individual, that it can be cultural and organisational as well, affecting the trajectory of a country or company as much as it affects the life of an individual. Further to this, she remarked tht growth mindset is about empowerment and that from this, we take risks and enjoy learning. I can certainly understand and agree with the sentiment relating empowerment and a willingness to take risks. I am less comfortable, however, in recognising empoewrment as linking to an enjoyment of learning. Perhaps I am highlighting my own ignorance here and I have completely misunderstood growth mindset, as well as missing the first five to ten minutes of Carol's talk, however, I do not understand how on the one hand it can be said that the love of taking risks and enjoying challenges has disappeared, whilst linking empowerment and enjoyment of learning on the other. I just cannot understand the correlatory link.
The next phase of Carol's talk was interesting as it was about the brain activity related to different mindsets based upon work by Moser et al in 2011. What they found, or my understanding of what they found is that after connecting participants to an EEG machine to monitor brain activity and found that the mindset of participants, fixed or growth, was identifiable in brainwave activity as they completed the tasks, which Carol demonstrated using the below image.
Those with a fixed mindset apparently have less brain activity than those with growth mindset. I have to admit to not having read the Moser et al research and so I daresay that these questions are answered in the nethodology section of the paper, however, was the activity interest-neutral? What inherent biases were present in the activity? What was the size and makeup of the research population? What was the control? What statistical analysis processes were used and why those processes?
It was then remarked that there is a rise in the number of false- growth mindsets; that saying you are optimistic or perservering is not true growth mindset. This then led to an acknowledgement that we are all a mixture of fixed and growth midnsets, that mindset is fluid and dynamic not static. How does this relate to the nature of bottom-up and top-down thinking whick Jared Cooney Horvath (@JCHorvath) spoke about during his sesison later at EduTECH (and which I will review in a later article)? The impression that I have always had is that we shoud aim to be growth mindset all the time, however, Carol's comment that we are a dynamic mixture of fixed and growth mindset seems contradictory to that and, to be honest, leaves me rather confused about the whole concept.
The final aspect of growth mindset that was discussed was the issue of transfer; the notion tht teachers who have growth mindsets are not necessarily transferring this to students. Hang on, are children not some of the most inquisitive and open to learning people we know? The sponge-like, naturally inquisitive nature of children is well-known to anyone who has had a child; my nine-month old daughter is currently exploring the house, crawling from room to room, touching everything, looking in the mirror and trying to work out what that other baby is doing copying her, hitting the floor drain in the bathroom repeatedly to produce that delightful dull whump sound...and putting a great number of things in her mouth. My own experience thus far as a teacher had shown that even the most disinterested child will ask questions about something new or novel.
I wonder instead if it the nature of schooling that drills this inquisitiveness out of students, giving us students who often just want to know what the answer is or how to produce the essay correctly; they adapt to the game of school, showing a growth mindset in that adaptability, but then transition to fixed when they struggle to adapt to an unexpected change in pedagogy, such as the abolishment of grades or a move to flipped learning, or the introduction of project based learning. Or do I completely have the wrong end of the stick?
Another tenet of growth mindset is that we should not just be praising the effort or the result, but the process that leads to the result; identify their process and effective effort, not just praise effort for the sake of praising effort. This is a topic that Brian Host wrote about during the week with an article titled The Future of Education. This is a sound and beneficial pedagogical practice anyway, irrespective of growth midnset as a concept.
As part of this process, Carol recommended sharing the struggle together through opening our staff meetings with what we struggle with and normalising the struggles. I like and loathe this concept at the same time. Depending on the school culture, it could be an incredibly beneficial process, sharing struggles, strategies for addressing those struggles etc. This could turn into a professional learning process within the school, with staff banding together in common struggles of practice to benefit their own practice and the students in our classes. It could also create an incredibly tocix culture of complaint without direction or action to resolve.
The concept of not yet came up next, which is an interesting way of thinking about our students learning, conceptualising it more in line with competencies similarly to the way that VET courses are assessed. This is an interesting link to the comment that the way in which teachers and parents treat and talk about mistakes and failure plays a significant role in the way that students conceptualise and achieve a growth mindset.
The comment that stood out from this section of the talk was that you can wall with ice-cream or get back to work. This is an interesting remark in that it implies that you can't wallow with ice-cream and get on with work. I think the comment that a number of people on social media to that sounding analgous to the FAIL=First Attempt in Learning adage. I am aware that that saying is a little contrived, however, it does feed into growth mindset and is a good approach to teaching and learning.
That was the end of Carol's presentation and I have to admit to feeling underwhelmed. I have sat down for presentations before on topics tht I am not sold on the value of, and have been open to having my opinion changed. This was one of those topics, however, I did not on this occasion come away with my mind changed on the topic; I am still not sold on growth mindset. Carol's talk was interesting, however, there was nothing there for me that was an a-ha moment. I am certianly open to feedback on this topic as I was late to the presentation and my grasp is still not strong on the theory.
Thank you for reading this article in the EduTECH 2017 series. If you have missed any of the previous articles in the series, including the storify, you can find them here.
"Important achievements require a clear focus, all-out effort, and a bottomless trunk full of strategies. Plus allies in learning."
- Attributed to Carol Dweck
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 is under a media pass provided by the event organisers.
The process of selecting sessions to attend once again resulted in a spreadsheet of each stream with session details, much frustration as I realised that two sessions I wanted to attend were on at the same time, and balancing the challenge of getting to as many sessions as possible with my own mental health. I am quite happy with my selection and am looking forward to the first day of EduTECH.
