Thursday, July 16, 2015

The open mind set

One of the sessions I attended at the ALA conference was "How to Fail Successfully" presented by Sara Kelley Mudie @skm428 and Andrea Snyder @alsnyder02.  It was about creating and having a growth mind set for life and learning. 

I was prompted to write about this today as I have just experienced being a facilitator at a workshop with adults of whom a few did not have an growth mind set for learning. Most were willing learners, but a few were what I would consider blockers and with very closed mind sets. This was difficult to work with especially in an environment where the change was going to happen and I was there to help them move forward with the change.

One of the IB learner profiles is Open Minded, I had connected this with being open minded about opinions, lifestyles, culture and being accepting of others in these areas, and to be willing to engage openly but I had not made the connection between being open minded and the growth mindset for learning before, (yes, you can call me slow), but it is a very good fit and one that all adults need to be working toward if we are to be lifelong learners.

In their presentation Sara and Andrea spoke about some of the phrases and thinking that come up when a closed mindset is in action : 

  • This is the way we have always done it (TTWWADI)
  • I know all this
  • We tried it before and it didn't work
  • I am no good at this
  • I have done/ taught this for years, and there is nothing new
  • This has been imposed on me, so I don't want to know
  • What use is this going to be?
  • Who is this 'expert'? I know more than they do
  • I am a dullard at computers
  • I just don't have time for this
  • I will be retiring soon, what use is this?

I have been guilty of some of these phrases at time, and now I am working toward to be more open minded.   To go through life with an open mindset we need to be aware of our self speak and work toward more positive thinking and communication. 
  • Let's give this a go and see what happens
  • How can I make my learning a priority
  • What do I need to learn to make this change happen as smoothly as possible?
  • What is challenging me, and how can I reduce that challenge?
  • What is the worst that can happen?
  • What can I learn from this?

Our mindsets change constantly depending on the place and moment we are in, if we are under a lot of stress in one area of our lives, other areas may have a closed mind set approach just to keep us focused and stable in the area we need to be at that time. However, we do need to be mindful of this and engage others appropriately to let them know that now is not a good time, can we revisit in a week or so.

Educators can sometimes be a little 'set in their ways' particularly if they have been in the same work situation for a number of years and are very comfortable with a bit of a power base. Schools as institutions can also have closed mind sets where the culture does not promote, allow or even be open to change in the form of new initiatives, this can be leader led, or just within the culture of the school. Schools that have had a long traditions of 100's of years are renown for such mind sets just because of the long legacy of instilled traditions, however younger schools have also been afflicted with this.

Part of having a growth mindset is being willing and able to conduct an evaluation of one's life, teaching, organisation and the things/ events/ traditions/ ways of doing that make up that life, library, teaching style, school etc and to really look at what is working and what is no longer relevant.  We need to be able to "master the art of quitting" and moving onto something if it is no longer serving the needs of our family, clientele, class, school or community. (The phrase "flogging a dead horse' comes to mind.) Sara and Andrea stated that we need to embrace the need for change, find the change we need and move on without looking back.

"You can't be a trailblazer without the fire."
Are you the trailblazer or the debris left smouldering behind?

As an educator how do you measure against the evaluation statements below for openmindness?

  • Encourages an open, critical debate of issues
  • Reacts positively to constructive evaluation from others
  • Ready to try new ideas
  • Appreciates there are many ways to achieve the same goal, solve the same problem, react to same experience
  • Evaluates own teaching style & programmes critically
  • Is open to learning of new skills, ideas and ways of doing

Sara and Andrea gave out little stickers at the end of their workshop which said "Relentlessly Optimistic" to remind us all that positivity is the key to being good learners and educators.  We are working for the students to be open minded with a growth mindset so we must be an example of how that looks and works.


To find out more about growth mind set visit Carol Dweck's website "Mindset


Nadine Bailey said...

Great post and so true! I"ve been attending the Suzuki music convention in Davos and in many of the kids classes the parents and observing adults are expected to take part in the activities and exercises - and you can see them all cringing. Keeping an open mind gets more difficult as you begin to form preferences in your style of learning and emotional comfort zone.

One of the cello teachers yesterday made the class completely change the fingering of a piece they were playing. It was one of the earlier pieces so all of them would have played it 1000s of time with the conventional fingering. She explained that her rational was based in neuro-science and that although routine and efficiency helped playing on the one hand, it didn't allow growth and that was why she was mixing it up for them. She encouraged them to keep changing things around in order to get themselves out of the rut and to think about what they were doing again.

D's Journey said...

Thanks, I have a feeling that I'll be dealing with many wonderful fixed mindset educators in my new job position. Shall see.

Dianne McKenzie said...

Thanks Nadine & deb for your comments. The more I am travelling around the more aware i am becoming of how the different mindsets affects the faculty, whole staff and school environment. Leadership need to really look for growth mindset people when they recruit as it will make a huge difference to their school and the well being and learning of the students.