Coaching Engagement & Motivation Mindset

The Curious Case of Nick Kyrgios

Up until about 12 months ago, when talking about Australian tennis you could quite comfortably lump Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios into the same too hard basket. Kyrgios had just returned from a ATP suspension for giving up during a match at the Shanghai Masters, whilst Tomic was embroiled in a war of words with Roger Federer after Rog suggested Bernard needed to work on his game. At the time Tomic was ranked 17th in the World – yes really – and Federer was pointing out what might be needed for him to break into the Top 10, but rather than take advice from (arguably) the greatest ever tennis player, Tomic chose to do what he does best – petulance.

Fast forward twelve months, and Kyrgios and Tomic are harder to talk about in the same breath.

After failing to qualify for this year’s Australian Open, Tomic – now ranked 143rd in the world – was asked quite reasonably, “So Bernard, what now for you?” to which he replied:

“I just count money, that’s all I do. I count my millions. You go do what I did [on court]. Bye bye. You go make 13-14 million [dollars]. Good luck guys.”

As Tomic seems to be on the fast-track to starring in a 2025 episode of Where Are They Now? Kyrgios on the other hand, now ranked 17th – the position Tomic occupied last year – appears to be preparing for a decade of winning ATP titles and being a serious contender in grand slams.

Today, the Australian media is awash of stories of public redemption for Nick as he seemed to “care” and have a real go during his Round 4 loss to Grigor Dimitrov.

But has anything really changed? Has he matured? Has he found his purpose?

No idea.

I am, however, interested to observe how he handles things now they appear to be going well for him. He won the Brisbane title a couple of weeks ago, the media are easing up, and even Will Smith seems to love the guy. But even with the Fresh Prince in your corner, sometimes success masks one’s shortcomings rather than prove they’ve been addressed.

For example, when Nick has managed to beat either Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal (in total he has done this five times in his career) only once has he has gone on to win his next game and it’s just possible that a victory against any of these three players might serve to prove to himself, and all his doubters that he really can play and everyone should just leave him alone.

Being caught in a mindset focused on proving oneself, leaves little room for improving. 

With elite athletes, as well as improving technique, tactics and strategy, the role of challenging the proving v improving mindset is the domain of the coach. In Kyrgios’ case, he doesn’t have one. In the past he’s said he’s “not too fussed” about having a coach, but in recent times he employed Sebastien Grosjean before the two parted company late last year, so he started this year, once again coach-less. This point that has been picked up on by virtually every tennis commentator who say when Nick plays, he plays what’s in front of him, he’s a natural talent – Jim Courier likened him to a free-flowing jazz performer – yet when the very top players play, as well as talent, they have a plan or game management strategy. These strategies are developed with the opponents strengths and weaknesses in mind and whist a player might not be able to research every opponent s/he might come up against, a coach can.

During his loss to Dimitrov, Krygios was called for foot faults, something he remonstrated with the Umpire about, being heard on mic saying, “I haven’t been called for a foot fault for the last three years. That’s twice today. It’s not possible man.” Whether correct or not, it’s a simple technical issue – that can cost games – that a player would struggle to identify during practice. But a coach could.

It seems clear to most who know more about tennis and Krygios than I do, that even a “natural talent” like Nick would benefit from a coach, so it begs the question, why doesn’t he have one?

It might be that to engage a coach would require Nick to admit he isn’t good enough. It might require him to work harder than he has done before, or change the manner in which he goes about his life. And for him to want to do this he has to really love, not only tennis, but all the hard work it takes to be his best.

And it might be that he’s not that keen on any of these things. He’s said before he’s not keen on tennis.

But I think it’s possible that in elite sport individuals feel defined by their outcomes, their win/loss percentage or their stats. They feel judged by what they produce, rather than who they are. And as I eluded to before, when things are going well, all is good, but when things start to get tricky, there are some who might see not trying, or not caring as a safe way out.

