Episode #210: How To Develop A Growth Mindset In Your Math Class

Dec 5, 2022 | Podcast | 0 comments



In this episode, you’ll hear a slightly different episode style as the tables are turned as Ali Melia interviews  Kyle Pearce as a means to gather more research data for her Master of Teaching work at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). Ali digs into questions for MathletePearce around how teachers in Ontario can effectively foster a growth mindset while assessing students in mathematics.  

Let the table turning begin as Ali grabs the mic, tosses Jon to the curb and digs into some really important topics by asking Kyle for his perspectives on all things mindset, assessment and mathematics instruction!

You’ll Learn

  • The experiences Kyle has engaged in to push is practice from delivering the mathematics curriculum in a teacher-centric manner to a more student-centric manner;
  • Why a growth mindset is essential in helping students to develop a productive disposition towards mathematics;
  • What it means to truly learn mathematics and what approaches we see in many classrooms are actually not helping students to learn mathematics; 
  • How developing a growth mindset and implementing that learning in a mathematics classroom affects the assessment and evaluation process; and,
  • How to know whether you are “walking the walk” of a growth mindset in math class or simply “talking the talk”. 


District Math Leaders: 

How are you ensuring that you support those educators who need a nudge to spark a focus on growing their pedagogical-content knowledge? 

What about opportunities for those who are eager and willing to elevate their practice, but do not have the support? 

Book a call with our District Improvement Program Team to learn how we can not only help you craft, refine and implement your district math learning goals, but also provide all of the professional learning supports your educators need to grow at the speed of their learning. 

Book a short conversation with our team now

Start your school year off right by downloading the guide that you can save and print to share with colleagues during your next staff meeting, professional learning community meeting or just for your own reference!


Kyle Pearce: 10 years from now, your practice looks exactly the same as year one, then you are in a fixed mindset and you are acting as though that's the way life works. But if 10 years from now, your practice looks different, and 20 years from now it looks different than the 10 year, and 30 years, it looks different than that. Hopefully it's in a positive manner, it's moving in a positive direction. But that would be the best way to model growth mindset is by doing it. Do the work, walk the walk, don't just talk the talk and you will love this career.

Jon Orr: In this episode, you'll hear slightly different style of episode as the tables are turned as Ali Melia interviews our very own, Kyle Pearce as a mean to gather more research data for her masters of teaching the work she's doing at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Ali digs into questions for Kyle around how teachers in Ontario can effectively foster a growth mindset while assessing students in mathematics.

Kyle Pearce: All right, Math Moment Makers let the table turning begin as Ali grabs the mic, tosses John to the curb and digs into some really important topics by asking me of all people for some perspectives on all things mindset and mathematics assessment and instruction in our mathematics classrooms. John, are you ready to let Ali take the mic?

Jon Orr: Oh yeah, I'm excited to hear this one.

Kyle Pearce: Here we go. Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter Podcast. I'm Kyle Pearce.

Jon Orr: And I'm John Orr. We are two math teachers from makemathmoments.com who together ...

Kyle Pearce: With you, the community of Math Moment Makers worldwide who want to build and deliver math lessons that spark curiosity, you will ...

Jon Orr: Sense making.

Kyle Pearce: And ignite your teacher moves. Welcome everyone to another Math, it's not a Math Mentoring Moment episode. It's sort of like a special different unique style episode because we're going to be working with a wonderful, wonderful new up and coming educator here in Ontario, and I'm going to be the person that's having to field all those questions.

Jon Orr: So let's just flip it on over to Ali and here's the episode.

Kyle Pearce: Here we go.

Ali Melia: So my first question is, how many years have you been teaching in general, and what grades and subjects have you taught?

Kyle Pearce: So I think this is year 17. I was in the classroom for 10 years teaching grade 9 through 12 in mathematics only. I was lucky enough to only have math courses and some credit recovery. I did one year, yes, I did that as well. And then since then, I was in a role as a math coach and now math consultant for my district.

