Monday, August 31, 2015

English: Follow your bliss.

I was inspired by this share from Open Culture - 48 Hours of Joseph Campbell Lectures Free Online: The Power of Myth & Storytelling - to do a Joseph Campbell cat today, using one of Joseph Campbell's most famous words of wisdom.

I started with this graphic from the Joseph Campbell Foundation:



Then I found a photo by Brad Esau of the beautiful Mrs. Bean (more about Brad and Mrs. Bean and more Mrs. Bean memes) and used Automotivator to make the graphic:


My general formula for my students is 
"Follow your bliss."

Find where it is,

and don't be afraid to follow it.





Thursday, August 27, 2015

English: Follow your enthusiasm!

Follow your enthusiasm!


Today's cat is an enthusiastic learner! You might also consider the wise words of Joseph Campbell: Follow your bliss. You can read more at the Joseph Campbell website.



The image is made with cheezburger.





Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Monday, August 24, 2015

English: Make notes.

An important part of developing a growth mindset is being reflective, and in order to reflective, you need to make notes so that as a learning experiment proceeds, you'll be able to look back and see what worked and what didn't work. In order to focus on the process rather than the product, you need to make notes! Then, you can look back later and reflect effectively.

For more about the power of writing, see this great blog post at Lifehacker: How Writing Makes People Smarter by David K. William
Here are the topics covered in that article:
1. Writing helps us untangle the messiness in our minds and allows for clearer thinking.
2. Writing helps us absorb information better and learn significantly more.
3. Writing helps us process negative feelings and improves our emotional intelligence.


I made the image with cheezburger.

Make notes!


Saturday, August 22, 2015

English: Look boldly ahead.

This is another one of Brad Esau's lovely photographs of Mrs. Bean. For more about Brad and Mrs. Bean, see this earlier post. You will be able to see all the Mrs. Bean posts as I add them using this link: more Mrs. Bean memes.

Each word of today's growth mindset advice is important:

LOOK: Look for yourself; don't wait for others to tell you. Use your eyes and your mind to see what's going on around you.

BOLDLY: Set aside your fears; fear is the mind killer (yes, that's from the Litany Against Fear in the great sci-fi novel Dune).

AHEAD: Don't worry about the past; look to the future instead. Growth goes forward. :-)

Look boldly ahead.




Wednesday, August 19, 2015

English: Take some time to reflect.

This is another one of Brad Esau's lovely photographs of Mrs. Bean. For more about Brad and Mrs. Bean, see this earlier post.

You will be able to see all the Mrs. Bean posts as I add them using this link: more Mrs. Bean memes.

Take some time to reflect.




Monday, August 17, 2015

Is It Growth Mindset If You Grade It? (I say: no.)



(From Cheezburger.)

I really wanted to write up something inspired by Andrew Rikard's great piece in edSurge that I saw last week: Do I Own My Domain If You Grade It? And the opportunity to do that crystalized with Alfie Kohn's piece in Salon, which really surprised me: The perils of “Growth Mindset” education: Why we’re trying to fix our kids when we should be fixing the system. How a promising but oversimplified idea caught fire, then got coopted by conservative ideology.

Here's the problem: it's my first day of classes, and I am soooo busy. Which means I would implore people to read both of these important articles and see what you think when you juxtapose them! I agree with Rikard, I disagree with Kohn... but I think they are both motivated by the same desire: we have to do something about the mind-numbing curriculum of our schools which promotes obedience instead of student agency and real learning. I have found that thinking about the growth mindset is a great way to re-focus on agency and learning, and here are some quick thoughts for now which I will come back to later... hopefully with some good observations from my students about THEIR perceptions of growth mindset as they blog about that this week and next!

Quick thoughts:

Grading is the great evil IMO. Rikard's article is really excellent on this crucial point. As long as grading is the pseudo-objective locus of teacher/institutional authority in the classroom, it is going to undermine all kinds of pedagogical efforts to encourage student-centered learning, open-ended inquiry, creativity, learner agency, etc. Domain of One's Own is a fantastic opportunity to reimagine class in a new way, but not if the work students do is just more "schooliness" that gets sucked into the grading abyss: "The web is a network for conversations, and if students still see their audience as a teacher with a red pen, then nothing changes."

