There are lots of people that talk about the Growth Mindset as way to approach learning with students. However, just saying that and then not providing any means for students to see what that means is a waste of time for everyone. One of the things that has been important to me in crafting a class to help students understand the design process and how to improve critical thinking and problem solving skills was making sure the students have an opportunity to see their growth over the course of the class.
It is one thing to say that #MakerEd is all about the Growth Mindset, but it is not without some amount of structure and support from teachers. Here are some things that I have used to support a Growth Mindset in my new Innovation and Design class for middle school students.
- Reflection space and time - When of the parts that is important in a Growth Mindset is having the time to actually reflect on what went wrong and how the problem can be addressed differently the next time it is encountered. This reflection time can be through a conference with the teacher, but I really feel it is important to give students a space to write and internally reflect before conferencing with the teacher. It depends on the maturity of the students, but time to process and reflect is huge if we really want students to have a Growth Mindset.
I have created little journals that will be given to students to do reflecting and sketching. Just giving students a box to write in on the assignment sheet to reflect would be a good start for any type of assignment.
- Do not grade - This is a tough one for some teachers because they may be required to give students grades at the end of the marking period or have to have a certain number of assessments that are graded and in a grade book. I would suggest looking for ways to create some projects that do not need to be graded. I have found that not grading the projects in my design class has led to much higher engagement and perseverance on the work done in class.
There was one student who had created 5 or 6 different versions of his device to place around a Sphero that would allow it to drive around. When I gave him an opportunity to just post about the failures and what he learned, he refused. He told me that he did not want to fail at completing the task. He felt he was so close and wanted to try one more thing. His mom, who is a teacher in the high school, came down to pick him up a little early and he refused to go until he finished his design. The mom was blown away at the commitment her son had for the assignment. It was a wonderful example that reinforced my belief that a class like this should not be graded because students will try so much harder and take risks because they do not have to fear letter grade failure.
- Allow students to share their work - This is a big one for me because it is important for students to take pride in their work they are doing, but also see the work that other students are doing in the class as well. By using tools like Google Classroom, SeeSaw, or other portfolio based type programs, students can collect and showcase learning to others. I really like using SeeSaw because it is much easier for parents to jump in and see the work that students are doing and comment on it. It creates a much larger learning community for students to share their work in and that helps students overall. Learning from others who are tackling the same problems and seeing how they found a solution aids in the overall learning of a student.
- Give students a voice and a choice - Giving students a voice and a choice in their work has a huge impact on their ability to truly embrace a Growth Mindset. To put it simply, the students are more engaged when they have a connection to the work they are doing. When they are more engaged, they will be more resilient when things do not go their way. If a student does not want to make a poster board for their project, but that is what is required in class, they will not put in the effort required and will give up easily if things get too complicated. Allowing students the ability to choose their approach to creating something to address the problem or assignment is a great way to encourage engagement and support a Growth Mindset. If the student cares, they will not give up.
One of my Seniors is really into woodworking after having a taste of it for a class last year. She built her entire capstone project this year around learning to do basic woodworking and creating a class to propose to the school in the Spring. She is teaching herself different aspects of woodworking with some guidance from me and it not being held back by any roadblocks that pop up. She is currently working on a table top that she is routing out based a sketch she had. She wants to use epoxy and stain to make the tabletop really come to life. She also wants to use a stump as the base of the table because she thinks it will look very cool. Dried stumps can cost a couple hundreds of dollars. Instead of letting that keep her down, she spent hours researching how to dry her own stump in the basement of her house to use for the project. Now she is looking for a stump. She could have quit, but she chose to learn something new and tackle the problem a different way. That is exactly what we want to see from our students.
When it comes to MakerEd and the Growth Mindset, it is important to make sure we are setting up a framework that will support our students as they design and fail. Those frameworks will help supporting learning that will last long beyond their years in school.
If you are interested in Growth Mindset, MakerEd, PBL, and other fun and engaging practices with students, feel free to shoot me an email and we can connect and share ideas.
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