Ali Melia: Amazing. Okay. And so you just mentioned that, but can you describe your current position any more then?

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, so this is a role, it's called consultant, however I would argue it has many facets to it. So there's the coaching side of things, so working with educators and doing more of a mentorship sort of role, helping them to better understand the mathematics and the pedagogical content knowledge behind the mathematics, coordinating for the district. So crafting professional learning opportunities for educators, coordinating resources, and manipulatives and all of those pieces as well as consulting in the district as to where we should be going in terms of math goals for the district, for schools, and where we go next.

Ali Melia: Okay. And so on top of all those roles and positions, can you mention anything else on top of that, like your podcast or anything else?

Kyle Pearce: Sure. Yeah. So outside of this role, I am a co-founder of makemathmoments.com, which began as a podcast. So we have basically three years or so of weekly podcasts that helps to essentially bring in different influencers from mathematics to share their vision, including Jo Boaler as you referenced. She's been on the podcast to talk about growth mindset, but also other influencers to talk about different ideas behind math pedagogy, the content knowledge required for educators. And we also do a bit that I really enjoy, which is bringing on educators and they bring on a struggle, we call it a Math Mentoring Moment. So teachers bring in these, we call them, pebbles in their shoe for us to work through as a team and to try to create a next step for them to try and move forward or move beyond that barrier. So that's the podcast. We have all kinds of online PD opportunity, including our academy, which has courses and all kinds of free resources including tasks and problem based units on the website.
So that's sort of in a nutshell all of the math world. And then of course there's the affiliation with OAME and other organizations such as that that are looking to try to enhance and elevate math instructional practice.

Ali Melia: Amazing. And do you have any specific qualification or training beyond your math teachable?

Kyle Pearce: Very interesting.

Ali Melia: Mindfulness, anything like that?

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, I mean I have a teachable in computer science and guidance. So those are big ones and computers in the classroom. So those are big ones. I would say guidance is probably most helpful when it comes to mindfulness and the growth mindset in particular because we are trying to help students achieve their goals and nudge them towards maximizing their greatest or fullest potential given their past experiences and their current situations. So yeah, those would be my qualifications. I've been involved in many projects, I wouldn't call them maybe qualifications, but many projects such as the OTF, Teacher Learning and Leadership Program, the NORCAN Project between Ontario, Alberta, and Norway. And most recently a project between Canada and Israel where we're working with educators and sharing practices to try to again grow our understanding of mathematics.
And of course all of this work, if you don't have a growth mindset is all for naught because it would suggest that there's no work to be done, that everyone is where they are and that's all there is to it. But we realize that everyone can learn and life is all about learning. So I think if we take these ideas from the real world and we bring them into our math classroom, that can be a great starting point for us to see that all students can achieve at high levels. They just come to us with different background experiences that we need to hone in on and to try to help nudge them along their journey at that pace and all students can experience some growth.

Ali Melia: Oh, that's amazing. Okay. And so I think you've mentioned this a bit, but are you involved in any personal development courses in math or teaching, which you've mentioned, but anything else?

Kyle Pearce: I find that through the conferences that I participate in, help to organize, we have our Make Math Moments Virtual Summit coming up in November. And then through the podcast, to me it's continuous learning. Every time you have an opportunity to connect with someone else in the industry, you gain sort of a new perspective or maybe a varied perspective into something maybe you thought you understood, but now you might see from a different angle. And I look at that learning as probably some of the most influential. I've done my AQ courses for my PJ math specialist, and I've even taught some of those courses as well. So I have done some of that learning in a formal sense. But I think some of this more informal learning is probably some of the best because again, you're not learning the same thing everyone's learning, you are coming at it from different perspectives and having through conversation and story, I think is where we learn most effectively.

Ali Melia: Wow. Okay. So the next section is teacher perspectives and beliefs. So the first question is, in your view, how can students learn and achieve more in math?

