I Believe in 28 out of 36 of You

16fa322b0d2a7149cdb9f62c483751e4World renowned psychologist and Stanford professor Albert Bandura has shown through his body of research that “our belief systems affect our actions, goals, and perception. Individuals who come to believe that they can effect change are more likely to accomplish what they set out to do… People with self-efficacy set their sights higher, try harder, persevere longer, and show more resilience in the face of failure.” (Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by David Kelley)

Knowing that belief systems affect actions and that self-efficacy impacts perseverance, it becomes important to consider how we define goals. Consider, for example, the doctor that you visit for excruciating stomach pain. If the doctor’s performance goal was to identify and treat the pain in 75% of her patients, would you feel comfortable seeing her for your appointment? What if the doctor next door said that his goal was that 100% of his patients would experience a 75% or greater reduction in the pain? Which door would you choose?

When we discuss student learning and growth targets, do we truly believe that all children are capable… of learning? Of achieving? Of finding success? Do our student targets reflect that?

Proficiency Target: 28 of the 36 students in my class will receive a score of “Standard Met” on the CAASPP state assessment.

When meeting parents at Back to School night, are you comfortable telling parents that eight of them have children who won’t have a successful year? Are you comfortable telling the students that?

Growth Target: All students will increase their pre-assessment scores by 20 points on the post-assessment.

When meeting parents at Back to School night, are you comfortable telling parents that, regardless of their child’s current academic level, each child will show marked growth during the school year? Are you comfortable telling the students that?

Belief systems affects our actions.

A team of psychologists from Stanford, Yale, and Columbia tested the effects of feedback provided on an essay. They found that one particular form of feedback significantly boosted student effort and performance. This “magical feedback” (as they deemed it) had nothing to do with writing. It simply said:

“I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know you can reach them.”

That’s it. One simple sentence, showing belief in the student, had more impact than any specific writing feedback. So when considering how we create and communicate student growth and proficiency targets, how do we ensure that actions, goals, and perceptions build a positive belief system? How are you building self-efficacy?

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From Prototype to Advocacy

6a00e5505caf4688330133ecfa78d3970b-800wi.jpgI’ve been mulling this question/idea around in my head for about a week now. Hoping my braintrust crew can help me out…

As we provide design thinking opportunities out to students, I’m wondering how we capitalize on the empathy when the prototyping and feedback cycle ends.

For example, the plight of the homeless has been a theme for a few classes of students throughout the district. Students watched an edited version of Tony the Movie, which follows Tony, a San Diego man who is trying to reverse his homelessness situation. After the movie, students had the unique opportunity of meeting both Tony and the movie’s director. They asked some important questions of Tony about how he access resources, what he most needs, and how being homeless feels.

Students have responded to the experience in different ways. At one school, 4th grade students developed a needs statement around Tony needing to stay connected so as to access resources, and therefore, a way to keep his cell phone charged was critical. At another school site, 6th grade students are building tiny home prototypes for people in need, to include homeless, wounded veterans, and others.

In both scenarios, the prototype will resemble a makerspace project – cardboard, glue, pipe cleaners, etc. The feedback loop will involve discussions around how well the prototype fit the needs statement, and did the elevator pitch clearly convey both the need and the method of addressing it.

But then what?

What about the students who truly connected with Tony and the struggles of homelessness? Their prototypes are not being manufactured, so what CAN they do? Do we just say, “Thanks for the great project” and then move on to our next Common Core standards-aligned lesson?

How can we bring that empathy to life and move it from a cardboard prototype to an opportunity for advocacy?

Some advocacy ideas I’ve been tossing around for students*:

  1. Write your local politicians, explaining the project and what was learned, followed by a request for call to action. (In this case, perhaps students could ask for safe places for people to sit and let their phones charge.)
  2. Share your learning and needs statement with three adults and ask them ways in which to get involved, or better yet, tell them how to get involved.
  3. Create a public outreach campaign for Open House night.
  4. Fundraise for a local charity that supports the cause learned about.
    *Our students are K-6 so the list should differ for older students.

Including an advocacy option for students keeps the empathy focus of design thinking in front. It helps students see how ideas can become action, and how voice can create change.

So what else could we add to the list? How are you supporting students to become advocates for change?

Crafting a New Story of Learning

This was a fascinating read the other night…

From: Making the World a Better Place Starts with a Really Good Story

Kathleen: One of the things I saw in the organizations that I interviewed is that they prioritize storytelling, not only at the executive director or CEO level, but at every single level of the organization. Everyone within the organization can be a brand ambassador for the cause, whether it’s a staff member who happens to be at a cocktail party and comes across a donor, or whether it’s a beneficiary talking to a funder about the effectiveness of the work.

Some of the organizations that I interviewed actually did storytelling practice in their staff meetings. IDEO.org does this storytelling roulette where they spin a wheel, and on the spot, a staff member has to tell a story about a project that they worked on. It’s that repetitive practice that really helps build storytelling skills.

Nadine: One of the great benefits of doing that is that within the organization, it builds cohesion and alignment around the messaging and the brand. It’s really a powerful internal development tool, as well as an external development tool.

How are you empowering both staff and students to tell the story of learning at your site? I just spent a day of professional learning with every teacher in our district. Based on an activity in Ron Ritchhart’s Creating Cultures of Thinking, we looked at the story of learning we were told growing up through beliefs, behaviors, expectations, etc. Phrases such as compliance, tracking, and worksheets kept rising up.

Our district has already spent a year researching what education should look like for our students. We met with industry experts, read countless books, went to conferences across the country, and most importantly, talked to our stakeholders: students, parents, staff, and community.

With this information, as well as some video and article reads during our professional learning day, we began crafting a new story of education; one that values the unique geniuses of all students through strong instructional practices that promote student agency, collaboration, personalization, cultural intelligence, and design thinking. Our new story has much different phrases:

Word Clouds from New Sticky Notes

So how do we build a storytelling culture amongst all our stakeholders? That’s the next chapter we’re writing.

How are you telling your story? Do you have a storytelling culture, or is a lone storyteller writing your book?

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