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Author: leval

Chapter 8: Growing

This post is by Peter Arthur.

Chapter 8 BIG Idea

Similar to intelligence, mindsets are malleable and can be developed. There are many curricular interventions teachers may implement to support students with developing a strong growth mindset towards intelligence and all areas of life.

What is Growth and Fixed Mindset?

Students with a fixed mindset believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that. Many of us have heard a student stating that they are bad at _____, has always been bad at ______, their brother is bad at _____, their sister is bad at _____ and they are bad at _____…they were born that way and there is nothing they can do about it. Conversely, students with a growth mindset understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.

Mindset has an impact on a student’s motivation to work in the face of failure and setbacks.  Those students who attribute failure to their own inability i.e. “I’m not Intelligent” become helpless because it is something they can’t control.  However, those who interpret failure as a result of insufficient effort or an ineffective strategy dig deeper and try different approaches.  This is something a student CAN control

Mindset Strategies to Integrate into your Teaching 

1. Reward Growth – Design your assessment strategy to align with rewarding intellectual growth.

  • Weigh later assignments I the same sequence for heavily than earlier ones. i.e 10, 15, 20, 25. This provides students the opportunity to have a setback early, and learn from it.
  • Allow students to revise work or retake exams. For example, provide students the opportunity to revise or retake it.

2. Give Growth-Language Feedback

  • Praise effort rather than talent. Instead of telling a student, “You are a talented mathematician,” say, “You must have worked really hard on your mathematics and it shows!”

3. Growth Talk – Be mindful of the way you communicate with students to reinforce a growth verses fixed mindset.

  • When you communicate with students be careful not to reinforce a fixed mindset i.e. you either know how to write or you don’t. Instead communicate growth talk by reinforcing effort rather than natural talent i.e. share a story of how a student worked hard in your course and learned a lot.
  • Note: it is recommended to check your syllabus and assignments for fixed vs growth talk.

4. Promote Success Strategies

  • Provide specific advice on how to learn and succeed in your course.
  • Communication example, “I think that if you will put in a good effort next semester, you will be absolutely amazed by how much you can learn about financial accounting.”
Strategies I Have Implemented
  1. Directly taught that intelligence is malleable and can be developed with effort.
  2. Reinforced the importance of embracing challenge. Only through challenge will there be growth.  Some students feel they must be “not smart” if they are having difficulty learning a competency, however, they often do not realize the challenge is very important and key to learning growth.  An example of this is Bjork’s “desirable difficulties” to enhance learning.
  3. Failure Mindsets. Support students with viewing setbacks and failure as something that happens to us all and we can view it as either debilitating or as an experience that facilitates learning and growth.
Principles
  1. Design for Growth
    • How can you reward students for their effort and provide opportunities to revise and improve their work? i.e. make one assignment per semester open for revision.
  2. Communicate for Growth
    • Communicate with students using a growth mindset language (see strategies above).
  3. Feedback for Growth
    • Provide formative feedback with growth mindset language i.e. “All of this will require effort on your part, but that effort should really pay off on your next ”
Small Teaching Quick Tips
  • Provide early success opportunities through assignment sequencing or assessment design.
  • Provide examples of initial failures or setbacks in your own intellectual journey or in those of famous or recognizable figures in your field to demonstrate that such failures can be overcome. The example I use is Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was actually fired from Apple Computers. When Jobs was fired from Apple, he was quoted to say “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.”
  • Give feedback to students in growth language; convey the message that they are capable of improvement, and offer specific instructions on how to achieve the improvement.
  • Include a “Tips for Success in This Course” section on your syllabus, and refer to it throughout the semester.
Questions to Connect to Your Life
  1. In what areas of your life do you have a growth and/or a fixed mindset?
  2. What strategies do you use to mitigate a fixed mindset in your own life?
  3. In what ways have you witnessed either a growth or fixed mindset among students in your educational context?
  4. Reflecting on your teaching practice, in what ways are you developing a student’s growth mindset?
Notable Recent Papers on Mindset

 In my opinion the following two papers are the most significant recent papers on mindset.  The first is a meta-analysis that found the effect size of mindset to be weak, however, studies reinforced that low socioeconomic status and academically at-risk students might benefit from mindset interventions.  The Second article published in Nature, indicated that a short online growth mindset intervention improved grades among lower-achieving students and increased overall enrolment to advanced mathematics courses.

