Thursday, March 30, 2017

Teacher Mindset and Student Success

If you've been following the transition that is taking place at Belmont High School, you would know that this transition is having a direct impact on the work teachers are doing in the classroom. One often overlooked piece of the transition is the shift in mindset (or perspective) that teachers must undergo in order to be successful in a competency-based teaching and learning model. Simply identifying standards, writing proficiency scales, posting learning targets, and reporting out on a 4-point scale is not enough to improve student achievement.

The impact of this work on teachers is significant and multi-faceted.  One of the most profound implications of the transition is the shift in emphasis from covering material to ensuring students have actually learned it.  This represents a subtle but significant change in how teachers must approach their practice.  In the world we all grew up in, it was common for a teacher to assign work from a chapter in a textbook, deliver instruction from the front of the room (often in the form of notes), assign classwork and homework, and give a test or quiz.  Then it was time to move on; whether students learned the material or not.  Feedback was minimal and often in the form of brief affirmations of performance, "Great Job!", "Excellent!", "Needs Improvement".  The quality of feedback was poor and sporadic.  If students did poorly they were often encouraged to study harder next time.

At Belmont High School, we are placing the emphasis on student learning rather than student work.  This concept is central to the philosophy of competency-based education.  Students must know exactly what they are expected to learn, how they are going to get there, and what success will look like.  Assessments are both formative and diagnostic.  Students are given opportunities to reflect on their progress so that they know where they are in relation to learning targets.

We have been working hard at BHS to foster a staff culture centered around reflective teaching and exemplary practice. We want all teachers to be able to answer the following questions:  What effect is my practice having on student learning? and, more importantly, How do I know?

During our most recent professional development day, we began a study of John Hattie's work on "Visible Learning." I've included a short video that highlights the eight mind frames that Hattie believes all teachers must hold. I firmly believe that these mind frames are essential to both teacher and student success.  I hope you enjoy the video.