Sunday, April 29, 2012

Change Mindsets First

I first heard about Carol Dweck and Mindset while participating in a grading and assessment consortium with Marzano Research Lab in Kansas City. I didn’t run out immediately and read the book. I wish I would have. At this consortium, we were being trained on how to implement various aspects of standards-based grading and how to bring our colleagues “back at the ranch” along with us. This group and a few other teachers at our high school were jumping on board and piloting standards-based grading.

As a result of this work, I was thinking we were nearing a tipping point and getting excited about bringing more teachers along. But I began noticing some red flags. Some teachers who were piloting standards-based grading were reverting back to attaching a grade to behavior as opposed to knowledge gained. Or, they were using the grade as an attempt to motivate students who were struggling or disengaged. Whoa Nelly…

This was a frustrating period of time. I couldn’t put my finger on the issue. All of the essential supports were in place. Then, I read the book. Mindset by Carol Dweck. Learning about fixed versus growth mindset was definitely game changing. In short, a fixed mindset believes that intelligence doesn’t change. We are born with it and stuck with whatever “brain cards” we have been dealt. A growth mindset believes that intelligence can be grown through effort and nurturing. The metaphor to grading is simple. Fixed mindset equals traditional, bell-curve thinking. Students will land on the curve naturally. Growth mindset is about the knowledge or skills gained over time. Learning happens in different time frames and in different ways. The grade will reflect where we land at the end of a course or unit of study. Fixed mindset is averaging. Growth mindset is trending.

It occurred to me that no matter what process or model for evaluating and assigning grades is in place, an individual can manipulate it to fit their own mindset. For any kind of major change, our mindset will determine the trajectory of success. Lesson learned. For our school’s standards-based grading change, we need to change our mindsets…first. 

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