Sisk, V. F., Burgoyne, A. P., Sun, J., Butler, J. L., & Macnamara, B. N. (2018). To what extent and under which circumstances are growth mind-sets important to academic achievement? two meta-analyses. Psychological Science, 29(4), 549-571. doi:10.1177/0956797617739704
Found online: https://www.creatingrounds.com/uploads/9/6/2/4/96240662/meta-analysis_growth_mindset.pdf

Yeager, D. S., Hanselman, P., Walton, G. M., Murray, J. S., Crosnoe, R., Muller, C., . . . Dweck, C. S. (2019). A national experiment reveals where a growth mindset improves achievement. Nature, 573(7774), 364-369. doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1466-y Found online: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1466-y

 

How do you use strategies such as those discussed in “Chapter 8: Growing”? Share your ideas in the online Chapter discussions in Mattermost during this week and join us for the live web conference meetup Friday, November 8th at 11:00am PST. It’s easy to create an account and join in on the discussion. See How to Participate.

Chapter 6: Self-Explaining

This post is by Isabeau Iqbal.

10/365 Spiral by Clog

I was attracted to facilitating this chapter because, as a learner, I make minimal use of self-explanation and was curious to see how it might “serve” me to do so more often.

I write this as an educational developer who does not teach in the traditional (defined here as teaching undergraduate and graduate students in a post-secondary environment) classroom but spends a significant portion of her time consulting and working with individuals who do.

What is self-explaining and does it work? The nutshell and punchline for those who are pressed for time and/or impatient.

The basic premise of self-explanation is that learners benefit from explaining out loud to themselves or others what they are doing during the completion of a learning task.  The best self-explanation techniques prompt learners to articulate what they are doing and why they are doing it.

Lang concludes this chapter by pointing out that research has yielded mixed results when it comes to the learning benefits of self-explanation; in some cases, learners with minimal knowledge of a subject benefit, whereas in other cases it is those with more knowledge who benefit.

Parallel lines by theilr https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

How self-explaining works

In previous chapters, Lang underscored that mindful practice and mindful learning during practice foster learning and retention.

Self-explanation is a technique for fostering mindful learning during practice. It can help with that vexing problem of far transfer (or lack thereof)–that ability to carry theories or principles from the initial context to a new context.

Self-explanation can also help improve the learner’s comprehension when it requires individuals to make connections between their knowledge and their skills.

Summarizing research done in this field, Lang writes that the practices below foster learning during self-explaining.

Students:

  • tie specific problems to general principles and connect knowing and doing
  • monitor their own comprehension and can admit to being stuck
  • actively seek to fill in the gaps in their understanding when they feel stuck
  • are able to re-state different aspects of the problem in their own words
Self-explanation fosters learning because this approach helps learners:
  1. “Fill gaps and make inferences in learning productive ways” .
  2. “Modify and improve their existing perceptions or knowledge of a subject matter” (p.147)

Does self-explaining that is prompted by instructors foster learning?

One of the questions that especially piqued my curiousity in this chapter is the one that asks “Do self-explanations that are generated by teacher prompts have the same effect as self-explanations that are spontaneously generated by students?” (p.143).

According to the research that Lang reviewed, self-explanations generated by teacher prompts enhance learning and understanding when students receive immediate feedback.

The small teaching strategy that was cited several times in this chapter, as an example of a teacher-generated prompt, was that of asking students to select, from a drop-down menu, what principles are at play. When prompts are inserted into an assignment at key points, students must reflect on how certain principles are being applied in a specific context. This then helps with the issue of transfer because it requires students to make inference rules.

Citing Chi, Bassok, Lewis, Reiman, and Glaser (p. 178, 1989) Lang writes “Inference rules ‘spell out more clearly the specific conditions or situations in which a specific action is to be taken.’”

Ways to use self-explaining in your teaching

“When using self-explaining, create opportunities that require students to select or articulate principles as they are making choices, searching for solutions, or revising their work” (p.156).

 

  • Ask students some variation of “Why are you doing that?” as you walk around the class while students are working on their own. (I think this would need to be carefully set up so it doesn’t terrify the students).  (similar to “think aloud” below).
  • Model self-explanation by using the “think-aloud” method as you read a passage or work through a problem. Alternatively, ask students to think out loud as they make decisions (p.154-155 or see Teaching Strategies: Think Alouds [geared to K-12, but useful]).
  • Use a drop-down menu at multiple points during an assignment to prompt students to reflect on the underlying principle at play. Doing so will, ideally, guide their next step.
  • Find ways to provide immediate feedback to students when they are engaging in self-explanation.
  • Scaffold this approach so it does not “over-tax” the students’ brains.
  • Use a “backward fading” approach in which students first observe a problem being worked out, next work out 1-2 steps on their own, and then complete the problem entirely on their own (see p.148 or Teaching with Worked Examples – Save learner time and effort while increasing performance!). (p.148)
  • Ask students to select X (e.g., 3 slides, or one particular section of an assignment) and write a short explanation of their choice. (p.152)
  • Incorporate self-explanation into peer instruction (p.152-153).

