The interest in how psychology and neuroscience research can improve teaching practices has grown rapidly in the past few years. But how can teachers know what they can trust? Where can they find good reliable evidence based CPD? And most importantly, what practical strategies can be implemented through learning more about mindset and the science of learning?
WHAT MAKES GREAT CPD
CPD offers one of the most effective ways to improve student performance, increase staff retention and develop a culture of excellence across a whole school. We think for CPD to be effective it has to be:
- Evidence based – using the latest and most important research to date
- Practical – What do the findings mean to you and your classroom?
- Affordable – Being cost effective is vital, especially at a time when budgets are being slashed
- Enjoyable – Because life is too short for another boring CPD session
GROWTH MINDSET: RESILIENT LEARNERS
A recent survey found that 98% of teachers believe that if their students had a growth mindset it wold lead to improved student learning, but only 20% of them believe they are good at fostering a growth mindset and 85% want more training and practical strategies.
So how can teachers help develop a growth mindset?
Research suggests that strategies should be subtle and stealthy. That is to say, they shouldn’t feel too much like a one-off ‘intervention’. This may include asking questions that develop a growth mindset and praising effective processes and strategies.
A research paper posed a question to teachers – one of your students gets a low mark in their exam (65%). What do you think of this student’s ability and how would you respond? Those with a fixed mindset took this as evidence that the student did not have a talent for maths and were more likely to respond with a ‘comfort focus’ (along the lines of ‘it’s ok, not everyone is good a maths, don’t feel bad about it, I’ll give you easier questions to answer to make you feel less stressed’). Teachers with a growth mindset believed it was too early to make a judgement on the child’s maths ability and were more likely to offer ‘strategy focus’ which included tips on how to get better and setting them challenging questions.
What impact did these alternative strategies have on students? Those who receive comfort strategy reported being less motivated than those who had received the strategy approach, and when asked how they thought they would do on their next exam comfort focused students estimated about the same level (65%) whereas the strategy focused students estimated significantly higher (80%). This suggests that a teacher’s mindset and beliefs mediates their teaching philisophy and strategies, which in turn influences student motivation and self-expectation.
UNDERSTANDING THE SCIENCE OF LEARNING
Reports such as ‘What Makes Great Teaching’ and the ‘Science of Learning’ highlight that we now know more than ever about what type of strategies lead to better memory, concentration and motivation. Using this research and creating effective classroom strategies and routines is surely the next step.
For example, we now that one of the most effective strategies to improve long term memory involves the use of quizzes, past papers and multiple choice exams. This makes the students retrieve information, which cements it into their long term memory. Other strategies that have been proven to help memory include spacing (i.e. doing a little and often as opposed to a lot in one go), teaching it to someone else and getting a good amount of sleep each and everynight.