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! 

Chatting with John Hattie Education Leadership

Is John talking through his Hattie?

Research QuoteJohn Hattie, the author of the much quoted Visible Learning was recently appointed by the Federal Government to the Chairmanship of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. 

In today’s Australian Newspaper, an article by Jennifer Buckingham from the Centre for Independent Studies said,

Last week, Hattie indicated things were going to change in teacher education under his watch. He talked of “tougher”, “harder”, “standards”, “outcomes” and “impacts”. This is a harbinger of his approach, grounded in the requirement for evidence that reforms are working.

It went on:

Hattie would like the accreditation and evaluation standards for teaching degrees to be much tougher. If this results in some courses being scrapped because they don’t meet the standard for the academic rigour of courses or for graduate teachers’ impact on students, then so be it.

And who better to have at the helm than the guru of effect size himself, John Hattie?

Well it would appear that just as Hattie would like teacher education to be subject to tougher standards, there are some who suggest his research should be subject to a more rigorous analysis.

Despite having been challenged as early as 2011 in the British Journal of Educational Studies, Hattie’s work has been seen as the guiding light in educational reform, but of late it has come under scrutiny, not least because of this blog post and it’s subsequent follow up which asserts that half the statistics in Visible Learning are wrong.

I’ll let you follow those threads if they interest you.

What worries me is that a great deal of educators, regional leaders, keynote speakers and politicians quote Hattie to further assert their position, particularly if that position is at odds with common sense – the class size debate for example.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that educational research is vital. But it is equally vital that we view it through an appropriate lens. As Dylan Wiliam says*,

Educational research can only tell us what was, not what might be. Moreover, in education, “What works?” is rarely the right question, because everything works somewhere, and nothing works everywhere, which is why in education, the right question is, “Under what conditions does this work?”

Besides I’ve always been skeptical that anyone could determine a numerical value for the impact any given teacher might have with any given student in any given classroom.

*If you want to access the quote from Wiliam you can get his PPT slides from a ResearchED event here.

[EDIT] Through the magic of Twitter, it was made apparent to me by Greg Thompson (seriously… follow him) that some of the issues raised here were first addressed by Snook et al in 2009 in NZ Ed Studies Journal.

[EDIT 2 – 19th Nov] John Hattie has agreed to an interview as per the comment thread below. I’ll let you know how things progress.

Education Leadership

If I was interviewing for teaching staff…

Question_MarkRecently I was chatting to a principal about what we would look for in potential staff members if we had the opportunity to build a school from scratch.

I scribbled down some notes, and later copied them onto my Tablet. I tweeted it out on my #DoodlesByDan tag and within about 2 hours it had been retweeted over 100 times. It’s by far the most prolific response I’ve had to any of my tweets.

I thought I’d share the scribblings here with some further thinking around it.

1. I’m over teachers telling me kids have to “earn” their respect. No they don’t. Respect for kids should be the number one pre-requisite for being a teacher. I couldn’t care less what your qualifications are if you don’t get past this first question.

2. Research suggests that teacher expectation plays in important part in whether kids learn or not. If you don’t think kids can learn, then I think you’re probably right. They probably won’t. We can’t have teachers thinking like this.

3. Trust me… there are some teachers who turn up at 8:55 and leave at 3:25. They do exactly what they need to in order to comply with their job description and no more. Not for me thanks.

4. On my travels I meet many keen teachers who are excited to push their thinking, explore new, or old, concepts and research with the mindset that regardless of their ability as a teacher, they want (and are able) to improve. They have what Carol Dweck would call a Growth Mindset. Unfortunately I also meet the odd teacher (as in numerically not characteristically) who has no inclination to explore such things. You know what that’s cool. It’s just not what I’d look for in members of my team.

And that is a key word – Team.

This is certainly not intended to be in anyway definitive.

What would you include in your criteria?

Education Leadership

Why you shouldn’t work with me

stop signIf I had a business coach – which I don’t, but if I did – they would probably smack me around the chops for writing a post like this. But hey… what the heck, here goes!

You, or your school shouldn’t work with me if:

1. You’re just ticking a box.

I was approached by a principal a couple of months back who asked, “What do you talk about?” Which I found strange given I assume that people who approach me do – at least – have some idea of what I’m about. When I said I specialise in areas of engagement and wellbeing, his response was, “Oh that’s a shame, we covered wellbeing in Term 1.”

2. You want your teachers to be able to implement strategies “first thing Monday morning”.

This – in my opinion – is the biggest problem with professional learning in education. I discuss this in depth in this post. But in short the First Thing Monday Mindset – as I call it – implies:

  • The teachers in your school are empty vessels waiting to be filled – have you heard that somewhere before?
  • That an individual who has never worked with your kids, colleagues, parents or wider community can in some way offer an insight of immediate value that no-one on your staff has thought of before.
  • Your teachers are so unprofessional in their practice that the two points above hold true.
3. You want all the answers

I’ll be honest, in my sessions I ask more questions than I give answers.

