- The Friday Mindset
- Friday Mindset #102
Friday Mindset #102
Helping students get better at studenting
We’re back! Here’s hoping you had a restful and restorative break.
We’ve had a great start to the half term, visiting a huge CPD day for a group of schools in Lincolnshire and speaking alongside Tom Sherrington - he’s always impressive and this time was no different - Mark Roberts - who delivered some incisive and practical training on engaging boys - and Charlotte Woolley, who explored girls’ roles and behaviours in the classroom with considerable expertise.
It’s given us loads of ideas - we’ll share them as we process them and draw out the implications.
Anyway, lots to share this week - let’s dive in!
Something to try...
We were listening to a podcast recently - driving to-and-from Lincolnshire as it happens - in which former teacher Alex Lawsen was going through his advice for exam practice. There was lots there we’d expect - high and low utility revision techniques, the tendency to default to low-stakes practice in order to quell stress about the difficulty of exams, the importance of testing oneself. But the following exchange (it’s at about 17:00 minutes in, if you fancy a listen) really struck us as a clear and helpful strategy for using past papers effectively.
Here’s the transcript. The numbers, to clarify the stages, are ours:
Keiran Harris: “How would you make the most of the papers you do have?
Alex Lawsen: One thing that seems really important is actually that doing a past paper — if you’re really trying to prepare for an exam — doesn’t quite look like sitting the paper once, and then going, “Cool, I’m done. Next paper.” I think the full exercise of getting as much out of the paper as possible looks something like this:
(i) You do the paper without notes in the time that you are allowed for it in the exam.
(ii) Then stop, change colour — do something to notice that that’s how much you did in the time — and then try using either additional time, if you think that’s going to be enough, or additional time and notes, to answer the questions fully. So basically then cheat your way to as best as you can do on the exam, and then…
(iii) mark it.
The last stage — which you could do without the “cheat your way to the finish” stage anyway — when you mark an exam yourself, it’s incredibly valuable to work out what you did wrong, why it was wrong, and why the right answer is right. And this is actually a place where just asking a teacher can be really helpful — it’s incredibly easy for teachers to give you a ton of value. If you’ve tried a question for ages and then marked it already, and found what the right answer is, and that your answer isn’t right, and you have thought about it but you don’t understand why, then going to a teacher and saying, “This is the whole process I’ve been through. Please, can you explain this one concept?” just lets you get a huge conceptual boost for very little of their time, assuming they are knowledgeable enough to know what the right answer is.”
It might not be entirely transferrable - Alex teaches Maths and Physics - but there’s something clear, visual, replicable and exciting about the simplicity of this approach.
We’re going to give it a go.
Something we're reading...
This is a sobering read, and an important one. We first read this about a month ago. It didn’t cover ground that was new or describe anything unexpected, but it’s something we have a responsibility to think hard about.
Why aren’t we creating learners who can all thrive at university?
To be clear - it’s obviously not all the fault of schools and colleges. Clearly. Some of our answers might suggest we look more closely at universities themselves. Some explanations will undoubtedly be political - financial pressure is a big reason students from disadvantaged backgrounds drop out. And some we might think of as societal - mental health is cited as the number one reason why students drop out.
But given schools’ and college’s roles in shaping culture and society, we think it’s worth considering the issues that we could be addressing at key stages 4 and 5 to ensure students’ psychological and practical study-foundations are more robust. Just a thought.
As I am going through all our slides I am constantly looking for new inspiration and this week I came across a brilliant series by American Professor of Neurobiology, Andrew Huberman. This particular episode was a deep dive into the famous Carol Dweck papers from 1999 & 2006.
During the episode Huberman discusses the effects of praise on students, particularly the need to praise students for effort rather than intelligence, and how praise for effort has been shown to develop a growth mindset in children.
Later, he discusses the links between growth mindset and students’ responses to stress, highlighting how perceptions of stress can lead to a self-fulfilling prophesies, and that by teaching students about the positive effects of stress can have a huge impact on how they cope with stressful situations.
This highly recommend episode is below, however be sure to check out the whole series here - https://www.youtube.com/@hubermanlab
0:22: Growth mindset is the idea that our abilities are malleable and our brains can change through neuroplasticity.
9:19: Praise for intelligence can undermine children's motivation and performance.
17:54: Praising intelligence can undermine performance and lead to misrepresentation of performance in children while praising effort improves performance and encourages persistence.
26:42: The study highlights the impact of different types of praise on performance and the belief in fixed intelligence, emphasizing the importance of effort and a growth mindset.
35:09: Effort-based praise leads to improved performance, while identity-based praise undermines performance.
43:56: The study found that people with a growth mindset focus on cognitive appraisal when they make errors, while people with a fixed mindset focus on emotional response.
53:09: Understanding stress is enhancing mindset and its impact on performance and motivation.
1:02:33: Learning that stress can enhance performance can increase performance even in less stressful tasks, and significantly improve performance in harder tasks.
1:11:21: Learning about growth mindset and stress-enhancing mindset can buffer against stress and improve performance.
1:21:12: The tutorial emphasizes the importance of adopting a growth mindset and understanding that stress can enhance performance.
1:30:23: The mind is not like a muscle, but adopting a growth mindset and stress-enhancing performance mindset can improve performance.
1:39:15: This episode discusses growth mindset, how to cultivate it, and the related stress that can dance performance mindset.
Our latest offer...
This week’s offer is another of our new slide decks. In keeping with the Andrew Huberman video, this deck is on Growth Mindset, and includes some interactive polls which can be done as a class. (We’d love your feedback on these if you have a moment, btw…)
We’re leaning into the whole Mission Impossible vibe with these, so remember… these slides will self destruct on 22nd December!
All the best to you and yours, have a fantastic weekend,
Steve, Tony and Martin
p.s. We’re not usually ones for random quotes taken out of context… but this struck us as a really good one. The speaker here is American architect, author and graphic designer Richard Saul Wurman (who also co-founded TED.) He’s speaking about learning, failure and fear.
Wonderful stuff to share and discuss:
"When I was a child, I once saw someone in a wheelchair. My mother told me that the person in the wheelchair had been in an accident and would recover, but would need to learn to walk again. That was a revelation to me because it seemed that once we’d learned to walk, we’d always know how to walk.
The notion of learning to walk has lingered in my mind, and I’ve contemplated the process of teaching someone to walk again. I realized that this process has a lot to do with thrusting a leg out into the terror of losing your balance, then regaining your equilibrium, moving forward, and then repeating with your other leg. Failure as loss of balance, the success of equilibrium, and you move forward. Terror of falling, confidence, regaining your balance — it’s a fascinating metaphor for life. Risk is half of the process of moving forward. The risk of failing is inherent in achieving a goal."