Oct 31, 2018
In Unit 6
As I've been completing the units and working through the questions in the learning journal, my lack of knowledge of my (previous) students' career aspirations has become embarrassingly obvious! Admittedly, I have only recently complete my teaching degree so I have limited classroom experience to draw upon. However, I have only just finished a 10 week internship teaching students from Years 7 - 11 and I'm still struggling to answer questions about my students' aspirations for higher education. Am I the only one who is feeling this? It got me thinking about what I could have done differently during that term. Perhaps I could have surveyed students to find out what their career aspirations were and entered the data into a spreadsheet. Although, it seems inefficient for every teacher to be doing that--not to mention the administrative burden it would heap on already time-poor teachers. Here's an idea: What if all students completed a survey each year that measured their aspirations for higher education? It could be organised and administered centrally (perhaps by careers advisors in schools?) and teachers could access the data for the students they teach. It would show them what their students' aspirations are, and importantly--how they might have changed over time. This might provide teachers and schools an indication of students who, say, for instance, have compromised on their career aspirations because they lack the social/cultural/economic capital to feel comfortable in that field, or because they don't have sources of 'hot knowledge' or 'map knowledge' in their lives that would help them navigate the pathway towards higher education. This kind of data and reporting could not only assist all teachers to connect their lessons to students' aspirations, but also provide a mechanism to notify teachers/schools if/when students' aspirations change so that they may be able to intervene in cases where students have compromised because of social/economic/cultural factors that are outside of their control.
Oct 30, 2018
In Unit 2
As I was completing activity 2.7 in Lesson 7: Growth vs. fixed mindset, I started thinking deeply about the role that schools play in promoting growth and fixed mindsets among students. Before I came to university and started a teaching degree, I think I had a pretty fixed mindset. I was of the impression that learning and academic achievement just came naturally for some lucky people, and that I was lucky enough to be a natural. While my studies have challenged these notions and I know that everyone can learn (anything they want) and that a growth mindset is most conducive to learning, I admit that even today, the legacy of messages over a life time that have reinforce fixed notions of ability or intelligence still affect me. I experience from performance anxiety and I'm terrified of failure because at some level in my brain, I still worry that if I'm seen as a failure, I will no longer be lucky, smart or successful. I have internalised the notion that if I fail, I won't be 'gifted'. When I think back to my own schooling experience, I can remember being placed in a 'gifted and talented' (GATs) program. I felt special, like there was something about me that made me different from everyone else. It was something that I was born with. It was natural. Reflecting back on this, I can see how the language of 'gifted and talented' in schools supports this interpretation. Gifts and talents are not necessarily learned or earned. Rather, they are more likely to be seen as innate, natural or bestowed upon a person. No wonder I felt 'special' in the GATs program. The program stamped me as a born achiever. Equipped with an unrealistic expectation of success and a fundamental misunderstanding of the process of learning, I developed what could be called a 'fixed mindset'. To this day, in spite of all my studies, this mindset and the fears it generates still haunt me. While differentiation for students at all levels of achievement is considered best practice, I do not believe that labeling some students as 'gifted' or 'talented' is in students' best interests. It sends strong messages to targeted GATs students, as well as those who get left out, that can negatively affect the learning and well-being of both parties. I think that if teachers and schools want to help students promote a 'growth mindset', then the language that is used to talk about learning, achievement and 'ability' in schools needs careful consideration.