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Four Strategies that Spark Curiosity and Fuel Motivation

Research shows that four strategies spark curiosity and fuel motivation: big ideas, meaningful student choice, increased cognitive demand, and scaffolding.

Four Strategies that Spark Curiosity and Fuel Motivation

Here’s how Foundations & Frameworks (a K-6) instructional reading program) naturally embeds all four strategies:How strategy #1 is designed to spark curiosity in the Foundations & Frameworks reading program

Foundations & Frameworks is research-based, and time-tested. Join us this summer for Foundations & Frameworks Basic Training.

[The students’] reading comprehension skills have improved with the introduction and sustained commitment to Foundations & Frameworks. I see students who are confident in their ability to understand materials well above grade level. —Middle School F&F Teacher, TX

Power Tools Can Make All the Difference: Introduction

I was recently reminded that power tools can make all the difference.

The play cottage Nona and Pop gave our daughter sat in the garage awaiting construction. You see, my husband and I clearly recall a previous play-kitchen construction project that took three times longer than anticipated. As a result, we dreaded this project. Adding to our dread was the suggestion that the play cottage surprise its new owner by magically appearing after nap time. Nona and Pop, the planners of this plot, were blissfully 12 hours away!

However, it was time to tackle the task. We gained confidence, discovering that the cottage comprised only six pieces! And then we found the large plastic bag packed solidly with screws. We hunted down two Phillips head screwdrivers, took deep breaths, and jumped in. Thirty minutes later, with ten screws in and only a fraction of the cottage complete, a couple friends dropped by. Merik, a project manager by profession, sized up our task and our sorry tools. With a smirk he said, “You know, adding a little power to your tools might get you to the finish line a little quicker.” Without waiting for our response, he walked away and returned ready to join the construction crew, power screwdriver firmly in hand. (Apparently project managers keep their power tools close!)

Construction moved quickly, and our dread turned to delight. We constructed the cottage, cleaned up, and even relaxed before nap time was over. And, the look on our daughter’s face when she saw what “magically appeared” was priceless. Thanks to power tools (and good friends), the mission was accomplished.

As a project manager, Merik looked at the job and identified the power tool needed to get it done efficiently. We educators construct knowledge in the classroom every day. What if we could look at our teaching goals and identify power tools to efficiently construct the necessary learning? Over the next few months, we’ll explore what brain research reveals about routines and structures that incorporate such power tools in various areas, including: retention and recall, small groups, literature selection, visual representation of thinking and learning, and modeling.

Unlike play cottages, learning doesn’t “magically appear,” but we can effectively and efficiently ignite excitement for learning in our students. It just takes the right tools.

 


Brynn Redmond, M.Ed. is a K-12 Reading Specialist, a Clerestory Learning Program Support Specialist, a mom to two beautiful girls, and owner of inspiringliteracy.com.

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Current Trends and Issues in Education – Q&A Part 2

Here are a few more responses to questions on current trends and issues in education, including educators in faith-based learning environments cultivating growth mindset, the connection between personalization of learning and growth mindset, and the effects of social media and students’ belief about their intelligence.

Do you see a unique position that educators in a faith-based learning environment have in cultivating a growth mindset in students?

There is a definite command in Scripture to be growing. Peter writes “if these things” — faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, and more — are in us and are growing they will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of Christ. To remain effective in service, students need to understand growth is essential; it is critical that we foster a lifelong learning mindset in them.

I strongly believe Christians are called, in part, to redeem the world through their work. The command to be salt and light should inform the quality of our work. If we are not growing in ability, knowledge, and understanding, we will eventually become ineffective.

What connection do you see between personalization of learning and development of a growth mindset?

First, there is a connection between motivation and mindset: autonomy (I have some say in how I learn), community (I sense I am part of a team, learning together), and competence (What I need to be successful is available to me). A learning culture of all three fosters intrinsic motivation. A student can approach a task by asking either, “How fast can I complete this assignment?” or “Am I completing this assignment for the purpose of learning?” Personalization from a growth mindset guards against simply mastering tasks in lieu of learning.