In my sessions we’re discussing engagement, wellbeing & leadership. Three things that look quite different in your organisation compared to the organisation of the next person who reads this blog. I’ve never worked with you, your colleagues, your kids, your kids’ parents or your wider learning community. I’m not the expert- YOU AND YOUR STAFF ARE.

This is the kind of reaction to my sessions that make me love what I do! I love the fact that it took a few days for this teacher to make the connections with what she already knew and what was possible. And I must add this quote to my testimonials:

It might not have had any new ingredients compared to anyone else but by golly, Dan put the ingredients together in way that came up with a fair trade artisan made chocolate truffle instead of the canteen’s stale rock cakes.

When I’m working with professionals, my goal is to stimulate discussion and thinking so as to empower those present to design strategies that will enhance the experiences of everyone in their school or organisation. I seek to recognise and build on the capacity of those in the room, and in turn, their colleagues when they return to their schools, staffrooms and classrooms.

If that doesn’t resonate with you, we’ll add that to the list of reasons you should work with me too! 😛

Speaking of which, 2015 is just around the corner, and I have a handful of spots left on my Executive Partnership Program, as well as limited dates for standalone staff, parent and student workshops.

I’m looking forward to working with likeminded educators in 2015! 🙂

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?

Change Education Leadership

How do you know if your school is successful?

Podcast IconMy latest #OffCampus segment for the TERPodcast focused on how schools measure their success, and whether or not we need a rethink. You can listen to it here.

I touched on some broad themes, that each on their own could speak to your schools strategic plan for the next 5 years… you have one right?

How and when do you measure your schools success?

Do ‘value added’ data add anything of value?

Do our ‘best’ students from our ‘best’ schools need something more than a great ATAR?

Can – or indeed should – we do anything different?

You can listen to my 5min segment here.

Or the whole TERPodcast, featuring an interview with David Price OBE by listening here.


Education Leadership Wellbeing

Why do so many teachers leave the profession?

This is my latest #talkingpoints video. It’s designed to act as a stimulus for discussion in your school.

What’s the attrition rate in your school? Is it something that is ever discussed?

For more reading on this, check out this article I wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald last year, as well as this one (not written by me) from a couple of weeks ago.

What are some of the issues you’ve encountered in this regard? And how were they handled?

Change Education Leadership Tech & Social Media

When teachers say they’ve not heard of Sir Ken

A couple of weeks ago, I asked a room full of Australian teachers if they’d heard of Sir Ken Robinson. Sir Ken - Do you know who I am

One person tentatively raised their hand – and even then, he didn’t seem too sure.

I was seriously taken aback, not least because I use Sir Ken’s name in some of my promotional material!

Dan has appeared alongside the likes of…

But it got me thinking…  these teachers really haven’t even heard of him?

And just to be clear, I’m not saying we should all be kneeling at the altar of Sir Ken. Whether you agree or disagree with his arguments, hang off his every word or are a bit over the whole creativity thing is really beside the point.

The point is you’ve probably heard of him. But what about your colleagues?

If you’ve landed on this post courtesy of Twitter, I’m betting that you think I’ve made this up – after all Sir Ken has over 200,000 followers, most of them teachers. As if a teacher – let alone a room full of teachers – wouldn’t have heard of him. That’d be like Luke Skywalker not being au fait with Yoda’s body of work. luke and yoda

But it’s becoming increasingly apparent that Twitter can be something of an echo chamber – that is – pretty much everyone is saying the same things about education over and over. With the constant reinforcement it’s easy to start thinking that this is how all educators think.

I believe that Twitter and other social media forums are the real drivers of professional learning – for those who connect – but what about the vast majority of teachers who aren’t connected in this way?

How do you spread the word to your less connected colleagues – in a way that genuinely influences the practice of your organisation?

And just in case you don’t know Sir Ken, check out this talk. And by the way, I’ve just been confirmed as a keynote speaker alongside him next year! 🙂

Education Leadership Tech & Social Media

“Just jump in the deep end!” – Worst Advice Ever!

SwimmingThere’s a reason I started to take my then three-year-old son to swimming lessons.

It’s because, left unattended, he would have – most likely – jumped in the deep end without the pre-requisite skills to live to tell the story. Neither he or his mum were too keen on that scenario. Hence the weekly lessons.

Just jumping in the deep end is a curious idiom. I can only assume it originated from swimming, but that would seem to suggest that someone did, at some point, believe this was the best way to learn.

Obviously it’s not, yet I see this advice – virtually on a daily basis – given to teachers who are new to #edtech, or for those of you not versed in Twitterese, Educational Technology.

By the way, this is a great video about hashtags! – Seriously, watch it.

Let’s think back to the pool.

