In the last couple of weeks I’ve come across two excellent videos that present ideas that I think are incredibly powerful for helping students and teachers think about learning. Some times, when people talk about growth mindset, it’s so incredibly nebulous that I can’t quite imagine what’s going to change. Simply urging students to adopt a new mindset or tinkering with your language or merely embracing a generalised GM spirit – are unlikely to cut through to the technical issues of effective learning.
Video 1: Six Strategies for Effective Learning. The Learning Scientists.
This video from the Learning Scientists – working with the Memorize Academy – give students (and teachers) some very clear, practical advice based on the findings of cognitive psychology. It makes the abstract ideas of interleaving and dual coding come alive. In my view, if students are taught to adopt these strategies, they will see that effort applied to a successful strategy leads to success – a process which might foster a growth mindset as learning seems more possible.
Video 2. Eduardo Briceño: The Learning Zone and the Performance Zone.
I heard about this from Guy Claxton during his talk at the Bryanston Education Summit 2017.
Guy was arguing that the Learning/Performance zones – which are both essential to learning but require us to switch between them – might constitute a more helpful model than growth and fixed mindsets which suggest a more permanent inherent state – a problematic idea, often unhelpfully value-laden; certainly hard to action.
It seems to me that Briceño’s idea of Learning and Performance zones links to the roles of formative and summative assessment. Just as he argues for more time spent in the Learning Zone, Daisy Christodoulou, Dylan Wiliam et al, advocate giving greater weight to formative assessment.
Crucially, Briceño is suggesting that the Learning Zone requires students to focus on deliberate practice on specific skills. Although the zones embed the concept of GM, rather than replacing it, I find it’s a more tangible, technical, actionable concept than growth mindset altogether. He is also very clear about the need for a low-stakes environment for the Learning Zone – just as with formative assessment.
Here’s an extract from the transcript.
” The learning zone is when our goal is to improve. Then we do activities designed for improvement,concentrating on what we haven’t mastered yet, which means we have to expect to make mistakes, knowing that we will learn from them. That is very different from what we do when we’re in our performance zone, which is when our goal is to do something as best as we can, to execute.Then we concentrate on what we have already mastered and we try to minimize mistakes.
Both of these zones should be part of our lives, but being clear about when we want to be in each of them, with what goal, focus and expectations, helps us better perform and better improve. The performance zone maximizes our immediate performance, while the learning zone maximizes our growth and our future performance. The reason many of us don’t improve much despite our hard work is that we tend to spend almost all of our time in the performance zone. This hinders our growth, and ironically, over the long term, also our performance.”
“So how can we spend more time in the learning zone?
- First, we must believe and understand that we can improve, what we call a growth mindset.
- Second, we must want to improve at that particular skill. There has to be a purpose we care about, because it takes time and effort.
- Third, we must have an idea about how to improve, what we can do to improve, not how I used to practice the guitar as a teenager, performing songs over and over again, but doing deliberate practice.
- And fourth, we must be in a low-stakes situation, because if mistakes are to be expected,then the consequence of making them must not be catastrophic, or even very significant. A tightrope walker doesn’t practice new tricks without a net underneath, and an athlete wouldn’t set out to first try a new move during a championship match.“
Both videos and the ideas in the them are helpful in suggesting practical strategies for improving learning.
This article by Eduardo Briceño is also a good read:
Importantly, it’s the combination of the ideas in these videos that I think makes for powerful learning. If Learning Zone practice doesn’t also deliberately embrace the technical business of explicit knowledge building, it won’t be as effective. I know some people will interpret the Learning Zone as being in opposition to ‘rote learning’ for example. They’re wrong. Learning by heart in some disciplines is indeed the very kind of Learning Zone activity that, later, can support success in the Performance Zone with, for example, solving complex problems in high-stakes situations.
See this post for further ideas: FACE It A Formula for Learning.