Saturday, October 3, 2015

Fall 2015 Update: Week 4 and Week 5 Challenges

I've shared previously updates from Week 1, and then from Weeks 2 and 3 of my classes this semester, and here is an update for Weeks 4 and 5.

As I mentioned last time, I am really happy that any students at all are doing the growth mindset challenges because they are "extras" on top of the regular reading and writing for this class. In Weeks 4 and 5, four new students tried doing growth mindset challenges who had not done them before, so that is encouraging — if there are just a couple of new students each week who give this a try, I will be pleased! So far, one-third of the class has tried at least one growth mindset challenge since learning about growth mindset back in the first week. In addition to completing the actual growth mindset challenges, students will sometimes mention growth mindset in other posts for the class (like here, here, here, here and here) which I think is great to see, and it also means more students in the class might catch the idea that way as well.

And now, here's the good part: highlights from the growth challenge posts the students wrote over the past couple of weeks! You can see the stream here: Growth Posts.

Learning More. This great post is a student's response to an article by Nicholas Provenzano: Creativity in the Classroom. I agree very much with her closing comments here: "I really admire this teacher for investing so much of his time and resources to encourage creativity in his students. Nowadays, school curriculum focuses mainly on passing standardized exams and maintaining a high GPA. How can anyone be creative when students are taught to think the same? Study this book. Pass the test. Move forward. Does a score on an exam really define an individual? Why must we quantify everything? Several questions popped into my head as I read the article, but my main question is why aren't more educators teaching growth mindset?"

I shared her post with Nicholas Provenzano at Twitter (he's one of those Twitter celebrities I have never interacted with before!), and he was very pleased as you can see:

The Power of Yet. This student is using the "power of yet" to try to manage her anxiety about an accounting class: read her post. I think that's great; I don't learn well at all when I am under stress, and I am sure that is true for others as well. Using the power of "yet" and positive self-talk to shift from a focus on grades to the learning itself seems like a great strategy to me! She included this funny grumpy cat meme in the post too. I know there are classes out there that do make people cry, but a meme can be a humorous antidote, and humor is very good for relieving stress.

And here's another post from a student dealing with some major stress this semester; I am really glad that growth mindset can be a help in finding ways to cope!

And for the "power of yet" this student created a motivational poster as her challenge:

Favorite Meme. One of the challenges is to take a growth mindset meme (from the class announcements, from Pinterest, anywhere at all) and write some thoughts about it. I was really glad that a student picked this growth mindset cat to write about; I wish I could wave a magic wand to make everyone unafraid for exactly the reasons the student discusses here: "Failure is what teaches us new things, so why do we we fear it? We should all take that leap of faith and take action instead of running away from our problems. Maybe once we get started, we realized it wasn't so bad after all, and finally... maybe we will learn something new."

Another student wrote about a meme that helped her with some academic challenges in other classes: "This meme spoke to my soul this weekend as I looked back on how much I have struggled through the past two weeks! Having 200 points out of a thousand total in the past couple of weeks for one of my classes, all in the form of exams or quizzes, definitely tested my mindset! But I worked really hard to make sure that I didn't look at anything I was doing through a fixed mindset, but rather a growth mindset! I loved this meme and I will definitely bring it to mind if I struggle in the week to come! Plus who doesn't love a cat meme?!"

During the Review week posts, students pick out a favorite items from the past week's announcements; they often pick one of the growth mindset cats, and last week several people picked this particular cat. Here is what one student commented: "I just love this meme from the Class Announcements! I have found a lot of inspiration from the cat memes related to growth mindset this week, as I have needed quite a bit of motivation this weekend to get my stuff together and do what I need to do!"

Make a Meme. Many of the students are making dog memes since, of course, there is already a steady supply of cat memes from yours truly. So here is a meme with a Saint Bernard puppy; she used a tool called GroupMe which is new to me, so I learned something new too (it's a group text message app). Here is what she says about her meme: "My meme says "Big Dreams Start with Baby Steps." I chose this caption because people tend to forget that there was always a beginner before there was an expert. The hardest part of any challenge is actually starting it. My brother has always told me that once you get past the beginning, then the hardest part is over. I'm the type of person that is afraid of change, but I always need change. It's complicated. I believe that everyone should have a dream or something that excites you. Chase after that dream even if it seems impossible. All it takes is determination, passion, and some baby steps."

Writing Challenge. A student in the class wrote a new kind of story this week as a personal challenge... and she chose a storytelling style that I absolutely love, a cumulative tale. You can read her post and see a link to her story here: The Little Witch's Mabon. Another student experimented with his reading diary (read his post here); in the end, he decided to stick with the style he was using before, but trying out a new style purely as an experiment is great. You don't know until you try!

Editing Challenge. One student had a story that was really long (really really long), and so I suggested she use the growth mindset challenge as an opportunity to practice some new kinds of revising focused on shortening the story to make it really sharp and focused. She had a very positive experience with that, even though it was an "outside of the comfort zone" writing experience for her (here is her post), and based on her good experience with that, I added the "revising challenge" to the growth mindset challenge list, in addition to the writing challenge that was already there.

If You Ran the School. I was so excited that a student picked this challenge to think about how a school could be run differently to help promote growth mindset. The problem, as he sees it, is grading: "Sometimes I think we just come to school to get graded. I mean is that not the goal it get good grades and then leave. I think that is a trap that many of us fall into here at a big university. We just try to get our grade and then move on but we never take the time to really learn. If I could change one thing about it would be taking a step away from grades and moving more towards learning. Sometimes that is lost in our large classes and that a shame because I love learning but I hate getting graded. It makes me dislike school because I am afraid I will get something wrong, when in reality I should be happy that I tried something new." (I agree absolutely; students hate being graded and I suspect there are a lot of teachers how, like me, hate giving grades too!)

Another student used this meme as a prompt for reflections about school: "You have the students that may have a better sense of what to do in the job force, but because I may have a higher GPA in a field than they do (because they may be bad at taking tests, but, in fact, they are much more well-versed in the material than I) I may get the job over them. I believe that there is a problem with our school system, but also a problem with what we tell students their priorities should be."

Growth Mindset... Seen Elsewhere. I am really excited when I hear from students about intersections with growth mindset elsewhere. This student wrote about seeing a growth mindset poster that came through her Facebook feed this week, and she saved it and shared it in her blog: "This reminded me of my struggle to change my mindset when it comes to my classes and even though this is made for elementary aged school children, I found the signs really helpful!"

Talking about Mindset. I really enjoy the blog posts by students who do the challenge of finding someone to have a conversation with, sharing ideas about growth mindset. This student talked with a friend about growth mindset being used in schools (here is the full post): "I then talked to her about how useful it would be if the education system taught with a growth mindset and consistently challenged students."

Successful Experiment. Finally, some observations from a student's "famous last words" post, a self-reflection post that they can write each week. This post alone makes the growth mindset experiment this semester totally worth it: "My favorite assignments for this class are the growth mindset posts. I like to explore more about growth mindset. Believe it or not, it has affected my life more than I can imagine."

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