You can’t swim, you get told to jump – or perhaps you are pushed – into the deep end. First thought?

OK, well after that one… your next thought is survival. You struggle, splash, kick without rhythm,  inhale water. Iyou make it back to the side, you’re unlikely to want to jump back in too quickly. Even less so if you have to be scooped out by a teenage lifeguard.

And what would you have learned during that time in/under water? The correct technique for the dolphin kick? A bit of bilateral breathing perhaps? Unlikely.

But what if, instead of being thrown in the deep end, you were encouraged to dip your toe. What if the coach got in the water with you? What if the coach guided you over a period of weeks, until such a point that you felt comfortable to jump in the deep end?

And then over time you were coached to further develop your techniques.

Of course that’s a better model. Not only for learning how to swim, but learning in general.

I’m pleased to say that my son’s swimming coach took that approach with him, so now as a 5 year-old, when he jumps into the deep end, my first thought isn’t to dive in after him, unless it’s a race of course. (No better way to teach him resilience that whoop him in a freestyle race every now and then!) 😉

It’s easy for us to tell people to just jump in as there’s no responsibility on our part. No accountability. No follow through. People either sink or swim – and if they sink, well perhaps it’s time they got out of the game altogether… 21st Century Education and all that…

Of course I’m not saying that people shouldn’t want to learn something new. Especially teachers. One of my favourite quotes from George Couros is:

If you’re done learning then you’re done teaching.

But we must realise that if people are hesitant with #edtech (or anything else that may be the flavour of the month in your school) they’ve probably got some very real reasons for that. Blinding them with all the benefits of using it will do little to sway them. Ripping through a staff meeting clicking and flashing multiple browser windows whilst speaking a language they barely understand will also be a waste of most people’s time, including yours.

You’ll only need a couple of sessions like this to lose them completely.

Let’s be more like good swimming coaches and less like scary old-school PE teachers.

Create a shallow end for learning, and rather than telling people to, just jump in the deep end, perhaps we can encourage people to just go a bit further towards the deep end. And let them know you’ll be there as and when they need you.

Education Engagement & Motivation Leadership

The problem with professional learning

I love getting feedback. After each speaking engagement or facilitated workshop, I seek feedback from those who attended and from those who engaged me for the gig.

I enjoy receiving positive feedback (obviously) but it’s the feedback that suggests improvements, or points to flaws in my delivery that push me to be better at what I do.

Having said that…

I do tend to bristle at the types of feedback that are along the lines of:

Teachers want something they can take away and do first thing Monday morning.

For me, this mindset is the biggest problem with professional learning – particularly in education.

Let me explain why I think that. And by explain, I mean ask you some questions.

How many Professional Learning days have you attended in your career? How many had a take home message? How many can you remember? How many of those messages still resonate with you?Expert_01

I’d hazard a guess that for each of those questions the number got lower and lower right?

Here’s the thing. It’s not like I’m out there teaching people how to tie their shoe laces (great talk by the way!). In my sessions we’re discussing engagement, wellbeing & leadership. Three things that look quite different in your organisation compared to the organisation of the next person who reads this blog. I’ve never worked with you, your colleagues, your kids, your kids’ parents or your wider learning community. I’m not the expert- YOU ARE.

When I’m working with professionals, my goal is to stimulate discussion and thinking so as to empower those present to design strategies that will enhance the experiences of everyone in their school or organisation. I seek to recognise and build on the capacity of those in the room, and in turn, their colleagues when they return to their schools.

I believe that the First Thing Monday Morning Mindset is a product of the way teachers have been treated over the years. Continually told that we need smarter teachers or that the system’s failing; that the Uni’s aren’t preparing teachers properly or, “I don’t know what you’re complaining about, look at your holidays!”

Some teachers genuinely believe they need a guru to come in and give them a list of things to do with a class or staff body that the guru has never met. It’s quick, to the point and everyone can tick that box off the list of things to do that year.

It would be interesting to see what kind of bang for buck your school gets for this approach to professional learning. It would be interesting to ask each member of your staff the four questions I asked earlier. We know the answers of course, and yet we persist…

So, in an attempt to appease everyone, and at the same time stay true to my philosophy… here IS one thing you can do first thing Monday morning…

Suggest to your Principal that at the end of this term, or the next, your school holds an IDEASFest. I’m sure you’ve seen enough examples of this kind of thing through TED talks, FODI and the like to get the idea.

Open it up to any member of your learning community – parents, kids, teachers, maintenance staff – and hear what they have to say about the things that matter to them and your school. You could frame the talks to be around a certain theme, or be less prescriptive.

No big bucks for keynote speakers, no experts or gurus and I’d bet you’ll have to persuade some that this would even constitute professional learning… 

But I’d also bet that this kind of day would provide you and your staff with a take home message or two that might resonate the rest of your career, let alone just the weekend.