Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mastery Matters for Motivation

In Daniel Pink's book Drive, the subject of mastery is explored, shedding great insight into the minds of young people.  The work of Carol Dweck is presented and is of significant importance, sharing that mastery is a mindset and that educators can help to foster such a view by choosing to establish learning goals over performance goals in the curriculum.  To be clear, “Getting an A in French class is a performance goal.  Being able to speak French is a learning goal.”  (pg. 122)  Dweck's work explores the idea of intelligence, and her research supports that one's own “self-theory” determines one's own limits.  Students who subscribe to what she calls “entity theory” believe that intelligence is limited and will respond to adversity by giving up, reasoning that they do not have the capacity to be successful.  In contrary, students who believe that with effort intelligence is increased, “incremental theory,” will perceive setbacks as an inevitable road to mastery.  The following example illustrates this principle:

“In one study, Dweck and a colleague asked junior high students to learn a set of scientific principles, giving half of the students a performance goal and half a learning goal.  After both groups demonstrated they had grasped the material, researchers asked the students to apply their knowledge to a new set of problems, related but not identical to what they'd just studied.  Students with learning goals scored significantly higher on these novel challenges.  They also worked longer and tried more solutions” (pg. 122)

Asking our students to learn something that matters will support an expansive mindset that embraces the  road to mastery, which motivates effort, creativity, and self-view.  Learning that is rigorous but not relevant will promote a mindset that embraces performance, a simple snapshot in time that is lost, is not truly valued, or authentic.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Brain Rules for Presenters

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Presenting to Your Students

In Brain Rules, author John Medina shares a suggestion for maximizing an audience's attention when presenting a lecture.  He suggests the “10-minute rule,” where a presenter has ten minutes to hook his/her audience into a presentation by giving them the gist of his/her ideas because the brain processes meaning before details.

A popular summarization strategy that can support this rule is GIST.  In short, you identify the Who, What, Why, Where, When & How, and then write a 20 word statement that embodies the key terms/concepts.

Citation:  http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/gist-summarizing-strategy-content-290.html

In presenting the gist, the purpose and direction of the lecture should be clearly mapped out and where the talk is in relationship to the map should be liberally repeated throughout.  This prevents multi-tasking (figuring out where the lecture is going and understanding what is being said), which takes away from a listener's ability to digest the material.

In addition, the 10-minute rule requires that the presenter re-engages with their listeners every ten minutes.  To maximize attention, these hooks need to trigger an emotion, be relevant, and either summarize or present the material in a ten-minute module.  Telling a relevant story, sharing a youtube clip that makes connections, or simply presenting an opportunity to turn-to-your-neighbor and discuss the material are meaningful ways to give the brain a break and enable the mind to process.

Finally, presenters need to be mindful that their listeners are not experts and that in order to understand, more time needs to be “devoted to connecting the dots,” as opposed to “relating too much information.”

In my practice, I am guilty of putting my students to sleep with endless powerpoint slides that conveyed very little meaning and lots of content, which I once thought was relevant.  Even when I stared into my clearly disengaged students' eyes, I plugged away, determined to prepare my students for district assessments or AP exams.  Nothing was learned during those sessions and my lofty goals of having my students master a ridiculous amount of material, in hindsight, was comical.  But that was the 20th century.  The 21st century will not put up with instructional strategies that waste time, one of our most valuable commodities.

How do you keep the brain in mind when presenting to your students?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mapping the Way

Curriculum mapping is a process that organizes learning in both a vertical and horizontal scope and sequence.  National and state standards, locally created power standards, essential questions and supporting questions, and essential skills and content are elements organized in a curriculum map.  These maps are used as a platform upon which teachers design lessons.  They are rarely shared as an instructional tool with students and often they find themselves in a binder on a dusty old shelf.

In Curriculum 21, Heidi Hayes Jacobs shares a couple of simple but effective ways to utilize curriculum maps in instruction.  At the beginning of a term or unit, a student can code the map to inform the teacher of his/her prior knowledge and skills, which inform decisions to support differentiation.

"Green:  I know this concept and/or I can do this skill
Yellow:  I know what this this concept and/or skill is, but I'm not confident that I can do it.
Red:  I don't know what this concept and/or skill is." (pg. 163)

At the end of a term or unit, a student can code the map to assess their understanding, inform the teacher if re-teaching/support is necessary, and facilitate student reflection.  With this standard, I feel:

"M=Most comfortable
N=Not quite comfortable
L=Least comfortable" (pg. 165)

As Jacobs writes, "Many students dread reflection, considering it to be a waste of time.  Many see it as a trap:  teachers ask a seemingly open-ended question, but the students believe that the teacher is only looking for certain buzzwords or validation about the "value" of the lesson--a kind of mandatory response." (pg. 164)  Grounding reflection in standards reaffirms the purposes of the unit/lessons, and assures students that their learning indeed has direction.