Get rid of grading, and make room for growth instead. For me, the reason growth mindset resonates so well with my classes is that I have had the chance to slowly shed all vestiges of grading from my classes. Yes, I still have to report a grade for my students, but I don't put grades on anything — the students do their own grading. (More about that here; I wish we could dispense with grading entirely, but my institution requires a final grade.) What made reading Kohn's article so strange was that he was a key person in the process of my giving up grading in order to make room for growth mindset approaches instead! So, I was very surprised to see him lashing out at growth mindset like this.

Growth mindset is NOT just grit. I'll admit that one of the discouraging things about getting engaged in the growth mindset community online this summer (something I really had not done before) is seeing that some people do equate growth mindset with grit. I don't see it that way at all: I see growth mindset as being much more than just persistence; it also needs open-ended inquiry and creativity which, in my opinion, allies it much more closely with the maker movement than it does with the grit movement.

Growth mindset does require slack. Instead of being about grit, I see growth mindset as being about slack — and insofar as slack is a locus of inequity and injustice in our schools, growth mindset makes us ask questions about just how has slack and who does not. One of the ways I create slack for my students is by getting rid of grading, for example. If you are really serious about giving students freedom to fail and the time to practice, you cannot be grading them on a one-size-fits-all/none measure, and you cannot afford to waste their time with meaningless tests. By getting rid of tests and grading, I create some slack in my classes that students don't have in their other classes, and I hope they will use that slack as a space in which to grow. (For more about slack and grit, see Paul Thomas, e.g. The Poverty Trap: Slack, Not Grit, Creates Achievement).

I have always practiced growth mindset as a design principle for my classes, but this year I got inspired to make it a more explicit part of the class, and I am really curious to see what the students will do with this; I am going to learn a lot from their responses. Here's how I have set that up: Growth Mindset Challenges for Fall 2015. I'll come back and update this post in a couple of weeks when I can share some of the students' thoughts about all this.

Finally, a few words about Kohn's article in particular. Reading it made me feel much like I felt reading articles that dismissed online education entirely because of its bad use in Coursera MOOCs. Online education is far more than what Coursera does with it, and growth mindset is far more than what grit-mongers might be doing with it. You cannot blame the idea of growth mindset for bad curriculum, as Kohn does here: just the opposite, I would say — being aware of growth mindset helps us realize that a rigid, mindless, disinterested, uninteresting curriculum cannot be a space in which people grow as learners.

He blames growth mindset somehow (?) for "cramming forgettable facts into short-term memory." I don't understand: what does bad rote instruction have to do with growth mindset and people who practice it? Growth mindset is not about doing whatever you are told to do, and I'm not sure how Kohn got that impression, except insofar as that kind of unflinching persistence is something I've seen associated with the grit advocates.

He attacks the dispensing of praise, any kind of praise, as a reward system, as patronizing (all praise is patronizing? really?), but what growth mindset actually encourages is SELF-talk; sure, I praise my students for their efforts, but I find it much more important that they can do accurate self-assessments, proactive self-talk, and also praise for their own work and for the work of other students in the class. In fact, the more we can take me out of the equation entirely, the better; growth mindset does not require you to have a teacher at all, which is one of the very appealing things about it.

Most strangely of all, Kohn equates growth mindset with grades, tests, and competition in a way that I do not understand. Where does he get that...? He also claims that Dweck has allied herself with the grit advocates, but he doesn't give details about that either. From what I've read of Dweck, she emphasizes a combination of creativity, experimentation, purposeful practice, and hard work, all of which resonate with me, especially as a teacher of writing.

If Kohn wants to know why so many of us teachers have embraced this approach (he says he is baffled by that), he just needs to ask. I hope I have explained here some of what has motivated me in using the growth mindset approach in designing my classes, and also why I am excited about making it a more explicit part of the class to see in what directions the students will take these ideas. He claims that growth mindset discourages change in school; just speaking for myself (and who else can I speak for?), that is not the case.