1.  I have bolded select because it was found that selecting, rather than generating, fostered learning. When students had to generate the principles, it added to their cognitive load in a way that was unproductive (see p.149 for more).

 

How do you use “Self-Explaining” as an approach for learning? Share your ideas in the online Chapter discussions in Mattermost or join us for the  live web conference meetup for Chapter Six on Friday, October 25th at 11:00am PST.  It’s easy to create an account and join in on the discussion  See How to Participate.


Chapter 4: Connecting

This post is by Asif Devji.

BIG IDEA:The goal of instructors should be to help learners “forge rich, interconnected networks of knowledge – ones that enable each existing piece of information in our content area to connect with lots of other information, concepts and ideas.

INTRODUCTION

With Chapter 4 we move into Part II of Small Teaching, which shifts the focus from helping learners acquire knowledge to helping them develop a deeper understanding of their knowledge base by building on complex cognitive skills.

Photo by Alexander Pogorelsky on Unsplash

In his introduction to Part II: Understanding, Lang refers to the flipped classroom model to make the point that such active learning approaches aimed at strengthening learner comprehension need to be undertaken “deliberately, with eyes wide open, and with the help of the literature on human learning” if they are to be effective.

Chapter 4: Connecting begins with an image of ‘small disconnected islets’ – bits of knowledge representing the “disparate sets of concepts or skills” that learners acquire as they “absorb the knowledge from each lecture in a course without connecting the information to other lectures or recognizing themes that cut across the course.”

These scattered bits of knowledge aren’t very meaningful; learners “lack comprehension…because they lack connections.” The goal of instructors should be to help learners “forge rich, interconnected networks of knowledge – ones that enable each existing piece of information in our content area to connect with lots of other information, concepts and ideas.”

IN THEORY

The “link between making connections and building comprehension” is biological. In our brains “neurons form new connections with other neurons with every new experience we have,” and learning generates “the continual formation of connections between our neurons.”

When sets of connected neurons repeatedly “fire together” they carve out distinct pathways that connect to form networks. “The knowledge in our minds consists of neuronal networks in our brains.” Deep reflection on a piece of acquired knowledge connects it to other neuronal networks, “until it eventually sits at the heart of a dense weave of connections – what we normally think about as understanding or comprehension.”

The task of instructors is to “create an environment that facilitates the formation of those connections” and to help “expand those connections into networks that enable students to see the bigger picture, make meaning, apply what they have learned into novel contexts.”

If we are successful, learners can move from being novices towards being experts in our content areas. When an expert “encounter[s] a new piece of information or a new idea in their field of expertise, they immediately slot it into a fully developed network that enables them to see connections between it and dozens of other things they know.”

MODELS

Lang offers four strategies “to help students modify and enhance their connections.” These can be applied “at any point during the semester or during any class period” to help learners “forge connections within a semester’s worth of material.”

1/ What do You Already Know (and What do You Want to Know?)

“Prior knowledge plays a critical role in learning.” Newly learned material will connect with what a learner already knows (or thinks they know) about a subject. Instructors should have students make “individual and collective knowledge dumps, telling you everything they know” about your subject. This will allow the instructor not only to “recognize and correct mistaken perceptions” but also to “activate whatever knowledge they currently have that you want to build on or reinforce.”

2/ Provide the Framework

Providing learners with an “organizing framework” of the material to be covered in a course and then having them fill in the details helps them to “build accurate connections” that will improve their conceptual understanding of the content. The framework should be a “skeletal outline” – just headings and titles of concepts – with students fleshing out the document themselves. Learners will “connect most deeply” if provided with a “frame of a knowledge network” rather than an already completed network or if left to “devise the organizational principles of the material on their own”

3/ Concept Maps

A concept map is a “visual representation of a knowledge domain” and concept mapping activities can be used to help students “visualize the organization of key ideas in your course.” Learners can be asked to construct a concept map of the course material, with “key concepts” in the center and lines branching off to “subsidiary elements.” The branching lines can then be labeled to define the relationships between the elements. Having learners make multiple maps integrating the same concepts based on different organizing principles can give them practice in “organizing their knowledge according to alternative schemata or hierarchies” and thereby build “more robust and flexible knowledge organizations.”

