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Unlocking a Learner's Mindset?

"I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn." - Albert Einstein





What do you get when you mix one part Carol Dweck, with one part Will Richardson, with another part George Couros? You get a concept I call the learner's mindset. What is a learner's mindset? Not only is it an inner narrative describing personal growth and fulfillment, I believe possessing a learner's mindset is a crucial element in the true transformation of schools and education.



"I am convinced that the best learning takes place when the learner takes charge." Seymour Papert

“Innovation is not reserved for the few; it is something we will all need to embrace if we are to move forward.” - George Couros, The Innovator's Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity

“learning a passion for learning is more important for your practical success than learning any particular facts or skills.” - Michael Feldstein / Will Richardson, From Master Teacher to Master Learner

“Mindset change is not about picking up a few pointers here and there. It's about seeing things in a new way. When people...change to a growth mindset, they change from a judge-and-be-judged framework to a learn-and-help-learn framework.” - Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

“I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures... I divide the world into the learners and nonlearners.” - Benjamin Barber / Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

When experiences, resources, and social connections are used intentionally to advance learning, a learner's mindset grows. Learning is not a steady, upward trajectory. There are setbacks, challenges, and mistakes that make learning a roller coaster ride. A growth mindset helps us to adjust dips, rises, twists and turns. Growth mindset also serves us reminders that challenge and failure are golden opportunities to forge ahead. Beyond fostering a perspective about personal development, George Couros says that those with an innovator's mindset use development (learning) to create new ideas and systems for learning.

"You can't teach 21st-century learners if you haven't learned this century." - Gary Stager

Carl Rogers suggests people are natural born learners, and somewhere between kindergarten and twelfth grade, the natural inclination to learn gets buried beneath layers of compulsory curriculum, and teacher-centered pedagogy. A learner's mindset is the embracing of inquiry, curiosity, and creativity. Optimally, folks with a learner's mindset intentionally share their learning transparently knowing this practice will fuel learning experiences for others.

"...the educator needs to understand and be able to articulate and demonstrate the process of learning, him or herself. It is a mistaken assumption that educators know how to do so. The learning process can be made overt through recording and clearly articulating the steps, procedures, and/or strategies for doing so." - Dr. Jackie Gerstein

For educators in this innovation era, there needs to be a shift from knowing to learning. A learners first mentality creates conditions where learning goals, processes, strategies, and products provide models for student learners, so they can be more self-determined with their learning. Heutagogy, when the learner assumes responsibility for their own learning, should be an attainable, if not an essential objective for modern schools. A favorite analogy from Seymour Papert illustrates this concept of learning from "master learners".

"If I wanted to become a better carpenter, I'd go find a good carpenter, and I'll work with this carpenter on doing carpentry or making things. And that's how I'll get to be a better carpenter. So if I want to be a better learner, I'll go find somebody who's a good learner and with this person do some learning. But this is the opposite of what we do in our schools. We don't allow the teacher to do any learning. We don't allow the kids to have the experience of learning with the teacher because that's incompatible with the concept of the curriculum where what is being taught is what's already known." - Seymour Papert

"What would schools be like if the adults in the building purposefully and explicitly lived and shared the process of being a learner?" - Scott McLeod / George Couros; The Innovator's Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity

A learner's mindset supports our personal growth narrative and is a perspective essential to truly transforming schools and education. 
  • How does one develop a learner's mindset? 
  • What are the practices, experiences, and conditions that support a learners first mentality? 


References and Resources


Harmonizing Learning and Education - e-Literate, Michael Feldstein




photo credit: Floating Around in the Wind via photopin (license)

Comments

Bill Ferriter said…
Hey Bob,

I like this.

At the end of your post, you ask about the conditions that enable a learner first mindset. For me, I think many of those conditions are clear, but actively discouraged by the structures and systems that we work in.

Here's what I mean: We say we want a learner first mindset, but we have a clearly defined, very explicit curriculum that consumes all of the time we have available in schools. We say we want a learner first mindset, but assessment is top-down and coercive. Outcomes matter, not progress or growth.

As a teacher, it's that tension that's killing me -- between what we say our priorities are and what we prioritize in our work. And I'm not sure whose job it is to drive change towards something more realistic.

Anyway -- thanks for making me think today.
Bill

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