There’s nothing quite like Vgotsky’s zone of proximal development, the place where a teacher really earns his or her corn, to grab my attention. I first heard of it when learning about the Cognitive Acceleration in Science Programme in the early 1990’s. Dr Barry Hymer, Professor of Psychology in Education at the University of Cumbria brought the memories flooding back in his key note speech.
Same disclaimer as the last post; the following is based on short notes I took at the time. I can’t be totally sure they are one hundred percent accurate.
“There is No Easy Walk in the Field of Mindset Nor Should There Be”
Growth mindset looks for learning opportunities and the hard stuff; that was the link to Vgotsky and the importance of teachers’ guidance and direction when the step is proving too difficult to make alone. The presentation by Barry Hymer was wonderfully nuanced and knowledgeable and placed mindset within a greater learning and school culture; it’s not a box to be ticked or implemented with a simple phrase or motivational poster.
For the learner the focus is on the effort and the journey; the daily commitment to learning by so many of our students. “You will never achieve anything” or “you will if you work hard enough” are both focussed on performance; they’re the fixed mindset mentality.
“The hallmark of successful individuals is that they love learning, they seek challenges, they value effort, and they persist in the face of obstacles.”
Carol Dweck agnostic on the three mindset myths below; the first probably exist, the second probably matters and hard work doesn’t guarantee success but does help you progress
- Natural ability/talent doesn’t exist
- Natural ability/talent doesn’t matter
- Hard work guarantees ultimate success
Here are some thoughts, from Barry Hymer; in our schools do we:
Prioritise intrinsic motivators over extrinsic putting irresistible learning before rewards. The hidden cost of extrinsic motivators is decreased intrinsic motivation.
Give more feedback than praise; celebrate progress.
Show how performance follows learning. Pupils who love learning tend to do well in exams. Pupils who love performing can do too – but only in the short term.
Talk about mindsets, and show our pupils that we’re on our mindset journeys? Can you explain the process you used last time you got really stuck to get unstuck? Promote self-regulation and metacognition
Routinely exam our language for its potential effect on pupils’ mindset. Language is the chief transmitter of mindset, you may have grouping by prior attainment not ability grouping; the grouping tells you nothing about the future but gives a rationale for why certain children are in a class. You never know how great someone will be.
Teach that the brain and intelligence is malleable, apologise when we set work that pupils find easy and teach pupils to wait for the marshmallows (delay gratification and show self-control).
Bread & Roses
With the hardest session of the day to fill; the Real David Cameron brought energy, enthusiasm and wit to the graveyard slot. His is a call for a revolution of common sense.
We live in impossible educational times with people complaining that it is a national disgrace that schools are not teaching dressage; this could be a medal honey pot at the Olympics for us. The expectations being placed on school leaders and teachers proceed from an irritating cult of perfection and 57 varieties of improvements. Some schools are looking for Super Heads whilst others would just be happy to get an ordinary one.
The line, “Agree the breakable plates, just make sure there not the Wedgewood” is an absolute classic as he exhorted us to agree what matters, focus using the subtraction habit and bring manageability, coherence and consonance to our work and that of others. Above all simplify.
“Autonomy Comes from Courage Not from Permission”
David finished with what I consider his signature tune; “Bread and Roses” played via YouTube at full blast. The line originates from a speech given by Rose Schneiderman; often linked to a strike, led mainly by women working in the textile industry, in the early 20th Century.
The call for bread and roses, was a desire for both fair wages and dignified conditions; my equivalent is an education that gives young people a way to earn their living as well as giving them a reason for living.
If you’d like to read my record and reflections on the John Hattie and John Tomsett bits they are here.