4/ Minute Thesis

The Minute Thesis is an activity that helps learners “solidify existing connections” and “envision new ones.” Students are asked to “set up columns or categories of essential course concepts or texts, connect them in new and creative ways,” and then develop an impromptu thesis to describe “how or why those connections make sense.” The activity provides a familiar “scaffolding through the columns or categories” but then asks learners to make a leap and “forge connections between things that have not been connected before.” These “creative connections” help them to generate new and original thinking around the course content.

PRINCIPLES

The strategies above are meant to “provide a bridge between your expert comprehension of your subject matter and the novice understanding of your students.” Facilitating the building of their connections will help your learners move towards your “big-picture view” of the material.

Provide the Framework: You should be transparent about your expertly networked knowledge by “making the framework as visible as possible, pointing back to it frequently, and helping them recognize where new material fits into the frame.”

Facilitate Connections: You should also “open the space” for learners to form their own unique connections and “see unexpected juxtapositions, chart new pathways…or invent their own knowledge networks.” Your presence as an expert to “provide feedback on their discoveries and help nudge them in productive new directions” can support them in developing their expertise.

Leverage Peer Learning Power: Because your students “all share the position of being novice learners in your field,” you should encourage them to help each other to co-create connections. By facilitating collaborative activities in which learners can “consider the connections made by their peers” you can spark their “energy and curiosity” without the weight of expert expectations.

QUESTIONS

Does any of the above raise any questions for you in terms of application in a real-world classroom?

Please discuss in this week’s forum: Chp. 4: Connecting and join us for the live web conference meetup on Friday, October 4th at 11:00am.
See How to Participate.

 

Chapter 3: Interleaving

This post is by Gina Bennett.

FIRST, a short retrieval quiz:

  1. In Chapter One, Lang describes 3 different studies to demonstrate how effectively regular quizzing improves retrieval. Can you name any 2 of the subject areas involved?

  2. Also in Chapter One, Lang suggests that the frequency of quizzing is critical to the success of this technique. How often (as a minimum) does he recommend that quizzes be given?

(answers at the end of this post)
 
Big Idea:   Long term mastery of a series of related topics is fostered by spacing out the learning activities over time, introducing new topics before the previous topic has been mastered and intermixing new skills with previously developed skills.

I picture this as the “2 steps forward, 1 step back” approach.

Theories, Principles, Models, and Tips

Lang begins his discussion of the theory behind interleaving with a study that illustrates the difference between massed and spaced practice. Massed practice is defined as time focused entirely on learning one skill or topic until it is mastered, while spaced practice is pretty much the way it sounds: the learning related to that particular skill or topic is spread out and interspersed with time spent doing other things. Interestingly, some of those “other things” include forgetting what’s just been learned. This sounded counter intuitive to me, but as Lang points out, forgetting forces us to really work at the process of retrieval and more strongly embeds the learning in long term memory. Allowing time between learning sessions like this not only forces us into a cycle of forgetting and retrieval, it also gives our brains time to consolidate the new material. This process leads to what’s referred to as “durable learning” — another great term I picked up from this chapter.

Several of the models for incorporating interleaving sound pretty similar to suggestions for improving retrieval (e.g. frequent quizzing), except that here we see a more pronounced emphasis on the inclusion of quiz questions from material learned in the past. A very nice small teaching tip is to end a lesson by asking students to create a test question based on what they learned that day — & instead of waiting for the final or midterm, ask a couple of those questions a few weeks later. And I like Lang’s suggestions for coaxing students to apply previously acquired skills or knowledge to new contexts — transfer of learning is always an issue and I can certainly appreciate how interleaving will help make that happen.

Concerns, questions, musings

I am so tempted to try to sell an interleaving approach a little harder in my ABE math class because the most profound research results mentioned by Lang (and others) are based on students studying middle school math. However, the [adult] students I know who are working at that level usually do not welcome (or need) more frustration in their lives. That concern about feeling discouraged due to lack of a sense of mastery — that’s a major concern. And the students working in a more advanced ABE math course know full well that this course is “terminal;” consequently they are not keen to struggle more than they need to at something that they will “never use again.” I would be very interested to hear what others familiar with the ABE learner audience think about that.

Not a concern but a confusion: I am a bit mystified by Lang’s description of how to employ interleaving in an online learning environment. I suspect his concept or experience of online courses is different from a lot of the ones we offer here. He refers to the “distribution of deadlines” but in my experience most online courses do this anyway. It seems that many of Lang’s examples so far are largely based on “traditional” students: full-time young people who attend on-campus classes in a semester-based format

FINALLY, an exercise in prediction:

In this chapter, Lang describes how interleaving improves the embedding and retrieval of knowledge. Can you think of some ways in which interleaving might also improve understanding?

