I've been working with a local elementary school this fall (and loving it!). In my last session with them, I did a one-hour workshop based on Carol Dweck's work on self-theories of intelligence. Dr. Dweck's work has focused on how individuals (pre-school to adults) theorize about intelligence, morality, love, and the world in general. For each topic, she and her colleagues have found that indiviudals can have entity/fixed or incremental/growth theories. For intelligence, this means thinking that smart is something you are (entity/fixed) or something you become throuh effort (incremental/growth). This concept is very close to Seligman's attributional style theory (and, in fact, Dr. Dweck's initial work used that as a launching point).
Great post over at edspresso on textbooks and the possible combination of teacher smarts and technology . I've wondered about a wikipedia-style approach --wait! there is such a tool on the net. Where have I seen it? If I find it or someone sends it to me, I'll update this post. Meanwhile, though I push reading, I suspect the poor writing, uninteresting approach, and shallowness of many texts help turn students off to real books, magazines, newspapers, etc. For more on this topic, see Computer Science Teacher, and here.
One of my MAPP classmates, John Yeager, is on faculty at Culver Academy, a co-ed boarding school in Culver, Indiana. On June 12-14, John, Sherri Fisher (another classmate), and I put on a 3-day seminar entitled "Broadening and Building Positive Emotion at Culver" for 21 Culver faculty and a guest from Exeter. The three of us were in a small cohort throughout MAPP that was the "education cohort." (As the only lawyer, I had to do my thinking about lawyers and positive psychology more on my on -- but there's some interesting progress there, also.)
It was interesting for me to learn about boarding schools, especially since Sherri and I got to visit with the guest from Exeter a good bit. And, there's a Lady Vols connection to Culver! (If you follow that link, notice how a public school system lost that student!)
Culver is making a substantial investment in positive psychology, first with John's particpation in MAPP and now with this seminar and another scheduled for August. The faculty and counselors in this session were engaged and asked wonderful questions through all three days -- pretty good for folks that had just finished a demanding year and a week of faculty meetings! Culver did the right thing and compensated them for the additional time, and it was clear that meant a lot to them. And it speaks to the administration's support for this effort.
We tried to give the folks a broad introduction to positive psychology. After all, so much of it applies to education! Some topics that got a lot of reaction in the presentations the participants made on the last day included:
Active Constructive Responding -- how to build (or hurt!) relationships when someone shares good news
Appreciative Inquiry/Intelligence -- my presentation on this was aided by a participant's report on her use of AI with the girls in her dorm
Personal Theories of Intelligence -- how students' theories of intelligence (entity vs. incremental) affect willingness to undertake learning challenges, reactions to difficulty, etc., and how forms of praise can shape these theories
Character Strengths -- this is right down John's alley and he's been doing work in this area with students already. All participants identified their VIA strengths prior to the sessions.
Hope/Optimism -- CR Snyder's work on hope and both dispositional (Carver and Scheier) and attributional style (Seligman) approaches to optimism. Our cohort worked extensively in this area during the year due to the significant connections to schools, teaching and learning, and student achievement.
Sherri's a great photographer and we ended the session with a slide show of photos she'd made around campus and during the session. It was a terrific experience and I'm looking forward to a return trip and reports on applications next year!
Parents who think hot-housing is the only way to get their children into Harvard or Yale should heed the warnings now emanating from elite colleges around the world. Admissions officers everywhere lament the rise of a new kind of applicant: brisk, industrious, accomplished but lacking spark and curiosity. “We are training our children to be workaholics,” warned Marilee Jones, the dean of admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
A meeting with a group of teenagers persuaded Jones that elite colleges are sending the wrong message to parents and children. “I asked them: ‘What do you daydream about?’ And one kid said to me: ‘We don’t daydream. There’s no reward for it, so we don’t do it.’ Boy, that hit me right between the eyes,” she said. “Colleges have created mechanisms to crowd out the kids who are dreamers, to crowd out the kids who step off the conventional path and want to do something unique. But what does it mean to have a nation of kids who don’t know how to dream?”
To send the message that less is more and that daydreaming is good, Jones has shrunk the section devoted to extracurricular activities on the MIT application form. She also travels around the United States to reassure anxious parents that slowing down will benefit their children.
The following is from a chapter by Amy Fineburg entitled "Introducing Positive Psychology to the Introductory Psychology Student" in Positive Psychology in Practice:
Positive psychology principles can give educators insight into the motivational problems inherent in the teaching process. While teachers can take their horses to water, they cannot make them drink. It takes creativity, inspiration, and hard work to prepare lessons that will reach the intellectual level of each student. But even when-teachers prepare outstanding lessons that appeal to a wide variety of students, motivational issues that could prevent students from learning and appreciating what is taught can distract them. If students have pessimistic beliefs about their academic ability, they may not learn. Therefore, teachers need to consider not only content and pedagogy but also motivational issues that may hinder the learning process. Positive psychology provides insight into some questions teachers should be asking about lesson planning in addition to content and pedagogy:
·How optimistic are our students about their abilities as learners? Pessimistic students are more hostile toward school (Boman &
Yates, 2001). If students could be taught to be more optimistic about school, they would be more likely to succeed.
What goals have our students set for this class and how realistic are their plans for achieving them? When students set realistic goals about school, develop plans to achieve those goals, and believe their goals can be achieved, they will likely achieve, earning higher grades and scores on achievement tests (Snyder, 2000).
·How do students' comparisons of their achievement to others in the class affect their learning? Students who receive a higher grade than expected both feel good and praise the teacher, whereas those who receive a lower grade than expected both feel lousy and trash the teacher. Thus, a B grade could mean something quite different to the student who expected an F as compared to a student who expected an A, thus changing levels of satisfaction with the class (Fineburg, 2003; Snyder &
How can we make learning a flow experience for our students? Flow activities involve freely invested attention, challenge with requisite skill, and lack of worry about failure (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). If students can experience learning as flow, their enjoyment and intellectual stimulation about learning will likely be enhanced.
·By developing lessons that address these questions, teachers can help make students' experiences under their tutelage more effective, helpful, and encouraging as students realize how to become better learners.
Kang has never liked PowerPoint, the de facto standard for teaching classes at many professional schools. “It brings a C teacher up to B, but never gets beyond that,” he says. “If you can't capture the interactivity of the classroom you are encouraging a passive form of teaching. MindManager, on the other hand, has allowed me to integrate student responses and ideas right onto the screen– and at the same time manage the big picture and the small details.”
At the end of the class, he outputs the map as HTML and posts it on his class Web site for students to review.
"Being able to reorganize ideas in real time enables my students to reach a deeper level of analysis more quickly.”
This post from Down Under summarizes Invitational Theory as applied to education. Although I hate to see a school system say they "believe" in a theory (bad scientific method!), I suspect that following this "theory" is far more likely to create some excellent schools than many other approaches that are out there!