Kyle Pearce: Wow, great question. I think by learning and achieving more in math, I would say the easy answer is doing more math. But the hard part behind that is the question of are we doing real math in the traditional classroom? So I think that's the real question. I think we'd all agree it doesn't matter what end of the spectrum you are on the back to basic spectrum or on the more inquiry based spectrum, sometimes there's a bit of a fight there, a tug of war. And the reality is, is that I think both sides believe doing more math is really helpful. But my question again comes back to what does it mean to learn mathematics? And if mathematics is the way I remember it from high school, which is memorization of steps, formulas, procedures, then I would argue doing more of that won't help. Or if it does help, it will help for a short period of time and we will see some students hit a wall.
And this is where I feel if a math educator in particular does seem to have more of a fixed mindset than a growth mindset, it could be because we're trying to get a student to memorize things that they haven't made sense of, that has no meaning to them, and they don't unfortunately have that ability to memorize. So there are fixed things like our ability to memorize things, especially when there is no meaning to them. However, when there's connections, when we look at mathematics as relationships, as behaviors, as connections, it's less about memorization and more about just a general understanding about idea.
And when you think about that, you realize that you can actually learn and remember so much more when it's tied to something else to be true than when we look over here and we say, "Here's 5.7's lesson, we needed to memorize this. And then 8.7's lesson, we needed to memorize that." So to me, we need to do more math, but more of this math and maybe not so much of that math. And I'm not saying we don't do any of it, but I would say that if this is the only thing we're doing in our math class, doing more of it probably will not help all students learn more math.

Ali Melia: That makes sense. Okay. So what experiences have contributed to your views on this topic?

Kyle Pearce: Wow, lots. I would say probably my own experience as a student. I was a student who I would call myself one of the lucky ones, who was able to memorize quite a bit. And it got me through schooling, it got me through my K through 12 experience. It even got me through into potentially believing that maybe I was good at it because my marks were pretty decent. Honor roll student, didn't have to put in a massive amount of effort in order to receive those high marks. But later on, the wheels fell off for me. In university, I hit a wall, I was trying to memorize proofs and the proofs became too big and I had no idea what was happening. And my professor said, "You're in the wrong program because you don't know anything about math." And at that point I didn't have that realization fully. I just thought that maybe the professor was just mean and being rude.
But then as a teacher, when I came out and started teaching in the same way that I had learned, I saw students having the same experience I had, but at an earlier stage. Some students, it was in grade 9, some students it was in grade 10, some it was in grade 12. Other students it had already happened to them well before they came to me in secondary or in high school. So I think that's where I've learned the most about, or at least made the realization that something had to change. I didn't necessarily know what at the time. But through exploration, through going to conferences, through doing some of this learning, you come to realize that maybe math isn't all I thought it was. Just because I had a high mark, didn't necessarily mean that I was good at math or proficient is the word that we would use and the National Research Council would use is math proficient.
So I did not have a strong understanding of the five math proficiencies. And that is now what I focus most of my work on is how do we help more students become more proficient, which also, in my view might sound like we would lose more students because it feels like more, like it's actually more, but it's that interconnectedness that actually allows more students to continue accessing the mathematics as we go. So it's a learning journey. Still on it, but now I at least know what I need to do and now it's just doing the work of trying to do more of that.

Ali Melia: Yes. So interesting. How can teachers foster a gross mindset in the classroom?