It will begin early, as I am co-hosting a webinar with Ryan Gill focusing on Cultures of Thinking from the ClickView office in Pyrmont, just a short stroll away from the ICC (click here for more details and to register), and it will end, quite possible, rather late, as I am attending the EduTECH Gala Dinner (I am particularly looking forward to hearing Sam Kekovich as, like many, my knowledge of him is from the Australia Day lamb advertisements).
The opening plenary sessions look rather interesting, with Professor Carol Dweck delivering the opening keynote. I am passingly familiar with her work, but have never had the opportunity to hear her speak on it before and am looking forward to hearing about her theories on Growth Mindset than what I have had the opportunity (or time) to do so in the past. I have heard some educators comment that they believe growth mindset is an overdone theory, but I certainly have not heard enough about it to comment either way. I will of course be live-tweeting and will hopefully be able to expand my understanding of growth mindset.
Following Carol Dweck is an interesting panel session titled A Global Context for Education in meeting the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. This seems an interesting topic to have in a plenary session, and the personnel involved are a broad mix of education and corporate/charity. I have to profess a complete ignorance of the seventeen United Nations Sustainable Development goals as a concept, though a quick look at the list indicates that achieving all of the goals would be tantamount to a miracle. With the background of the individuals involved in the panel, I look forward to hearing their take on this broad list of goals and how we can contribute to them as educators.
The final session in the plenary session is being delivered by Bradley Loiselle and will be addressing the changing needs of education in emerging countries such as India. Specifically, the abstract for this presentation indicates that technology will be the equaliser, giving the impression that this talk will focus on how to put the technology in the hands of educators and students in those emerging countries in, presumably, an appropriate and sustainable way.
Following the plenary sessions is where my juggling act begins. I need to get to each stream at least once, allow myself time to eat (at least) lunch, give myself time to decompress and mitigate conference-itis, as well as get some writing done and catch up with colleagues and members of my online professional learning network.
I plan to start in the Higher Education stream, with Jack Hylands' presentation on Preparing Students for the economies of the future as the start facts presented by Jan Owen at FutureSchools earlier this year highlight this as being an interesting insight into how the higher education sector is adjusting to the demands placed on them by our changing society and work forces. I will be staying on theme, though shifting across to the Tertiary Education IT Leaders conference, to hear Professor Louise Stoll speak about professional learning communities and why building those networks and relationships is important.
Following Professor Stoll's presentation, I am looking forward to Kim Maksimovic speak in the K-12 Ed Leaders stream on the topic of engaging students who lack self-efficacy with technology. This whole topic is an interesting one as it really destroys the notion of digital native vs digital immigrant (which I have written about briefly before, see here). I have seen a fantastic re-imagining of the gap between those who are au fait with technology and those who are not, however, I can find no trace of it in my previous writings. It was a video shown at a conference, and it was a brilliant discussion of the difference and why digital native/immigrant was not an appropriate way of conceptualising the gap.
The next session, presented by Greg Whitby, is of particular interest to me both with my teacher hat on and my ClickView hat. Schooling in a one-to-one world is billed to be an analysis and exploration of the frameworks within which one-to-one schooling operates and how these shape pedagogy. One-to-one is not quite at the level that I would call pervasive, however, the terminology is now widely known and the vast majority of schools that I have visited this year have either moved or are in the process of moving to this scenario. The one school that I have visited who have indicated that there are no plans to roll out one-to-one have done so because of the extreme low socio-economic status of the area and the school )I did not enquire into their RAM funding as that would clearly not have been appropriate).
After Greg's session, I have about twenty minutes for a mental break. I will most likely spend it reviewing the breakout session that I will be presenting, yet will ensure that I take some time to stop and breath. The lunch break will be shortened so that I can ensure things are ready to start on time as immediately afterwards I will be presenting three x thirty minute breakout sessions. I rang the contact person to chat abut what I wanted to achieve and discovered that, where I would have been excited to have thirty people in each session, that over one hundred had chosen to attend my breakout session on flipped learning. There may have been some stunned silence on my end of the phone. I have had to tweak how I wanted to run the session due to the numbers, however, I have still been able to flip the session (pre-learning video below) to ensure that the session is as useful as possible to attendees. I have also had a few people in my twitter network indicate that they are attending which increases the (self-imposed) pressure.
After the breakout sessions is the afternoon tea break, which I will undoubtedly spend coming down from the adrenaline and nerves; and hopefully engaging in some follow up discussions with various attendees from the session, before heading into the final plenary sessions for two very interesting talks.
Abdul Chohan will be presenting on utilising classroom technologies to lead effective pedagogical change. The pedagogy should absolutely lead the choice in technology rather than the other way around, and it is a difficult balance to find. Schools that I have visited who have succesfully implemented various changes including one-to-one, makerspace, project based learning, flipped learning, have done so by beginning the change by asking what the desired impact on pedagogy and learning is. The conversations that I have had with Ryan Gill around Cultures of Thinking and the courses that he runs at Masada College; and the work they do with other schools in that area, all stem from asking what is the desired outcome, what is the pedagogical need or question driving the choice to engage with cultures of thinking. The dog/pedagogy should wag the tail/technology, not the other way around.
Finishing the day, before the networking drinks and gala dinner, is Peter Adams who will be addressing PISA, the myths and the facts around the data that emanate from PISA and what we can learn from the success of others. I have heard talks on PISA in the past (this presentation by Brett Salakas for example) and the arguments for an against PISA are plentiful. I look forward to hearing Peter expand on the facts of what PISA tells us and what, if anything, we can learn from other countries and their own PISA results.
Thank you for reading through this article. If you are heading to EduTech, let me know via Twitter as it would be great to catch up with some of my PLN, especially over dinner and a few drinks if you are attending the Gala Dinner.
For all articles in this series on EduTECH 2017, please click here.