Monday, September 1, 2014

Day 4 of the #30DayBlogChallenge: The 2nd Big Idea for Effective Teaching

Alrighty then! I made it through the first week of school alive. It's going to be a great year. Now I can write day 4 of the 30 day blog challenge (which is actually something like day 12, but who is counting!).

In my last post I talked about the plasticity of the brain as the first big idea for effective teaching in Wilson and Conyer's book Five Big Ideas for Effective Teaching. Today I will introduce the second big idea which is closely related to the plasticity of the brain. Potential.

There is a pervasive belief in our society that intelligence is fixed. You've simply got ability or you don't. In light of all the available research on the plasticity of the brain this thought is clearly incorrect. Rather, effort is closely tied to ability. Unfortunately many believe, quite incorrectly, that if they have to put forth an effort then they must lack potential. This is known as a fixed mindset. In the book Wilson and Conyers put it this way,
"Thus, the fixed mindset prevents individuals from achieving their potential in life - or even acknowledging what their true potential might be. People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, are more likely to keep trying until they achieve their goals, more confident that they will succeed."
This reminds me of a former principal of mine, Kellie Rapp. She encouraged us to apply the growth mindset to our coworkers as well. What an excellent point! Clearly we should think in terms of a growth mindset with our students. However, we tend to get frustrated with coworkers who don't "do their job." Maybe we can gently help them reach their potential rather than getting frustrated.

What does it all mean?
In any event, realizing potential depends on opportunity. We have to give our students (and coworkers) opportunity to develop their potential. "Opportunity includes the environment, education, structure, and time" (Wilson & Conyers). A positive learning environment with a teacher who understands the link between effort and potential is critical for many learners. We must let kids know that their future is in their hands!

My next post will discuss the third big idea for effective teaching. Stay tuned!


  1. Diane, I am so glad you have amplified that all of us no matter our age, has much more potential we can access! In fact, the hippocampus grows new neurons each day and learning creates new synaptic connections. Students at your school are fortunate to be learning this fascinating information!

  2. Diane
    Thank you for sharing. I think too often we talk about a growth mindset when dealing with students but the point you make about having a growth mindset when it comes to our co-workers and fellow teachers is so important as well.
    I think conveying that message is so important in creating a culture of growth.

  3. Diane
    I grew up with two older sisters who were very bright in high school. With being their little brother my potential in school was not met by my sisters. I learned when I got to college that I had the knowledge to get surpass my sisters and I did. Both my sisters could not complete their third year in college and I am now in my fourth year. I know that truly that intellectual is not fixed and I am a key point.
    I believe that anyone who has the mindset can be very bright. I just wish I read this article when I was in high school because it would have made me a little bit more optimistic.

  4. Diane,
    Thank you so much for sharing. I am currently a student at the University of South Alabama. I am studying to become an elementary education major. You make wonderful points about how everyone can reach their potential at any age. This a great way of thinking and encouraging others to think.
    Thank you once again!
    Logan Alvarez

  5. Hey! I am in EDM310 at South Alabama! I love this post so much! I was once told that you should always treat people like they are as great as they can be which I firmly believe. People can tell when you believe in them and usually feel about their own abilities how their teachers/parents/friends feel about them. Thank you so much for sharing!

  6. Hey! I'm an EDM310 student at the University of South Alabama. I really enjoyed your blog post and I agree that students and fellow teachers should be treated like that are at the top of the class. It promotes great feelings and gives encouragement for the students or teachers that may not feel on the top of everything!

    Thank you!
    Megan Shoultz

  7. I am in EDM 310 at University of South Alabama. I enjoyed the concept of potential verses knowledge. So many times teachers forget to see the potential in students and only look at the knowledge they can spit back at them. Without the potential , learning is not possible. Great post!