Kyle Pearce: I love it. I think one of the main things we can do is actually walking the walk instead of just talking the talk. And what I mean by that is, as a consultant for my district, I can walk into different buildings in the district, different classrooms, and I see growth mindset language everywhere. Do your best. You can be whatever you want to be. But then when I see the actions, and this isn't at the fault of the teacher because I think we do what we learned, we do what happened to us, and it becomes just a part of what we do naturally. I say naturally, but really it's learned, it's learned behavior based on our own experience. So we say these things that you can continue to learn, but then oftentimes our assessment and evaluation practices promote the opposite. So for example, if I have a test on Friday and a student struggles on that test, my question is it possible then if I have a growth mindset that the student may learn more about this idea after the test?
And if I believe in a growth mindset which a lot of people would say, "Yeah, sure, of course they could learn more." So then my question would be then, does that mark matter if two weeks from now that student does achieve or show an understanding of that content? So if that's true, if a growth mindset is a thing, then we need to promote that students grow at different rates, their brains grow at different rates, their experiences are all varied and different. Some students are very lucky to have parents that talk about numbers and math at home and other students don't have parents at home at all. So when we look at these different experiences, we have to give students the opportunity to continue growing regardless of what my assessment, or dare I say it, my evaluation, which usually is sort of an end to learning. When I evaluate, I'm sort of ending this learning and I'm looking at it as, no, we do more assessment.
And the purpose of assessment is to help students get to the next place in their journey, which also means that when I'm assessing or evaluating at the end of a year or a course, that evaluation should actually describe what the student knows and understands and can do now, not what they knew, understood and could do in September or October or November. If now is January, then I should be describing what they can do now. And I would say if we do more of that, then we can truly foster a growth mindset instead of just putting it on the wall saying that you can grow and your brains grow and just work harder and everything's going to be okay. Let's show students that this is real by giving them opportunities and letting them see, look at the change that you've made by putting in this extra effort. Holy smokes, you're now here. And that's really all I care about. I don't really care about this anymore. We're not going to let this punish you for the remainder of the school year.

Ali Melia: So true. Okay, so you just touched on all that, so now I'm pivoting into assessment and growth mindset. So my next question is, what role does assessment play in this process to foster a growth mindset? But do you have anything else to add on that?

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, I guess just to kind of put a stamp on it, it has everything to do with fostering a growth mindset. Because again, if I use the language but my actions through assessment and evaluation say something else, then I am essentially telling students that it's not actually a thing, it's not real. And an example I would use, just to kind of give another example, is a player on a sports team, might be hockey now that we're into hockey season. The beginning of the year, the player's having a hard time, can't shoot the puck, can't score goals, can't do any of those things. If near the end of the year that player is actually now able to shoot and score even more so than everyone else, are you going to put them on the fourth line where they started the school year? You go, "Ah, you know what? We're going to average it. You should be on the first line.
But at the beginning of the year, you were at the fourth line, so let's average it. So now you can be on the second or third line. Oh shoot, it's hard to get right in the middle of the second and third line. Now we're in a pickle." No, you're going to put them on the first line because you want your team to win and you want that student or that player to maximize their potential. So when a student shows learning through assessment, and this is the other thing, we have to have our eyes open, our ears open, we have to be actually observing what students are doing in our classroom in order to understand whether growth has happened. And when that happens, we need to do the right thing and we need to tell students where they are and we need to ensure that their grade or their report card is showing that and not punishing them for the lack of understanding that they may have had previously.

Ali Melia: Yeah, okay. So what affects students mindset in math in general, and then what effect do these factors have on assessments?

Kyle Pearce: I think our system most affects, and I would say this also affects their disposition towards mathematics in general. So not just a growth mindset, but if we're in a system where repeatedly I'm going to school each day, but the assessment and evaluation practices, maybe even the teaching practices that we're using in the classroom are not actually making me feel as though there's any visible growth, then I'm not going to believe that growth is a thing. Because I'm putting in six hours a day at school, I'm doing this every single day, five out of seven days a week, 10 months a year, and I'm not seeing or feeling growth, then I am going to believe that based on my own experience, that growth mindset is not a thing, that I'm incapable of learning mathematics. Now, this is beyond assessment and evaluation though because again, if we go back to how we teach mathematics, if I teach it as steps and procedures, then there's nothing new that can happen except for the student finally memorizing what's going on over here.
So we need to actually change our teaching practice so that we meet that student where they are, better understand, we need to understand where they are in the developmental continuum of math understanding. And if you are here, I need to give you, oh, my finger's all blurry. Look at that. I need to take you from here and I need to nudge you and I need to give you the next step to get here.
But the problem is, is oftentimes the student's here and I'm teaching to everyone over here, and there is no bridge for that student to be able to move along, which means they're not going to grow. It's not like they're going to get just a part of this. So now they're growing and getting closer. No, there's so much here that they are missing that we are ignoring and not addressing. Oftentimes it's because we don't understand it ourselves. The math educator itself doesn't know what to do for that student. So this student sits here, these students start moving along and this gap gets bigger. This student, of course, isn't going to believe in a growth mindset because they haven't actually been given an opportunity to grow.

