I recently read an interesting article by Sal Khan (founder of The Khan Academy) that talked about growth mindset. I loved this article not only for the whole idea of the growth mindset but also for the level of awareness that Sal's son demonstrates about his own learning. Far too often, I think we shy away from having kids be honest with themselves about their learning, because we are scared that they will be disheartened or because we don't think they are old enough or because we don't think it's all that important.
But it is important and, given the right tools and language, kids of any age can learn a lot by reflecting on their learning. By being more self-aware, kids are better prepared to guide their own learning, developing a growth mindset that will serve them throughout their lives.
So, how do we instill this growth mindset? How do we encourage kids to think about the hows, the whats and the whys of learning? Below are my top 3 choices for reflecting on learning.
Talk about it
Most kids love to talk, especially in small groups or partnerships. One of the easiest ways to have them reflect on their learning is to put in them in small groups, provide a prompt and let them go. A popular version of this is Think-Pair-Share, where partners think about the prompt (let's say, "how did you grow your mind today?") individually, then get together to talk about it, then one partner shares out what they discussed. You can also meet with small groups and guide the conversation to help them dig deeper in to the how, what and why of their learning (the why is often the trickiest for them to figure out, as any Gr. 8 math teacher can tell you).
Write about it
Or draw. Or blog. There are a myriad of possibilities for reflecting on your learning by putting pencil to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Keeping a journal of daily reflections is one way to do it. These reflections can then be detailed drawings, written responses, quick sketches, word clouds, whatever comes to mind. Exit Tickets have also become a popular way to take the pulse of the room quickly and have students reflect on their learning immediately after it happens. There are low-tech sticky note versions of exit tickets and tech-based apps and tweets; the choice is yours. Blogs and wikis are excellent spaces for personal reflection and collaboration, allowing students the opportunity for feedback on their reflections (I'm excited to try out Quadblogging this year).
Do something with it
Of course, the goal of developing reflective learners is that they a) understand themselves and their learning styles better, b) internalize their learning and c) that they see learning not as a discrete activity but as an on-going part of life in which they sit in the driver's seat. To this end, it's important to allow kids to reflect on their learning by doing something with that learning. This is what Project-Based Learning is all about (although, I should add it is learning through doing as much as it is doing something with learning but I think the process is cyclical - learn-do-learn). Giving your students the tools to do something and then letting them try and solve a problem forces them to reflect on the hows, the whats and the whys in order to be able to successfully use the tools to solve the problem.
Which one of these do I use the most? I would definitely have to say the first two. While I would love to really get in to the third piece, the nature of my job makes it challenging to do so. Last year I had a teacher who was on board to try some PBL and we did one really neat debate (about gas pipelines - with Gr. 4s! Even changed some parents minds on the whole thing. Very cool.) and started in to a Rube Goldberg machine project (threw some flipped learning in there too...fun!) but unfortunately we were interrupted by the strike and the kids never got the chance to finish the project.Boo.
The fact that I can convince teachers to build more reflective learners in any way is pretty cool and I really enjoy doing it. One of my goals for this year is to try and ensure that what I bring to a classroom gets left behind to be used again and again; too often I find that what we do is really neat but doesn't continue or isn't used again after I go. I want teachers to see the value in what I bring to their classroom (and I think they do) but I also want them to adopt it (or parts of it) as their own. I think that discussion and written reflections are something that seem doable to teachers, something that they can do even without two teachers in the room, so that will be one focus area for me this year.
Any other learning coaches out there have any tips for me on getting things to stick?
I'm Bryn, teacher, mom, book lover, athlete. I am passionate about literacy, collaborative teaching and finding new and innovative ways to engage & motivate all kids. I hope you find something that speaks to you here on my blog and would love to hear from you too!