Almost counter-intuitively, some individuals who feel defined by, or valued because of their performance or outcomes, might actually stop trying to produce. In doing so, the conversation focuses on their need to care more, or try harder – usually because they have the talent – and this is a safer conversation and plays to the ego of the athlete. Compare this to the confronting realisation that even after a sustained hundred percent effort the athlete still comes up short. For some, being called a brat, lazy, immature, wasted talent is safer for their self esteem than being seen as not good enough.

Given the recognition Nick has received for his effort, determination and attitude so far this year, as well as the plaudits for establishing the NK Foundation for underprivileged youth,  I’m very curious to see how he responds. I genuinely hope he does so positively.

Coaching Engagement & Motivation

What do adult learners really want?

A few weeks ago I was asked to speak to a group of school leaders. From the outset I was concerned that the brief from the client meant that I’d be doing a lot of talking. I flagged this with the client, indicating that rather than a workshop – given the amount of new content they wanted the delegates to be introduced to – it would be more akin to three 90 minute keynotes.

“No problem” came the reply.

As they say, the customer is always right. So I prepared at such.

At the lunch break after two of the keynote style sessions (with perhaps 5-10mins group work in total throughout the morning, a principal approached me, “Now, before I say anything, are you planning to do any group work this afternoon?” she asked.

My heart sank. My greatest fears had been realised. Even though I could tell that the group was really engaged in the morning, this principal was about to pull me up on the fact it had been all “chalk & talk” and she wasn’t happy with that. And if she wasn’t happy, perhaps I had misread the room entirely?

“Erm… I hadn’t planned to, but I could, I mean err… well, I was asked by the organiser to cover off on all this, and err… oh I don’t know… maybe I could, yeah… no… ahh, yep, we could definitely do some group work if you like…” I replied, navigating the conversation rather expertly I think you’ll agree.

“Oh, good grief no!” she said, “At last we’ve got someone treating us like professionals. If you make us get into groups and give us post-it notes I’m outta here.”

Now to be clear, this is the very first time I’ve ever heard anyone say they’d prefer to listen all day rather than work in groups to share their experiences and so forth. And even though the feedback from the principals and school leaders after the three keynotes was very positive, it’s fair to say I took this principal’s opinion as an anomaly and didn’t think too much more about it.

Until this weekend, when I read an article in the Sydney Morning Herald entitled Why Are Corporate Training Course Usually Awful? 

The article by Jim Bright asked the reader to consider:

  • Why are trainers obsessed with “group work”? I have invested my fee or time to hear the expert share their insights.

  • After each group has reported back, generally at excruciating length, the point of the exercise is revealed. Generally, the point was about as predictable as a sunrise, but considerably less illuminating. And so the pattern is set for a day of plasticine snake making and writing pretentious things on butcher’s paper.

  • I do not want to have to listen to the pontifications of Jones from accounts, whose expertise in the matter under discussion has hitherto mysteriously been concealed so well under their bushell it was reasonable to conclude that they have not got a clue what they are talking about.

  • This adult likes to be respected by a trainer who recognises that he would like to hear what they have to say more than he wants to hear how others react to what they say.

For me, this is particularly interesting, although I recognise that whether or not delegates want to participate in group will largely depend on two factors; the group themselves and the purpose of the session. For me I think I’ll still be gravitating towards group work and having the participants share their insights as that actually helps me to mould the workshops as they play out. Given I use a coaching approach in my sessions I appreciate the art of good questioning to elicit more relevant responses than perhaps Jones from accounts comes up with.

What do you think? To group or not to group? That is the question…

Engagement & Motivation Mindset

Coaching: Do You Wanna Impress or Improve?

coachImagine a young cricketer who is regarded as an excellent prospect. Let’s call her Sara. She gets selected for a representative training squad, thus getting access to a higher level of coaching than she has had before. As a right-hander, Sara regularly scores runs, but knows she has a weakness when a ball is pitched up on middle & leg stump.

As the representative team meet for their first net session, Sara perceives this as her time to shine, to impress, to ensure she is selected in the starting XI for the first game.

The last thing she wants is a ball on middle & leg in front of the coaches.

