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Posts Tagged ‘mindset

Yesterday I offered graduate students some writing tips for response essays. That set of tips addressed the issue of ill-structured writing.

The other main problem I mentioned was writer mindsets, which is harder to address. My students tend to write for themselves, i.e., they do not consider the reader and/or they write with strategies that they prefer and regardless of need.

The structuring strategies I suggest might help their writing, but only if they realise that the reader is not in the same head space as they are. One way to learn how others perceive your work is to get them to read it and provide feedback.

Better still, reciprocate the reading and feedback to learn how someone else writes. Doing this might teach you better strategies or give you the opportunity to teach someone else.

I often bring this writing mindset issue up in class to highlight how writing for the reader is like student-centred instruction. The focus is not you; it is them — the reader or the student. Since my leaners have to do both, doing one might help the other.

It has often been said that technology is just a tool. It is not.

We shape our tools and then our tools shape us. -- Marshall McLuhan

I do not have argument with “tool”; I take issue with “just”. Tools are not always neutral because they are designed with intent and function. These are part of the affordances of any technology.

What the layperson might not understand is that while some affordances are designed for and expected, others are negotiated or emergent.

Video source

So when Google released its video on Searches in 2018, it chose to focus on the good and not the bad. This does not mean that it and its users did not do any evil.

We live in an era when we seem to have the unprecedented ability to generate and spread both misinformation and disinformation. Our technologies may have enhanced and enabled these, but we are responsible.

A gun may be designed to fire a projectile, but it is a person who choses a target, takes aim, and fires. Or not.

Likewise, Google Search extends our reach for information far beyond our fingertips and borders. But we can choose to reinforce our walls or burst our bubbles. Which we choose to do also depends on Google’s algorithms.

Google Search is a tool, but not just. The demean the description with “just” is to assumes that our searches are pure queries. They are not. We should not ignore that searches can be biased by algorithms and our mindsets.

It took a while, but now I might have some answers to the questions I raised when I reflected on passion points.

A newspaper summarised a study by declaring that spotting passions too early may limit students. I could not read the article because the newspaper put it behind a recently created premium paywall.

I just discovered another article citing the same study by researchers from Stanford and Yale-NUS college in Singapore. However, it is by Quartz, whose own research and writing I have questioned.

Taking the Quartz report of the research at face value, I wonder if the writers and/or researchers are creating a false dichotomy about one’s passion.

the directive to “find your passion” suggests a passive process. Telling people to develop their passion, however, suggests an active one that depends on us—and allows that it can be challenging to pursue.

The article states that “a growth mindset, rather than a fixed sense that there’s one interest you should pursue single-mindedly, improves the chances of finding your passion”. It seems to conflate a fixed mindset with finding passion and growth mindset with developing passion.

Are passions only just innate and not developed (nature, not nurture), or purely a product of development and not intrinsic (nurture, not nature)?

Predictably, the article cited Dweck, the author of the 2007 book Mindset, the New Psychology of Success, to strengthen the false equivalency of growth mindset and developing passion.

I call this a false equivalency because in a 2016 Atlantic interview, Dweck stated:

Everyone is a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets. You could have a predominant growth mindset in an area but there can still be things that trigger you into a fixed mindset trait.

If we are chimeras of mindsets, then passions are borne and bred in a mixture of ways.

  • As with my previous reflection, I have more questions than answers:
  • Are we entitled to have only one passion? Can our passions not change?
  • Why assume that pursuing one’s passion leads to narrow development and skills?
  • Conversely, how valid is it to suggest that a growth mindset and generalist education will lead to broader thinking and skillsets?

Our children are built differently from one another (nature) and respond differently to upbringing, schooling, and education (collectively, nurture). Some kids seem to “have a clue” and are razor-focused, others seem perpetually lost in space, while the rest lie in a huge continuum between.

Just how helpful is it to suggest that passion is a false dichotomy?

I have a lunar tic at this time of year. I have to resist the urge to point out we just marked the Lunar New Year (LNY), not the Chinese New Year (CNY).

Wishing someone a happy CNY is perfectly fine if you are celebrating in China.

If you are not in China, you are not thinking about the non-Chinese who also celebrate the LNY, e.g., some Thais, Vietnamese, Koreans, Japanese.

Some do not give a damn and others call this semantics. I call this being inclusive and taking a global perspective. It is about adopting a flexible mindset instead of clinging to a fixed one.

I like learning concepts from unexpected places.

I did not expect to unearth three labels for how mindset bubbles form from a Film Theorists video, How Star Wars Theories Killed Star Wars.

Video source

Attitudes and beliefs shape mindsets, and a hardened mindset bubble easily becomes a shell to retreat into. To remain open to learning, one must look out for the:

  • Exposure effect: Being exposed only to information that you prefer or are familiar with
  • Illusory truth effect: Believing information after it is repeated over and over again
  • Confidence effect: Receiving information so that it creates more confidence in their accuracy, regardless of their actual accuracy

Bubbles still can be popped; shells are harder to break.

Teachers, and teacher educators in particular, should never take for granted the long-term impact of what they say and model when they teach.

Every semester I provide feedback on the lesson plans of future faculty. I also evaluate their ability to facilitate a short lesson using learner centric strategies.

Every semester a few cases will require me to correct a well-intentioned but ultimately harmful practice — the use of extrinsic rewards like chocolate or other candy. I provide this feedback to adults who might have experienced such extrinsic rewards in their primary or elementary schooling 15 to 20 years ago.

This teach-as-they-were-taught mindset is frighteningly common. I observed this when I was a full-time teacher educator over 10 years. I fought to break this mindset then and I still fight it today. I do this by citing critical research and reflective teaching practice.

One rationale for avoiding extrinsic rewards is the matter of pragmatism. It is costly to keep doing this, it establishes the wrong set of expectations, it taps the wrong source of motivation, and it distracts from learning outcomes.

One argument that my learners might state is that students need to develop an internal drive. They claim that their candy rewards are an attempt to move from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation.

I gently but firmly tell them this is bullshit. A reliance on extrinsic rewards is a learnt behaviour, not an inherent trait. Kids learn by watching some other child get rewards or by experiencing it first hand.

I do not mean that extrinsic rewards do not work. They can, for a short-term behaviour modification. However, they also set up an insidious longer term expectation and establish this as acceptable practice.

Being well-intentioned is not enough. Teaching practice needs to be informed by critical research and reflective practice. Both focus on the long game that is not fuelled by mere candy.

This funny-yet-sad tweet reminded me of why I need to do what I do.

Viewed positively, you might say that the teacher was very consistent about his attire over four decades.

Viewed more critically, you might ask if his dressing was a possible reflection of his unchanging mindset.

Symbolism aside, the teacher’s attire does indicate how many teachers operate. They might get older, but they do not change how they appear to others.

Ask most lay folk what a teacher looks like and you will likely get traditional views. You will hardly, if at all, hear of distinctions between teachers and educators, or educators who reach through walls, teach over the Internet, or operate without school principals.

These are educators who are pushing the boundaries of the past so that their learners are better prepared for the present and look forward to shaping their futures. There is value in looking back, but facing backwards while trying to walk forwards is a recipe for falling and injuries.

I liking showing people how to look and walk forward, strange as that may sound. I start by pointing out that they have their feet pointed in one direction and their eyes in the other.

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