I do agree that we need to think systematically about institutions and institutional change — and for me, growth mindset is a big part of how I do that, helping me to challenge and critique my school's grade-driven and test-driven curriculum and the terrible damage that approach can do to students. I wish I saw growth mindset approaches with creativity and curiosity and risk-taking among the administrators at my school; if they could embrace some of these growth mindset principles, we might then be able to have the conversations we need to have about getting rid of testing, getting rid of grading, and finding ways to create more meaningful classes.

For some similar thoughts by someone else who is also baffled by Kohn's article, see this more detailed blog post: WHAT THE WHAT???? WTW. I also agree with the detailed analysis here: My Response to Alfie Kohn's Attack on 'Growth Mindset.'

And for today's growth mindset cat, I picked one that embodies the curiosity and creativity and sheer freedom that is such an important part of the growth mindset approach as I see it, and why cats are a great way to express that philosophy in memes, curious creatures that they are!


Sunday, August 16, 2015

English: Growth mindset means... you chase your dreams.

I am excited about today's cat because this is the first in what will be a series of Mrs. Bean pictures! Mrs. Bean is the marvelous cat who belongs to my friend Brad Esau, and her life really is a story of the growth mindset in action. You can learn more about her at photographer Brad's SmugMug albums (Mrs. Bean and More Mrs. Bean), and you can read Mrs. Bean's story in her book at PhotoBox: A Year of Mrs. Bean. The photo is used by the kind permission of the author; you can follow Brad at Google+ (he is one of my G+ favorites for all the photos and writing he shares).

This photo is Mrs. Bean in Motion. As I add more, I'll label them: more Mrs. Bean memes. And thanks again, Brad, for letting me do this! Mrs. Bean will win new fans and admirers this way I hope!


Growth mindset means... you chase your dreams.





Saturday, August 15, 2015

English: This may take some time and effort.

I was inspired by one phrase from the graphic below — This may take some time and effort — and I used this cheezburger image to make the cat. This cat doesn't think, "This is too hard!" ... but it may indeed take some time and effort. :-)


I first found the "Change Your Words" graphic at a blog post by Jackie Gerstein: The Educator with a Growth Mindset: A Staff Workshop (see that graphic below). I've also seen this version of the sayings making the rounds:

CJXGIJkWsAAF51m.jpg:large

Here's the other version of the graphic: colorful, but harder to read. I've transcribed the text below.

Growth Mindset and SBG Bulletin Board Downloads
(visit the blog post for full-sized version)


I'm not good at this.
What am I missing?

This is too hard.
This may take some time and effort.

I'm awesome at this!
I'm on the right track.

I give up.
I'll use some of the strategies I've learned.

It's good enough.
Is this really my best work?

I'll never be as smart as her.
I'm going to figure out what she does and try it.

I made a mistake.
Mistakes help me improve.

I can't do math.
I'm going to train my brain in math.

I can't make this any better.
I can always improve; I'll keep trying.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

English: Confront your fears.

Fear is sometimes a big obstacle to growth. Try to confront your fears. If you need help confronting something you are afraid of, talk about it with your a friend or a family member or your teacher. Sometimes just by confronting your fear, it becomes less scary!

Confront your fears.


If you are a fan of Harry Potter, you might recall the great scene in which Professor Lupin teaches the students to use a "riddikulus" spell to confront their fears:

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

English: It takes work to build a masterpiece.

This cat was inspired by Josh Birdwell's blog post/poem: Tools - Day 5 of 100. Here is the complete stanza:

It will take work to build a master piece
Be aware of the resources
And the tools that come along in life
Do not miss out on the opportunity
To make something awesome
Go get your hands dirty

The cat is from Cheezburger. and for another post inspired by this same blog post, see Tools are essential.

It takes work to build a masterpiece.



English: Tools are Essential

This cat was inspired by Josh Birdwell's blog post/poem: Tools - Day 5 of 100. Here is the complete stanza:

Countless objects are around
That alone are useless
But together can build
Something worth while
Tools are essential
In the building process
Because they give you leverage and
Help fit together the objects

The cat image is from Cheezburger, and for another post inspired by this same blog post, see It takes work to build a masterpiece.

Tools are essential.