Personalization requires that a teacher help each student find meaning in new material. Connecting students’ past experiences with new material will enable them to find value in it. Give students time to find these connections, and don’t make assumptions you know what their experiences are. Teachers can create a community experience to establish a reference point for the new material, but they should always ask students to think of additional examples from their experience.

By personalizing learning, teachers can guide student mindset toward growth.

How do you see the effects of social media intersecting with mindset and students’ beliefs about themselves and their intelligence?

A student’s mindset and beliefs about himself has a lot to do with how he interprets social media. He may respond to a friend’s training schedule: If he can do it, I can do it. vs I’ll never be as good as him. Also, if all a student reads are success stories, it is more likely he will feel inadequate (I could never do that), and is nudged toward a fixed mindset. It takes maturity and an ability to think beyond a social media post.

[Next month – Q&A Part 3 of 3 addresses the teacher and growth mindset cultivation, the direction of research, and a professional development recommendation.]

Do you have an education-related question? Just Ask!

Current Trends and Issues in Education – Q&A Part 1

As part of her graduate class requirement, a teacher asked my perspective on current trends and issues in education. She asked some very thoughtful questions—here are the first three of nine:

What practices do you think are important for teachers, administrators and other interested professionals in staying current with research and trends in mindset and brain sciences?

Read books, and read widely. While journals tend to be laser-focused, books cover a wide range of disciplines. I read books by neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists, and sometimes business leaders, especially when they cover a topic like coaching. The perspective they share is rich and can be applied to mentoring teachers.

You will want to read books that relate to your focus. Because my curriculum work may require knowing about the teenage brain just as well as the preschool brain, I need as expansive an understanding as possible.

Also, try to attend at least one conference each year. I enjoy attending the Learning & the Brain conference primarily to know who to follow. I want to know which scientists are doing work in areas related to the fields I think are important for education. This is where I attended sessions by John Medina, Tony Wagner, and Howard Gardner. Experiencing them in person offers a different perspective of their work.

Beliefs about intelligence seem to be domain-specific—where a person can hold a fixed mindset with regard to his ability in one subject area yet hold a growth mindset in another. What do you think is at the root of that phenomenon?

We believe different things about ourselves depending on context and whether we can or cannot be successful. Here are four key sentences to a summary of growth mindset I recently read:

  1.   I can change my intelligence and ability through effort
  2.   I can succeed
  3.   I belong in this learning community
  4.   This work has value and purpose for me

Pride may convince us we don’t belong in a learning community because those around us know so much more and it appears to come easily for them. Our mindset becomes fixed. When actually, it could be easy to belong if we are willing to act like someone seeking knowledge as opposed to someone who possesses it. The opposite can also be true; we can walk into a room with all the expertise we need, but if we perceive others to know more, our sense of belonging is challenged.

Research shows kids ask fewer and fewer questions as they get older. Why is that? It is not that they become less curious about the world, but it is possible that they perceive asking questions creates an appearance of not belonging to an all-knowing community.

Our response to how we perceive ourselves in relation to others is key. Mindset is heavily influenced by context and is not necessarily a stable trait.

How do regional differences influence mindset and motivation?

Regional differences that may influence have to do with interaction. For example, having grown up in the Northeast and living in the Southeast, I notice humor is used differently. In the North, humor is used as an icebreaker and can create an immediate bond with a stranger. In the South, if humor is used that early in an interaction, it is perceived as too familiar and therefore rude.

Differences in interaction exist, but I don’t see mindset and motivation being directly impacted. However, it does influence where a parent or teacher may both intentionally and unintentionally emphasize a fixed mindset. Values—what is important and profitable—differ in various regions of the country (e.g., math and science may be valued more in areas of the Northwest than elsewhere), and may influence the messages we send to our kids and to our students.

Increasing Learning By Minding Mindset

The story of “The Little Engine That Could” illustrates the ideas of belief, effort, achievement, and confidence. If we connect these ideas, we notice the following relationships: belief influences effort; effort influences achievement; achievement influences confidence.

This video clip explains how these relationships influence student learning and behavior.

For a succinct summary of the research findings regarding mindset, it’s tough to beat this quote attributed to Henry Ford: “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”

The complete “Increasing Learning by Minding Mindset” is available via ACSI’s Nexus portal, http://my.acsi.org.