And yet if she is to improve as a cricketer, a ball on middle & leg is precisely what she needs. In fact she needs plenty of them particularly whilst she is around such high-class coaches who have the ability to help her improve her technique.

But often in cricket – and other sports – school and the workplace, when we’re around those who potentially have the most to offer, the situation dictates we need to impress rather than improve. We want to spend time demonstrating what we can do, rather than asking for help for the things we can’t.

Assuming that both the coach and the coachee (in this case Sara) are interested in improvement, one way around this is to conduct a coaching conversation. It can take many forms, from a chat over coffee to a more formal setting, but the essence of a coaching conversation is to empower the coachee to identify what they need to work on.

As with most relationships, a good coach-coachee relationship is predicated on trust, and assuming that is in place, a coaching conversation for Sara might look something like:

Coach: What’s your goal Sara?

Sara: To get into the starting XI for the first rep game.

Coach: What do you need to do in order for that to happen do you think?

Sara: Keep scoring runs, work hard in the field.

Coach: So how are things going?

Sara: Good. I’ve got a decent average, and I feel like I’m hitting the ball well.

Coach: Would you like to score more runs, if you could?

Sara: Of course!

Coach: So what’s stopping you?

You’ll notice that the coach has only asked questions, and has already shifted the goal from “getting into the team” to something more tangible like “scoring more runs.” The coach has also opened up the conversation now for Sara to identify some of the factors that prevent her from scoring even more runs.

Sara: I tend to struggle with balls on middle & leg. I can’t score well in that area, and I’ve been bowled a few times and caught off a leading edge several times too over the past couple of seasons.

Coach: OK, so we’ve got an hour or so where we can set up the bowling machine and work on something. What do you think we could work on together in order to help you score more runs?

Can you guess what Sara is going to suggest?

Within the space of a few minutes Sara has shifted her mindset from not wanting a single ball on middle & leg to suggesting she spend the next hour working on nothing but.

Sara and her coach take the goal of getting into the team – an outcome, that in reality, she has little control over – and is now able to focus on the shorter term, more tangible goal of improving her technique on middle & leg. And of course, if she gets this right, she’s probably more likely to end up getting into the team.

How might you use coaching conversations in your work?

In 2017, I’ll be offering 1:1 coaching. Let me know if you’d like to be kept in the loop about this!

Engagement & Motivation Mindset Wellbeing

Could having goals contribute to depression?

We’re told that having goals is important. At school we teach kids the importance of them whilst there wouldn’t be a boardroom in the country that hasn’t hosted a goal-setting workshop.

But what if your goals were making you depressed? Read on…

Last week I ran 10km. It took me just over an hour. Whilst this time isn’t going to be setting any records I was pleased for one reason alone.

It was the furthest I’d run in over 3 years.

My last ‘double-digit’ run was in the 2012 City2Surf from Sydney CBD to Bondi Beach and the three occasions I have completed the 14km City2Surf account for my three longest runs.

In May I plan to run the Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon, before taking on the full Sydney Marathon in September. You may have read about this on my MarathonMindset blog…

From the outset my goals have been process and progress orientated. By that I mean I haven’t been focused so much on the times I run, rather the improvements I make in between runs.

I look at all manner of things:

  • How do my legs feel at the 5km mark?
  • How has my breathing improved?
  • Am I more relaxed in my upper body?
  • Has my pace (time per km) decreased on similar runs?
  • Am I able to handle hills any better?
  • How many days does it take before I think, “I’m ready for another run?”

Clearly some of my interpretations may be incorrect in the moment, and constantly zeroing in on growth or progress means you sometimes miss the bigger picture.

This is where having milestones is important.

Running 10km was a milestone for me. Again I wasn’t interested in how quickly I ran it, just that I could.

My next milestone is 15km and I aim to do that by the end of April at the very latest.

Some people have said to me that in order to run the half marathon, you only need to get to 15km in your training. I’m not willing to bank on that, I’d like to know I have the kilometres in the legs before then.

I think it’s important to be really clear about what your goals, milestones and crucially your motivating factors are when taking on any challenge that is significantly out of your comfort zone – as running is for me.

