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Heather Ashby on DI National Conference

July 19, 2011

I was fortunate to attend the National Conference on Differentiated Instruction last week. There were so many practical and applicable things that I learned during the week, that it left me excited and ready for this new year to begin.

One of the sessions I attended was called, ‘Using Feedback to Coach Your Students to Higher Performance.’ The speaker was Diane Heacox, Ed.D. At this session I learned something pretty profound that was repeated by several other speakers during the conference including Bertie Kingore, Ph.D. and Betty Hollas. I learned that teachers should praise their students for their effort, not their intelligence because we want our students to have a certain ‘mindset’ about learning. Our feedback to kids impacts what their mindset is. I find this to be important for all students, but especially so for the gifted learner because eventually, there will come a time where they will feel stumped and frustrated. We want our gifted learners to persevere through challenges, and that there is no ceiling to what they can know.

Praise can be of two sorts: 1)For intelligence (for being “smart”)–“You’re terrific in math problem solving!”                  2)For process/effort (strategies applied)–“I am so proud of you for trying multiple ways to solve that problem…you’re really thinking!)

Teachers should be praising their students for their work ethic, efforts towards a struggle, strategy choices, selecting difficult tasks, asking powerful questions, etc.

Praising intelligence can be harmful because it sometimes causes a ‘fixed’ mindset. There is a short burst of pride, but negative consequences. When learning becomes more challenging, students often lose their confidence–they don’t want to go above and beyond or take risks because they are scared of disappointing. Praising effort helps students to cultivate a ‘growth’ mindset where they believe they can develop their abilities and persevere through challenges.

I plan on sharing with my campus staff and CISD staff at the beginning of the school year, but I’ve got to say I feel overwhelmed with how to narrow it down because I now have so many great things to share. One thing I know I would love to share are quick ways to tier learning tasks to increase complexity. A few of my favorites are 1) Rather than actually completing the task, students analyze the process and write instructions explaining the step-by-step procedure that would complete the task, 2) Produce original graphic organizers that process and organize the information, 3) write a test covering the content for others to complete.

I will say that Marsha Spears, one of the speakers, offered to share handouts and power points for us to share with our colleagues–she was not at all concerned with selling her information–she just wants to educate teachers.  I had the opportunity to speak with her, and she is highly interested in visiting Mockingbird Elementary as well as New Tech, because she wants to see a PBL school in action.  I was impressed by her. I am so grateful to CGA for giving me the opportunity to attend the DI Conference. I feel revived and excited about the upcoming school year!

CGA has my permission to post this blog entry on CGA’s website, blog, facebook or newsletter.

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