Efficacy, Growth Mindset and Feeling Successful

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing…and the main thing is learning.” (Student Centered Leadership,  2011)

 Each of us are in the process of committing our school and board improvement actions to paper; data has been and continues to be analyzed, and needs assessments are emerging, theories of action, learning goals and related criteria for success (diagnostic criteria) are being co-constructed, and structures to allow time to think and learn together are being put into place.

The deep thinking that our educators are engaged in during this process is encouraging.  As the School Effectiveness Lead, I have had the privilege of engaging in reflective conversations that have allowed me insights into the needs of the learners and the passion and commitment of our educators.  The overwhelming message is that our district is filled with educators who are committed to continuous growth both for themselves and for the learners who they influence.  This is the culture of learning being realized.  It is overwhelming.

I knew we could get to this place (okay, some nights I worried…but those nights have become fewer and father between in the past months!).  I have been thinking a great deal about the power of self-efficacy…the belief that we can produce the desired or intended results – that we can reach our goals – and how vital efficacy is to actually realizing our goals.  When we look at our standardized assessment results, it is easy to lose efficacy.  However, when we actually drill down into those results, I see some growth.  I see few students achieving level one, most students participating in the assessment, and MANY students approaching provincial standard.  There is celebration here (and areas of need for sure – that is our work!).  As I monitor and support ongoing focus and growth in learning with you, I am seeing the impact of our work and beginning to feel optimistic. I am realizing that we are exemplifying a growth mindset and learning from our experiences;  as we do, we are collectively making a difference for our students.  I am beginning to understand the relationship between efficacy, success in goal achievement and well-being.

Adult efficacy, of course, leads me to student efficacy – and my wondering if students actually believe that they can reach their goals. Can students articulate their goals, measure their own progress on the journey to achieve those goals, and thus see some growth and success…which may lead them to possess self-efficacy?  Is this not what helps students to actualize a growth mindset?  I challenge you to link student’s feeling of success to their academic well-being; when students are feeling successful, do they, like me, want to keep learning?  Does success inspire and lead to positive well-being (if their basis needs are being met as well)?

I hope that you immediately began thinking about district’s Conditions for Learning – especially the section entitled, Foundational Principles to be Developed in the Learner.  Here is our thinking from that section so far:

  • Mindset/positive attitude
  • Open to learning Stance
  • Learner sees themselves in the process (relevant) Learner Centered – Learner choice/learner voice – learner autonomy
  • Seeing a purpose – meaningful, real-world connections
  • Feels in control (learner)
  • Foster positive beliefs
  • Intrinsic motivation of learners
  • Learners have to see the relevancy in the work they are doing and have a voice in their learning
  • Demonstrating Respect
  • Open Communication (to build trust)
  • Knowing self as a learner (metacognition)
  • Problem Solving abilities (embedding higher order thinking skills)
  • A sense of wonder and inquiry

Do you believe that if we explicitly foster a learner centered environment, that we will increase learners’ sense of efficacy?  Can you see the relationship with our theory of action “If we foster learner centered environments and pedagogy, then learners will possess an increased sense of belonging and be motivated to learn.”?

We are beginning to understand that Our Conditions for Learning are in service of  the academic goals that we have identified; thus we are collectively moving towards building our understanding of how to foster these conditions in the entire district (for EVERY learner).  This focus is being championed by the Ministry of Education as well; the recognition that we are educating the whole child.  We are cautious with messaging as we know that some might begin to think that we are moving away from our academic agenda. Please remember that, as educational institutions, our role is to give students the capacities to survive in the world and to be productive and contributing members of society; this means that our academic goals of reading, writing and math must remain at the forefront.  However, we must remember that the environment in which students spend much of their lives must exemplify one that enables them to learn.  Learners must believe that learning is a process that they are capable of engaging in.

 What are your thoughts?  

Until next week!

5 responses

  1. The piece about learning is a process that students are capable of participating in is a complicated thought. We want students students to learn, but is it our material that we expect them to learn or is the learning baesed upon what they want to learn. We say we want the students to have control over their learning but we still have a hard time letting go of this control. Look at those students who begin to excel in post-secondary because they are learning what they want or are interested in. We still have a hard time letting this control of learning go. Look at those students who study things of interest at home and can tell us so much about the topic, but have a hard time telling us about something learned at “school” because they are not interested in it.


    1. Kim, your comment reminded me of something my son recently shared with me – an anonymous post on ifunny titled:

      How can you love learning but hate school?
      School is waking up early and going to a place full of people who judge you and gossip about you. School is having all sorts of useless information shoved down your throat. School is being judged on how well you remember the information they give you. School is another set of numbers to stress over.
      Learning is going to places you’ve never been before. Learning is making mistakes and changing because of them. Learning is discovering new things you never know before. Learning is gaining more knowledge to better understand the world around you.
      See the difference?

      and reminds me of the importance of that ‘inquiry stance’ that is needed throughout all grades – promoting wonder and curiosity and helping students to engage in ‘learning’.


    2. Makes me think of the notion that if students can Google the information, then why are we teaching it? It is the thinking process that we need to teach as you cannot Google thinking!


  2. The conditions for learning are huge pieces that require us to dig deeply into our practices and can always allow for constant modifications and upgrades. Having spent some time now in one single condition for learning, i now know that the work is not easy and often quite complicated. If creating these four conditions for learning were easy, we wouldn’t be called professionals and we would be out of jobs. i agree that our academics need to be at the front of our learning but I also believe that conditions for learning are essential for building all of the other skills that are not necessarily measured. Choosing our “main thing” and sticking with it is soooooo important.


  3. We had a learning last week in our building about the notion of learning and what does learning really mean? We have an exceptional student who uses assistive technology to access the knowledge information due to memory re-call. What it is forcing the educators to do is to re-evaluate their types of questions that they pose to their students. It is about going beyond the knowledge re-call and entering into the higher levels of blooms taxonomy. We know that our students can google information. How do their bring this to life in authentic, relevant learning and something that will be embedded in their life long learning so that it is something they will be able access at another time !


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