Being unclear in any of these can lead to a dip in motivation.

In fact in her book Self Theories, Professor Carol Dweck (of Mindset fame) talks about how goals can contribute to depression.

Whilst her work in the 70’s and 80’s primarily focused on school students’ approaches to learning, you can probably see now how her work resonates across all fields.

In Self Theories she defines two types of goals.

Performance Goals

“This goal is about winning positive judgements of your competence and avoiding negative ones. In other words when students pursue performance goals they are concerned with their level of intelligence.”

Learning Goals

“This goal is about increasing your competence. It reflects a desire to learn new skills, master new tasks or understand new things.”

Dweck says, “It’s important to recognise that both types of goals are entirely normal and pretty much universal. And both can fuel achievement. [In] fact in the best of all possible worlds, students could achieve both goals at the same time.

[But] although I have argued that both types of goals are natural, we have found that an overemphasis on performance goals is a danger signal.”

In my experience I believe it’s possible that an over reliance on Performance Goals can lead individuals to:

  1. Opt for easy Performance Goals so as to guarantee their success, but in doing this they limit their potential for growth;
  2. Attempt and fail to achieve Performance Goals and this then impacts on their self esteem.

Dweck goes on to describe how Benjamin Dykman of Washington State University has shown how peoples’ goals can contribute to self-esteem loss and depression when they encounter negative events.

Dykman (1998) extended on the premise of Performance and Learning Goals by describing them as validation-seeking goals, and growth-seeking goals respectively. He also extended this far beyond the classroom into everyday life including sports, work and family relationships.

He says:

“Validation-seeking individuals are those having a strong motivational need to establish or prove their basic self worth, competence, or likeability. Stemming from this need to prove their basic worth, competence or likeability, validation-seeking individuals show an accompanying tendency to appraise difficult or challenging situations as major tests or measures of their basic worth, competence or likeability. In other words, validation-seeking individuals see their basic worth, competence or likeability as being ‘on the line’ when faced with challenging or difficult situations.

On the other hand…

“Growth-seeking individuals are those who have a strong motivational need to improve or grow as people, develop their capacities and realise their potential. [Growth] seeking individuals are willing to confront challenge or adversity in order to grow, improve and reach their fullest potential. Stemming from these growth needs, growth-seeking individuals show and accompanying tendency to appraise difficult or stressful situations as opportunities for learning, growth and self improvement.”

Validation-seeking individuals who set themselves but fail to achieve Performance Goals are more likely to see that failure as a measure of the self, and over time this can impact on their overall level of wellbeing.

Whereas growth-seeking individuals are less likely to be depressed, to have been depressed in the recent past or to be generally prone to depression.

Next time you set yourself a goal, are mandated by a workshop guru to come up with one, or are tasked with inspiring your colleagues to set goals, try to ensure it’s a learning or growth-seeking goal.

It will most likely be better for you, and those around you.

Education Engagement & Motivation Mindset Tech & Social Media Wellbeing

Developing a Minecraft Mindset

What’s in this post:

  • How I used Minecraft to discuss Mindset with kids for whom mainstream education doesn’t work
  • Access to the materials I created in order for you to do similar if you wish

Of late I’ve found myself working with kids from some fairly tough backgrounds.

Whether it’s kids who are wards of the state, living in temporary shelter, or kids in mainstream settings who don’t hold out much hope for their future, I’ve been keen to explore how Carol Dweck’s theory of Growth Mindset might apply to these young people.

Incidentally if you’ve read Mindset or not, I’d highly recommend getting a copy of Dweck’s earlier work Self Theories, a series of essays that go into more detail regarding the research and – in my opinion at least – is a better read than her more well-known publication.

Anyhoo… just last week I had the opportunity to try something with a group of kids who attend a school that caters for those for whom the mainstream education system simply doesn’t work. Some of these students (currently all boys in Years 6-8) have severe behavioural issues, some have wellbeing issues and most have a combination of the two. I’m fortunate that I get to spend time with these boys on a semi-regular basis and so have been able to establish a bit of rapport with them.

