How can we best prepare students for a world that will require more of them? The most important resource in education reform is the learner’s mind. We need to re-ignite the hunger for learning that many students lose along the way. Explicit and embedded work on learning mindsets and learning strategies & habits puts students in the driver seat of learning. It gives them direction to chart their paths to succes and happiness. Lets take you through it.
I can’t force students to develop agency and show ownership of their own learning. It must come from within. Creating a learning environment that is using student-centered and self-directed learning methods, encourage collaboration, and incorporate real-world projects, interviews, case studies and explorations can help but will not be sufficient for every student. What else do they need in order to take agency and ownership?
Learning mindsets and learning strategies & habits are the most important areas to develop. Of course students need to meet their physiological needs such as food, safety (physical and emotional), and connection with others. The learning environment must provide a culture in which every student values learning, feels acknowledged and is accepted.
Besides from physiological needs, students’ motivations and efforts are driven by their mindsets. A mindset is best discribed as a set of key beliefs they hold.
The greatest opportunity to improve learning is to work on developing the mindsets. Research shows that it has a great effect on student behaviour, outcomes, and overall drive to learn.
Mindset#1: ‘I can change my intelligence and abilities through effort’. The growth mindset is the most powerful lever to improve learning because it is the driver of student behaviour. The most essential and critical for us to focus on is the growth mindset. Students with a growth mindset realize that their abilities to think and do are a result of their past behaviours. They see effort as what makes people smart, they are motivated to focus on continued growth, and they persist in the face of setbacks (Mueller & Dweck, 1998).
A growth mindset can be learned. When we teach a growth mindset, students work harder because they want to do so. They use more effective strategies, and they reach higher levels of achievement.
Mindset#2: ‘I can succeed’. Related to the growth mindset is the belief that one can succeed (Bandura, 1986). Students must believe that they can achieve their goals. If students think they need help or resources, they must see a path they can take.
sense of belonging
Mindset#3: ‘I belong in this learning community’. When students feel they belong to a learning community, they become engaged in learning. When they feel they belong to a community of peers that values going beyond one’s comfort zone, students connect learning activities and objectives with social rewards they value.
Mindset#4: ‘This work has value and purpose for me’. Students engage in learning much more energetically and deeply when they value the knowledge and skills that they acquire, find relevant or interesting. That makes them think deeply, question, pursue, and put their full selves into their work. Project-based learning and real-world connections are ways to foster relevance. This way you help students to explore passions, goals, and applications of learning. You can also have students reflect on and write about the relevance of their work.
Hope this makes teachers and coaches reflect on their practice. I hope to inspire teachers and coaches to become even more empowering for students. Give learning back to life and keep up the good work.
learning to learn
Students with learning mindsets have the energy to seek challenges and have high expectations for themselves. But if they don’t know what to do in order to meet those ambitious goals, they may develop a sense of helplessness.
Instead of only teaching knowledge and skills, teachers have the opportunity to contribute to self-management and learning-to-learn skills. You may think that students implicitly learn these skills as they do their work, but without explicit instruction and reflection, this understanding is not solid (Schwartz, 1998). We must teach students how they can better manage themselves, approach learning and pursue their goals. These skills should be part of a basic educational foundation for all students.
instruction and ownership
Of course, students also need quality instruction and some guidance during learning activities. Good instruction shift the learners’ mind from passive detachment to active engagement and challenge-seeking. Guiding them toward their zone of proximal development and pointing them to resources and experiences are important to maximize personal growth.
We need to develop in students the mindsets, strategies, and habits that cultivate student agency and ownership.
I want students to take agency and ownership of their learning because that acquires deeper understanding and skills. They become more competent learners in life. Deep learning requires students to think, question, pursue, and create. Learning mindsets and learning strategies & habits are the most important areas to develop. I hope this makes teachers and coaches reflect on their practice. I hope to inspire teachers and coaches to become even more empowering for students. Give learning back to life and keep up the good work.