Plants and Power: Teachmeet Ashby

It has been a while. Both for blogging about a topic of a more stringent sense of substainance but also my attending a teachmeet. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed listening to the ideas and could only recall the fear of talking in front of grown ups instead of small people; with both these fuzzy memories in mind, I presented about the elements of Plants and Power this week. Here is a general summary:

Last year, I did two things that have had a profound impact upon my teaching approach. I watched Dr Angela Duckworth discuss the essence of grit, a measure that she cerated to monitor the link between effort and outcome. I also read Mindset by Dr Carol Dweck, who outlines her extensive study into growth mindset when approaching not only education but all aspects of life. I went away inspired by both women and it led me to thinking; how could I use these two ideas to make an impact upon student learning?

Having been an advocate of growth mindset for a while, I knew that my tutor group alone were  not buying it, and why would they? Watching a cartoon that tells you to think differently might make you stop for a moment, to then simply return to your routined, fixed mindset as you go about your day. Talking AT students doesn’t work, I already knew that, so why did I continue to think that doing so would make any sort of impact?

In my presentation, I funnelled my new approach into six tips for using growth and grit to develop students:

  1. Promote growth mindset by creating an environment where failure is not only inevitable but expected of yourself and others. Praise the admittance of failure or the realisation of failure in others. Create a classroom culture (which can only be developed, as with all things, over time) where students feel comfortable and confident to know that this is part of the process. Enjoy the feeling of failure together as though it is one big collaborative puzzle.
  2. Use questions for a learning objective. This is as simple as it gets but one of the most valuable things that I was taught as a PGCEr. Why instruct what we are going to learn? Why not exchange that statement for a question that the student can take ownership of, work towards, where the question can always be answered, developed, challenged, counter-argued?
  3. Model peer assessment and develop this process as a student-led task that requires all to actively contribute towards. Ensure that the peer assessment is as elaborate and rich in language as the piece of work itself. Be generous with the time and frequency, praising those that dedicate an equal amount of effort to peer assessment as they did the task. Request that students include a specific suggestion for improvement, exemplifying how this would look for one another or giving signposting as to what could help them to make the next steps; it is the emphasis on next steps rather than checkpoints which has driven this for me.
  4. Make marking fast and as embedded within the lesson and not outside of it as you possibly can. Target mark (success criteria numbered, students write out the success criteria target themselves) and shift the marking time within your lesson, post assessment, rather than as a solitary act for yourself as the teacher. Once you have marked and taken the temperature of the learning, students can then be highlighted as mentors to set improvement tasks for those with specific targets. Allow students to lead the reflection work and include the time for them to consider what they can do next to move on their learning.
  5. Encourage self-auditing. This is an entirely different process to learning over time and should be led by the student. Create a regular slot where students can look over their achievements and make a comparison to an assessment last year, their report, their own recollection of confidence. Provide a way for such things to be recorded so that they have a clear, defined way of celebrating their successes beyond simply the data on the page.
  6. This leads nicely on to letting students reflect, in as many ways as possible. Make what you are doing meaningful to the student by allowing them to consider what the purpose of the unit of work was beyond an exam; incorporate student voice either through exit slips( I like to create an online method using surveymonkey or google forms) or student voice meetings. Give students regular, in-depth ways for them to measure their progression as individuals.

If you have any questions regarding how I carry out such things within the classroom or would like a copy of any of the resources mentioned, please get in touch via @saysmiss and I am more than happy to share/collaborate/babble.


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