Monday, March 3, 2014

Teacher Leadership Challenge | March 3, 2014

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This multipart series is intended to help teachers grow their leadership practice and ignite conversations about education online, through blogging, and in person.
The goal of a teacher leader is to improve the learning of all students through their efforts, collaboration, and influence. The 2014 Teacher Leadership Challenge is a weekly installment activity that poses a prompt on an educational topic or issue. Your challenge is to respond to the prompt in 500 words or less via a post you publish to your blog. The aim is to get more teachers thinking globally about their classroom practice and their own connection to the wider education community. You can subscribe to this blog to get the weekly challenge sent automatically by email.
You can share your post to Twitter using #TLC2014 and spark conversation with educators. In addition to posting on your own blog, you can elect to include your post in the weekly collection showcase blog. To do this, simply email your completed response post to the showcase, at Make sure that you include the title of your post with the week of the prompt for proper tagging (e.g., "My Post Title | September 6, 2013") in the subject line (without "re:") of your email, and the full post laid out in paragraphs in the body of the email. Posts are automatically published by sending the email. You can embed images and URLs into the body of your email, and the post will publish while maintaining your formatting and layout. Check out others' responses in the response collection or on Google+ each week, leave them your comments, and get the conversation rolling ahead for teacher leadership.

This Week's Challenge:

How can educators encourage students to take 'risks' in their learning?


The classroom learning experience entails much more than just acquiring and retaining information. Many factors impact whether or not students are successful in learning, including students' perception of their own ability and their willingness to make strides toward learning.
Starting at the moment we are born, our experiences begin to shape our view of the world and the beliefs we hold about ourselves. From the way that others interact with us to the nature of our encounters with success, subtle patterns start to emerge and get reinforced. The trend in our experiences leads us to form a conceptual model of our ability, potential, and intelligence. Our philosophy about our own potential is called a mindset, and mindsets fall into one of two models: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
The fixed mindset is one in which the view held about one’s own ability or potential is limited, as if there were a 'glass ceiling' or threshold on it, and can never be expanded or surpassed. In a growth mindset, on the other hand, ability and potential are viewed as something dynamic, which can develop and improve through focused effort, and is not limited or pre-determined.
Individuals with a fixed mindset subscribe to the belief that intelligence is something with which you are born, but genetics limit your intelligence; however, individuals with a growth mindset believe that your genetics are a basis for intelligence that can be further developed and increased through deliberate practice.
The similarities between the two mindsets pale when juxtaposed with their differences; however, they both view ability as being part nature, yet they starkly differ in the view of the effect of nurture on one’s potential. In a fixed mindset, individuals are either athletic or not—they cannot develop or grow their athleticism beyond a limit; growth mindset views athletic potential as being incrementally improvable through effort.
In order for students to realize their own potential in school, they must succeed in learning; however, success in learning requires students to take some 'risks' in the classroom setting. They must be willing to try and process new ideas, participate in learning activities or discuss topics that might be unfamiliar. Sometimes these actions can be stifled when students do not feel comfortable in the climate of the classroom to put forth their effort, share their ideas, or even ask a question. When students attempt to advance their knowledge and are unsuccessful, they may halt in their quest for knowledge. When students perceive that a stumble might be ahead, they may not even proceed forward in learning at all.
These instances where students do not persevere in learning reinforce a fixed mindset in students, one in which they believe that they either have it (the ability to succeed in learning) or do not have it. Pushing out of the fixed mindset is necessary to grow in understanding and to achieve success in learning. The dynamics of the classroom can make all the difference to whether students pursue learning or hold back from it.
Something as simple as raising a hand to ask a question can seem like skydiving to some students, but how can educators provide an environment with parachutes available for students to take academic risks?
How can teachers create a classroom that invites students to take part in the learning activities? What can be done to encourage students to make strides in their learning, even when it does not seem to be a certainty that they will succeed right away? Can classrooms be a place where it is okay to be incorrect in students' attempts to comprehend lessons? How do teachers create a space where students feel safe to raise their hand, ask questions, or contribute ideas in a discussion? 
Creating the conditions to achieve a shift in mindset for students requires putting students in a position to experience growth and see it as a direct result of their effort. How can this be accomplished in the classroom? How can students be directed toward a growth mindset about their own learning? How can educators encourage students to take the necessary risks so that they can realize their own potential in learning?