Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Learning from Setbacks

I just got back from an inspiring  presentation by Carol Dweck, author of Mindset.  In her presentation (and book, which I am thoroughly enjoying reading) Carol talks about two approaches to learning - the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. In a fixed mindset, a person believes that they have a certain amount of intelligence and that's it. In a growth mindset, a person believes that they can always learn, and if they put effort into something they will get results.  Failures do not stop people with a growth mindset.  These setbacks often spur these people on to work harder and make new discoveries.

This got me to thinking about my teaching and learning this year. This has been a huge year of growth for me personally and I have noticed that I am more reflective about my teaching.    One might say I am in a growth mindset now! 

I have been thinking about how we teach and assess children.   If we want our students to learn and grow, then we have to give them ample opportunities to try new things multiple times.  Recently, the Spanish teacher at our school started a project with the students in our class using Book Creator. After the first session with them, she came to tell us the conversations that were happening in her class as the students were creating their books in Spanish.  They weren't afraid to experiment with various things in their books and helped each other throughout the process. As she was talking about the way the children were forging ahead with the project, I couldn't help but think back to the beginning of the year and the first Book Creator books.  The students were afraid to try new things, and wanted  us to talk them through every step.  I remember thinking at this point if it was worth the effort of giving the students this experience.  It took a lot of resolve on my part to find another time for students to experience Book Creator again.  They did, several times, and each time more students felt more comfortable with their results. The ones who were willing to experiment and make discoveries seemed to generate a "can-do" attitude in the classroom.   

Listening to Carol Dweck tonight, I realize again how much impact teachers (and, of course, parents) have on the children in their lives.  If I had let my frustration and discomfort with the project affect the students' access to discoveries, they wouldn't have had the same learning experience in Spanish class.  It reinforced my belief that students need multiple opportunities and ways to show us what they know. Just because they have one setback doesn't mean that they can't learn! Thank you to Carol Dweck for your inspiring words!

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