I determined that it might be interesting to play Minecraft with them… and just see what happens. I hypothesised that many behaviours that Dweck describes as being Growth Mindset behaviours would be evident whilst the boys played Minecraft:

  • seeking out and embracing challenge
  • persisting in the face of setbacks
  • revelling in the struggle
  • taking on feedback
  • and being inspired by the success of others

I then wanted the boys to reflect on this after playing… but first the set up!

The very first thing I did was tweet out what I was thinking of doing. If you check out the comments down the side of the doc you’ll see heaps of good ideas, that either validated or pushed my thinking. Thanks in particular to:

 @eduGrunt@nickpatsianas@jeffkuhn72@dbatty1@jokay and @SteveT_AU for their input.

In the end this is what I went with…

Equipment – Given I didn’t want to impose on the school with regards to organising Minecraft Edu accounts or the like, I sourced the following…

  • Samsung 10.1 Note running Minecraft PE (My 3 year old tablet)
  • 5 x Lenovo TAB 2 A7-10 Tablets ($97 each) Probably one of the best tablets in the sub $100 category
  • 1 x TP-LINK N300 Wireless Modem Router TD-W8961N ($47) I’d originally planned to network through my 4g hotspot, but then got nervous thinking about risk assessments and kids finding stuff they shouldn’t online… So the router serves to act as a network between the tablets without allowing access to the net.

I decided to set up a scenario as such using this website… (I’ve de-identified the school for privacy reasons)

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 5.50.56 pm

In order to set up the scenario in Minecraft I built a world using a seed… a simple internet search will give you plenty. For those of you interested, I used the Minecraft PE Seed: -94440.


From there I was able to switch between creative and survival mode (I found that installing a mod called Too Many Items on my Samsung made this a much simpler process) in order to hide gems around the area, and ‘bury’ villagers as well as create the sort of havoc an earthquake might cause by detonating TNT around the place and setting fire to buildings… 😈


The kids had three missions:

  1. To rebuild and enhance the village
  2. To find the buried villagers
  3. To find the stolen gems

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 6.10.28 pmIn the full Minecraft game (on PC, Mac or Console) you can use xyz coordinates that allow gamers to know where they are within their world, but in Minecraft PE this isn’t the case. So I created a map – again by going into Creative mode and taking a Bird’s Eye View screenshot and then overlaying a grid.

Students could work out the coordinates for the villagers and the gems by solving maths problems.Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 6.07.31 pm

Each group of students – small groups of 4 boys or so, which is the nature of this school – had around an hour. The last 10-15 minutes or so was spent on the reflection. Which again I put out on Twitter in it’s early form:

This was the final version. You’ll note I got rid of the sword (it’s school after all!), gave space for students to identify their own strengths (thanks to@corisel) and then scaffolded the transfer from Minecraft to ‘real’ life… (although Minecraft is real life of course! 😀)

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 6.14.38 pm

Was it a resounding success?

Let’s not go too far. It was after all a one-off session using the most basic version of Minecraft. I’m aware many of you will be using Minecraft Edu or the full PC-based Minecraft and as such will be doing much more advanced work.

But as the boys’ regular teachers noted:

  • Kids who would ordinarily not be able to be in the same room as each other were working as a team
  • Boys were running around the classroom to answer maths questions (I know, I know… it wasn’t in the risk assessment!)
  • They were talking about their strategies and what they would do to improve all day…

Some of the boys reflections were pretty powerful too – and I’m paraphrasing a little…

  • I realise that making mistakes doesn’t make me a bad person
  • I tell myself I’m no good at something before giving myself a chance to get good at something
  • I get frustrated when I can’t do something straight away

As well as working with the boys I ran the sessions to show the teachers the power of Minecraft – or games in general – in order to get students to address their behaviours and – more importantly – their thinking around their behaviours.

The staff are now investigating how they might incorporate similar approaches down the track.

Obviously if this were part of an ongoing approach we would be able to explore our mindsets in various scenarios. I’m not saying it’s as simple as being resilient in Minecraft means you can be resilient in ‘real life.’

