This morning I read this post about knowing and learning. Couros takes the ideas about fixed mindset (I don’t know) and growth mindset (I don’t know YET) and then adds in his innovator’s mindset (This is what I’ve created with what I know) to ask us to go beyond basic learning. The post made me think for a number of reasons.
YET. About four years ago, when Dweck’s work about growth mindset was just coming to our schools, I was working with Stephanie Harvey and she strategically used the word yet to help our teachers a) move into a growth mindset and b) stop referring to our students as “low readers” or “under performing” or other labels that often seem to limit our beliefs in students’ potential. The word yet became very powerful and a way for us to have difficult conversations about expectations for all students. I still see value in helping students, teachers, and leaders recognize that while they may not know something YET, they have the potential to learn.
Couros’ idea of the innovator’s mindset is also meaningful to me. I know that I personally learn best when I have quiet time to reflect on my own, time to write (my favorite way to reflect), time to talk to others about the learning, time to see the work in action, and time to apply the new learning.
I think about how I learned Spanish. I began taking Spanish in 7th grade. I visited Spain twice in high school and was able to use my new learning in authentic ways, though I was by no means bilingual YET. By the time I graduated from high school, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. At my university I had to major in a content area, so I chose Spanish because it was my favorite class in high school! Many of my university classes in Spanish did little to advance my knowledge. I studied verb conjugation in order to pass exams, but I wasn’t getting better as a Spanish speaker. It wasn’t until I spent a summer studying abroad, at the University of Salamanca in Spain, that I began to realize how much I knew. Every day that I spent using my Spanish, solidified my learning.
When I became a Spanish teacher, I had a new layer of application added to my language skills. By learning how to break down the language for new learners, I was able to use my knowledge in more ways. I also began to teach Spanish in ways that were different than the ways I learned in some of those classrooms. Twenty-nine years after my first Spanish class, I am still a Spanish speaker (and reader and writer when I need to be!).
In the comments section of Couros’ blog about this topic, Chad linked this article about knowledge. The article talks about how much we “learned” in high school or college but then can’t remember years later. It also talks about the importance of the knowledge that did stick. This line stood out to me:
Naturally, knowledge sticks if it’s revisited
My example of how I learned Spanish is clearly an indicator of knowledge that was revisited over and over again.
I appreciate when someone else’s blog can make me think this much about a topic like learning. Please share in the comments your thoughts about knowledge and learning and mindsets.