We hear a lot about mindset in education – and I am not writing this to discount the importance of both a teacher and student’s mindset and the impact it has on their learning.
Today, though, I want to talk about about how I’ve seen mindset impact the ability to make real, meaningful change.
First – let’s define real, meaningful change. This is more than substituting a more efficient way to do something. Or the trendiest, newest way to do something. This is about fundamentally shifting how we do things and must include a process of understanding the reasons we need to change and why we are choosing this new method. Without these reflective pieces, this is just change for the sake of trying something new – not meaningful and likely not lasting change.
Now, usually this means the adults in a school are redefining how something works. Or taking something that doesn’t work so well and rethinking it. These changes might be something that affects the whole school or they might happen within an individual classroom or even one period.
We know change is uncomfortable for many people. Over the last year I’ve noticed how people responded to change and I really think this comes down to the mindset of the person. These statements and descriptions below highlight a few of the ways I’ve watched folks both prepare and react to change. I think those with a growth mindset saw each challenge as a chance to improve and learn something new and often were early adopters of change. Others with a fixed mindset felt they weren’t equipped to tackle this change and tried to dodge it as long as possible.
I am the teacher/administrator/adult and I need to know everything about this before I try it. Especially with students.
This is very closely connected to the idea that we will look bad/stupid/unprepared if something doesn’t work or doesn’t go as planned. The number of questions/emails asked before something is attempted (even small changes) is very high. Often times this educator will opt for substitution or try something small quickly before abandoning it because it didn’t work as smoothly.
This can be a real challenge because we lose the opportunity to learn from a bump in the road or reflecting on what didn’t work. We also may delay implementing something new until we know all about it and miss the opportunity. Waiting till you have 100% mastered something means the students you thought needed this are probably far past the place that they needed it.
Ok, I’ll try anything! Let’s see how it goes!
These teachers are often early adopters and willing to try new things with you. They often read blogs and have an active PLN (personal learning network) that brings an endless supply of new ideas.
While this can be a great thing, it also can be its own challenge. Trying every new thing that comes along might mean that one isn’t reflecting and refining the practice. Examining how implementation of something new went, noticing benefits and how it can be improved next time is critical to successfully making real change and not just a series of next-best-things.
Just tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t work too well either because there isn’t ownership. A teacher said “Well, if someone plans a whole new unit like that for me, I’ll try it. But I don’t know how to get started.”
When you put something in place because it’s what you’re told to do or because someone else planned it, it is not really addressing an issue that you’ve identified or something you want to improve. The reason is missing.
On the flip side, this can be a way to get someone who is resistant to try something, but be wary because if it doesn’t go well, it probably won’t be readjusted and tried again.
So what do we do??!
There really is no one size fits all. The best mindset is one that works to identify when something can improve your students’ experience and the efficiency of the daily work we do. We research, learn from others and try to implement it with our students before the window of need and opportunity passes and then we learn from the experience. Reflecting and applying the lessons we learn to other changes and new ideas is really the key to meaningful change.