Links, other interesting things

  • Nice website from the University of Arizona with lots of supplementary material (e.g. blog posts, explanations, PPT slide deck) about interleaving

  • Learning how to Learn is a free MOOC offered on a regular basis by Coursera. If you are interested in learning science and would appreciate an entertaining and accessible approach, you’ll like this course.

  • Have any of you come across the Pimsleur method of language learning? Dr. Pimsleur was a big fan of spaced practice and he developed a schedule of optimal spacing, a system he called “graduated interval recall.” His scheduling sounds like Lang’s spacing recommendation on steroids.

Answers to the retrieval quiz:

  1. The 3 studies Lang refers to to demonstrate the efficacy of retrieval practice involved students learning Social Studies, Art History, & Chemistry.

  2. Lang states (under subheading “Principles”) quizzes should be given at least once a week (preferably in every class).


Image: “interleaving sign” is CC0 – I drew it myself -gb

 

What strategies are you using? Share your ideas in the online Chapter discussions in Mattermost or join us for the live web conference meetup for Chapter 3 on Friday, September 27th at 11:00am.
See How to Participate.

 

Welcome Back! Join our Fall Book Club!

Hello everyone! Welcome back to the beginning of a new year. We are pleased to be able to offer the The BCcampus Online Book Club again and to work with our BC post-secondary community volunteers to support this teaching and learning professional development opportunity.

The book we’ve selected is Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning by James M. Lang. A copy of Small Teaching should be easily available from most post-secondary teaching and learning centres or libraries, or you may purchase a copy. Whether you’ve read the book already, or are reading along for the first time…everyone is welcome! Join us and learn together over the next 10 weeks (September 9 – November 15).  Share strategies on what “small teaching” you have tried in your current work, or plan to use in future with students. Ideas may be shared on social media and tagged #BookClubBC. Our twitter account is @BCcBookclub

Using the same organizing format for the Book Club as last year, our activities will centre around this blog site with the introduction of two new tools to support more community interaction in the form of facilitated online Chapter chats (Mattermost) and weekly webinar (Big Blue Button).

As noted in the posted schedule, each week will have the following activities:

  • Featured blog posts published on  https://bccampusonlinebookclub.opened.ca/ If you wish to participate by reading the weekly posts, we recommend you subscribe to the site so you don’t miss a post. This year we are lucky to have 9 amazing facilitators—one per Chapter of Small Teaching and  the addition of one very special guest at one of our meetups!
  • Facilitated online Chapter “chats” or online discussions will be another way for you to participate. See How to Participate.
  • Facilitated live web conference meetups hosted by a facilitator. See How to Participate.

We have shared some technology tips for you on what to do to prep for participation.

Designed for maximum flexibility, the Book Club will allow you to participate as much, as little as you wish. It will be up to you. Registration is not required and the Book Club is free of charge. Our guiding principles for this learning opportunity remains the same as last year, and that is that it be openeasy to participate in, informal and fun!

Looking forward to another great year.   Hope you will join us in our fall Book Club!

All the Best,

2019 BCcampus Book Club Facilitators

 

 

 

Our Online Book Club is back this Fall with “Small Teaching”

We are pleased to announce the next offering of the BCcampus Online Book Club. This free, open, and online professional learning event starts this Fall on September 9th and finishes on November 15th, 2019.  The book selected is “Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning” by James M. Lang.

Following up on lessons learned from the initial offering of the Book Club last year, there will additional support for interaction between participants through two open source tools (Mattermost chat and Big Blue Button web conferencing) offered by the OpenETC.

If you are a new participant, take a look at what we did last year in the Book Club in our reading of “How Learning Works”. If your interest is piqued, we encourage you get ahead with a summer reading of  “Small Teaching”  which should be readily available from your local campus library.  There are nine wonderful and highly knowledgeable facilitators from our post-secondary community that will lead our discussion on each Chapter topic: Peter Arthur, Gina Bennett, Asif Devji, Isabeau Iqbal, Laura MacKay, Sylvia Riessner, Keith Webster and Lucas Wright.

All are welcome who are interested in teaching and learning, sharing ideas and exploring our Book Club as an informal and fun way for us to learn together and meet new people in our community.

If you have any questions, send a note to ltet@bccampus.ca or Leva.lee@bccampus.ca

Subscribe to our blog site and follow us @BCcBookClub  #BookclubBC