Chances are you have heard the term ‘growth mindset’ floating about in educational circles. Perhaps you even use it yourself to describe an attribute of a thriving learner. And it can be – an attribute of a thriving learner, that is – or it can be one of those buzz phrases that people fill with their own meaning. Given the talk about a changing paradigm for teacher professional growth and given that many of you have goals related to professional growth in your school improvement plans, I think the information in the links below is worth considering.
Jackie Gerstein, who has facilitated several workshops on a ‘growth mindset’ for educators, says in her blog post on User-Generated Education:
The faddish or pop culture version of the growth mindset is emerging as: “Have a Growth Mindset.” This smacks of the “Just So No” campaign of the Reagan era. Catch phrases about a growth mindset will have as much effect on actually developing a growth mindset as just saying no did on curbing drug use.
Carol Dweck’s expresses some concerns about integrating the growth mindset into educational settings: A lot of teachers are saying ‘yes I have a growth mindset’, without doing the work and without making a journey to deeply understand it and to know how to apply it. Even some teachers who genuinely have a growth mindset aren’t understanding how to apply it properly. They are just telling kids to try hard: which I call nagging, not growth mindset. Or they are just saying ‘hey kids, have a growth mindset’.(Carol Dweck)
I mirror Dweck’s concern about educators and learners needing to do the work required to develop a growth mindset. It is a deeply reflective process requiring that this process occur often and over time.
As a visual summary, Gerstein offers these diagrams to illustrate what she considers to be a true ‘growth mindset’:
What is collaboration?
Much that goes under the name ‘collaboration’ isn’t. The term is often used to describe almost every imaginable combination of individuals with an interest in education. “In fact, the term has been used so ubiquitously that it is in danger of losing all its meaning.” “. . . much of what passes for collaboration among educators is more aptly described as coblaboration,” ineffective or unproductive team meetings that are not closely related to teachers’ real work. (Learning by Doing, 2nd ed., DuFour, p. 128)
True collaboration requires a team of people committed to working interdependently toward a shared goal. Each participant’s contributions are sought and valued and each participant assumes responsibility for implementing key decisions and owning subsequent results. In true collaboration, participants co-labor for the benefit of the whole much as the varied parts of our bodies work together to sustain health and wellbeing.
Why should we collaborate?
Well-documented research shows that collaboration surpasses other ways of working together – or not working together – in its potential to reach common goals and positively impacting those served. Teacher collaboration becomes a powerful tool for professional development and a driver for school improvement by providing “opportunities for adults across a school system [and across schools] to learn and think together about how to improve their practice in ways that lead to improved student achievement” (Annenberg Institute for School Reform, 2004, p. 2).
When researchers discover ‘what works’, they, whether they acknowledge it or not, are really uncovering glimpses of the way God intends his world to work. From the beginning God has asked humanity to collaborate with him in the development and preservation and, now, in the development and reconciliation of his world. This task is not yours or mine; it is ours. Repeatedly in the New Testament, we are called to work like a body in which all parts are valued and necessary. Such work requires a complex interplay of gifts of the Spirit. Commitment to a common goal requires humility and self-control. Soliciting and valuing each member’s contribution speaks of generosity, hospitality, and encouragement. Accepting responsibility to carry out the plan and to own the subsequent results requires patience and faithfulness . . .
Co-laboring is rooted in self-giving love – the kind of love God demonstrated and demonstrates toward his world, particularly in the giving of his son. It requires a dying to self so we can work together intentionally and interdependently, not for individual recognition or career advancement, but for the glory of our LORD and the benefit of his people.
Collaboration is one outward expression of what it means to be fully human in God’s world.