But I am saying for some of these kids acknowledging they do exhibit these behaviours somewhere is an incredibly important first step.

Demonstrating through Minecraft that they do exhibit the kind of Growth Mindset behaviours that Dweck talks about is – for some of the students – the first time they or anyone else have recognised they are capable of doing so.

If you think this could be of value in you classroom, you can get all my resources for this activity here, meaning you can use the seed (-94440) along with the map I’ve produced, also please feel free to change up the reflection tool to suit your context.

Would love to hear your thoughts, or other cool ideas you have for Minecraft or games in general!

Engagement & Motivation

Should You *Reward* Good Behaviour?

I’ve been doing a lot of work around Carol Dweck’s Mindset theory of late. This complements the approach I take to engagement in school (or any environment) which I largely base on Ryan & Deci’s Self Determination Theory.

The essence of what I explore is that authentic engagement is achieved when:

  • Relationships have been established built around trust, respect and care.
  • individuals have a level of choice and voice (autonomy).
  • Individuals improve for the sake of improving – not merely for the sake of a grade or a prize (mastery) and;
  • Individuals can articulate the purpose for their undertaking of a task.

I love the thought that engagement is not just about being on task but rather – as Geoff Munns of the Fair Go Project put it – authentic engagement is about being in task. 

This video gives you a brief outline of the Fair Go Project, and you can download the full report here.

Anyhow… I often hear from teachers who having attended my workshops start to question the role of their student rewards programs. Increasingly companies like this one are offering up rewards to “drive positive behaviours in school.”

When I worked in Manchester we did something similar – offering movie tickets or the like – for students who achieved a certain level of attendance, kept out of trouble or generally did the right thing. To put this into context the school I worked at dealt with some significant issues, and – on the surface at least – these strategies appeared to enhance some of the pupils’ behaviours.

Having said that, Ryan & Deci conclude that:

Extrinsic rewards are typically negative because they “undermine people’s taking responsibility for motivating or regulating themselves”. Rather, extrinsic rewards are a controlling strategy that often leads to greater surveillance, evaluation and competition, all of which have been found to undermine enhanced engagement & regulation.

They discuss rewards in education in detail in this article and conclude that tangible rewards to in fact have a significant undermining effect.

Carol Dweck and her research team recently published Academic Tenacity – Mindsets and Skills that Promote Long Term LearningIn it they say:

Although gold stars, prizes, and other extrinsic rewards may have their place for instance, as a last resort to jump-start a desired behaviour or as a symbol of competence and belonging – educators should use them judiciously, as they can easily overshadow any intrinsic reasons for a behaviour.

Clearly your approach to using rewards will be ultimately guided by your desired outcome.

If you’re keen to get kids to comply with a set of behaviours then rewards would certainly support that.

If you’re using them to encourage life-long learning, self-direction, self-regulation or authentic engagement, you may want to rethink your strategy.

Education Engagement & Motivation Leadership Mindset

Learning about Mindset from Stan

Up until around 12 months ago – unless you were a tennis fanatic – you’d probably not heard of Stanislas Wawrinka. The reason being, Stan is the second best tennis player in Switzerland. The best being… oh you know.

Anyway, it was at the 2014 Australian Open when Wawrinka was drawn against Novak Djokovic – a bloke who had – till then – beaten Stan 14 times in their past 14 matches, including a 5 set thriller in the 2013 Aussie Open. Despite pundits saying that Stan could give Novak a game, most pointed to the win/loss ratio and concluded it would most likely be Novak heading to the Semi Final.

And then Stan won.

I use this story when I’m workshopping concepts around resilience and mindset.

I mean, what kind of mindset do you need to take the court against a guy who has beaten you 14 times on the trot and who – if they’re being honest – most experts reckon you can’t beat. What kind of mindset do you need to play your shots, go for the winners and keep on pushing when the odds are stacked against you? How resilient must you be to get beat 14 times on the trot and keep coming back for another crack?

These were questions that many wanted answering after Wawrinka’s victory, and attention quickly turned to his approach to psychology and in particular a tattoo that he has on his left forearm. It reads:

Stans Tattoo“Ever tried, ever failed. No matter. Try again, fail again, fail better.”

It’s a quote from Irish poet Samuel Beckett. It’s a subtle shift from “If at first you don’t succeed yada yada yada…” The Beckett quote infers that we have something to learn from failing, and rather than seeing it as a devastating end point, perhaps failure is merely a stop-off on the way to success.

For mine, as important as the message, is where Stan chose to have the tattoo. As it is on his left forearm it is in his peripheral vision every time he waits to receive serve, as well as every time he serves. Stan serve

And this got me thinking. On every point in every match of his career he has a reminder that failure comes with opportunities to improve, to get better, to strive to be the best he can be.

Now I’m not advocating that we all go and get inspirationally inked, but it makes me wonder, where are our touchstones? Where do we come back to when we’ve had a set back? Where is the daily reminder of what we’re striving for? (And I’m meaning something more effective than a SMART goal stuck on your fridge.)

Fast forward 12 months to this year, and once again Stan meets Novak at the Aussie Open. This time in the semi-finals. Once again it’s a 5 set classic, but on this occasion Novak wins through.

I was keen to hear what Stan would say at his press conference. Was he disappointed, upset? Of course, that’s only natural. But then he said,

“It’s tough but I have to take the positives. I’ll be on the practice court everyday trying to improve my game, but I think I’m playing better than I was last year.”

To some this might seem cliche, but it’s this mindset that great athletes have. This is what separates them from all those who have the talent or ability but never quite seem to make it.

My question is how can we instil this mindset in our learning communities?

I’ve been thinking about this for a while… for about a year actually if you check out the tweet below!

Anyway, whether you want to call it a Growth Mindset, Resilience or just having a go I think it’s something we should encourage in our schools. Both in the classroom and the staffroom.

My next post will be the first in a series of posts based around an interview with John Hattie in response to that blog post.

I’m really excited to share with you what we chatted about so please do keep an eye out for it! 

Education Engagement & Motivation Youth

Engaging the Student Voice

The basis for student voice is to be found in Article 12 of the United Nation Convention of the Rights of the Child, which sets out the right of children and young people to express an opinion and to have that opinion taken into account when decisions are being made on any matter that affects them.

How many decisions at your school take into account the opinions of students?

I mean really take students’ opinions into account.

If we’re honest many of our efforts around student voice pay lip service at best.

What I mean is, who are the students we listen to? Do we act on the feedback they give us? Do we even need to, or are they the kids we know will say what we want to hear? Have a look at this from the Freechild project to check in with where you’re at in your school.

Having said that, I’ve come up with a simple survey that you could use as a starting point to engage the student voice.

1. What’s the best thing about being at this school?

Asking this question is taking a leaf straight out of the Appreciative Inquiry model of change. By knowing what we do well, we can use this to inform any changes we’d like to make. We can ask why does this work well. How can we leverage this to enhance other areas of our school?

2. What would you like to do more of at school?

This could throw up all manner of interesting ideas. It could be more kids would like to game. Or perhaps they’d like to explore personal interest project, maybe they’d like to chill out more… who knows… Whether you see any value in their suggestions? Well that’s up to you.

3. If you were in charge of the school what one thing would you like to change? – What makes you say this?

Ditto for this one, but crucially the reasons – the What makes you say this? – will prove more fertile ground for change

4. Do you feel able to be yourself at school? – If no, why not?

5. Is there at least one adult at school to whom you can go if you have a serious issue?

These two questions are vital questions to ask in any school. They are paramount for a student to feel connected to school. The importance of school connectedness is the subject of this 6min podcast. SPOILER ALERT – IT’S CRUCIALLY IMPORTANT

I would urge you to only engage the student voice, if you are genuinely willing to act upon the feedback.

You have to ask every kid. It could be anonymous, it could be done via pen & paper and put in a shoe box, or done via Google forms or Survey monkey.

Yes there are more in-depth surveys out there but as a start you could do worse than ask these questions.

If your school as a whole doesn’t want to buy in, as a classroom teacher you could ask your kids:

What was the best thing about this unit/lesson/subject? What would you have liked to do more of? What would you have changed?

I’ve done this with some very witty kids, where the answers have come back, ‘Nothing,’ ‘Chilled’ and ‘The teacher’. But give it time… publicly acknowledge and act on feedback and you’ll start to see a shift in the ownership kids take of their learning.

What else do you do to engage and empower the student voice in your communities?

Education Engagement & Motivation Wellbeing

What’s happening in School?

Change Education Engagement & Motivation Leadership Tech & Social Media

3 Common Myths About Innovation in Education

1. We’re innovative. The kids all have iPads. It's About Pedagogy, Not Technology

To do what? To do what you already did quicker, more efficiently or on a larger scale?

In many schools the power of the iFad or whatever technology has been wheeled into the school is compromised by the way in which they’re allowed or – more importantly – not allowed to be used.

Even if we adopt the higher order thinking of the SAMR Model, how innovative are we really being?

Innovating in schools is often equated to just increasing the amount of technology in the classroom – and this I think is to miss the point.

What if innovation in education sought to (genuinely) empower rather than control students?

Instead of behaviour management, what if we spoke of unleashing students.

What would innovation look like then?

Of course technology would play a part but so would where, when, who, what and how would you teach.

I’m of the opinion that many alternative education programs that work with kids for whom the mainstream education system hasn’t are some of the most innovative. I touch on this in my latest segment for the TER Podcast.

2. I’m too old to innovate – the young teachers have got it covered anyway

A knock-on effect of believing that the key to innovation is the increased integration of technology in class is that some staff feel they have little to offer.

Imagine if told you that you were too old to offer anything of value? You’d be offended right? And rightly so.

Yet there are many who tell themselves this very thing every chance they get. Every PD day, every staff meeting, professionals actively opt out these kinds of discussions as they see it as the realm of the younger teacher.

But here’s the thing, while new – or soon to be new – teachers may well be able to post a selfie on Instagram or fire off a quick self-destructing (in every sense of the term) video clip on SnapChat, many are not the ‘experts’ that some schools expect them to be around the use of technology and the Internet – and even less so with regards to embedding technology into an effective pedagogy.

So the very premise on which some choose to opt out of the innovation discussion is flawed.

Regardless of your teaching experience, you can be innovative. And yes perhaps having a crack at new technologies, combined with your knowledge and experience of different pedagogies, may just produce a light bulb moment for you, your faculty and your school but do it steadily… and if someone tells you to just jump in the deep end with technology- have them take a look at this post I wrote last year.

But be sure, innovation pays no mind to your age.

Regardless of where you are in your career you have a choice to contribute, push the boundaries or ask “Why?” or “What if…?” 

3. We need to innovate for the sake of our children’s future

Ok, this one isn’t necessarily a myth, but stay with me…

One of the most popular ideas I hear at conferences is that, “We are educating kids for jobs that don’t even exist yet,” or an offshoot from that is blog posts like the  Top 10 Job Titles that didn’t exist 5 years ago genre of commentary.

It gets the juices flowing but you have to be careful, because well-intentioned types will take that to mean the most popular jobs today didn’t exist 5 years ago, rather than it merely being a list of jobs today that didn’t exist 5 years ago. 

A subtle but important different – and even then, most of these jobs you can see have morphed from an existing job. They’ve hardly sprung up from nowhere.

As a little test, ask your students, or kids in your life what career they’d like – how many come up with a job that didn’t exist 5, 10, 15 or even 20 years ago? (SPOILER ALERT: I’m guessing not many)

So rather than using ‘the future’ as a reason to innovate – because things get a bit ethereal here and some can switch off – let’s start using the PRESENT.

Last year, Gallup surveyed 7000 students in Years 5-12 in 36 schools across six states and found that, roughly 30% of kids have disengaged from school by the time they are 11.

How about using that as an argument to innovate?

To compound things, over 50% of Year 12’s – and yes these are the ones that have STAYED on at school – are disengaged.

How about innovating to address this?