Ali Melia: So true. Okay, so my next section is teacher practices. So what are your experiences teaching students math and fostering a growth mindset through assessments? So can you describe it in specific ways?

Kyle Pearce: Yeah. If I kind of compare and contrast to how I did teach, I used to teach with a more gradual release of responsibility model. I would model for them, then we would do problems together and then they would do problems on their own. Now I look at it from a perspective of we need to craft a context. We need to craft a problem for students that they're interested in solving. So it needs to be curious, it needs to be motivating for students to want to attempt. Doesn't have to be fireworks and all of those things, but it does have to make them curious and want to solve the problem. And then from there, we need to give them the opportunity to solve the problem on their own using whatever strategies they bring to the table. And through doing that process, my learning goal is to help them get to a more sophisticated strategy, which maybe it might be a formula or it might be some sort of big idea that may turn into a procedure eventually.
But by allowing students to see that they solved this problem in various ways with various levels of sophistication, you're now letting students see that you are fully capable as a mathematician. And now we're going to try to nudge all of you a little bit further up that spectrum, or I'm pointing down as if the lesson's going, but you were going to move you along that continuum so that students are actually learning something new. So the opportunity that you have is you have different students at different places. This student might have the least sophisticated strategy. Maybe they're using counting as their strategy. This student might be using skip counting. This student might straight up multiply with a known fact. This student might have an algebraic equation that they're using. And this student might have some other wacky thing going on that maybe the teacher doesn't even know. And that's okay too.
And over here, I want them to be able to see that all of these ideas are all connected and that if we can generalize, and generalize to create sort of like when this scenario happens, again, I can use this thing. We help them get the same idea that we had over here, except I'm not just telling them they're the ones sort of paving that path. They all feel confident that they can do the math in different ways. And then now we're going to work towards becoming proficient with this strategy here. So for me, it's all about a problem based lesson. We work from actual investigations and then me as the educator does the teaching after they have the opportunity to grapple with the problem. So they've truly engaged and now we're going to try to put the pieces together to help them have a new realization about the mathematics, and then we can work to practice it afterwards.

Ali Melia: Okay, that makes sense. And then what specific types of assessments have you implemented to foster that gross mindset? So for example, tech for projects.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, no, totally. For me, every day is assessment. So I tell students that at the beginning of the year. I never used to do this. In the far, far past, I used to just have my quiz and my test. The problem with a quiz and a test, especially in this model of teaching, I point over here as if it's still here. But this more traditional direct instruction approach or direct instruction heavy approach would be that the teacher's doing all the talking, maybe a couple kids participate and then kids do independent work. And it would take you until the quiz to realize that half your class is not understanding. Whereas over here, when I give students the opportunity to actually solve math problems, I'm walking throughout the groups and I'm actually listening, observing, and assessing where they are. And from that data, I can then decide what does the rest of my lesson look like? Are we able to go where I thought we were? Or do we need to slow down, pump the brakes? Are students well ahead of where I anticipated and maybe I can actually skip something that will save me time?
And then I want to give them opportunities at the end to sort of show me what they learned. So that might be through a consolidation prompt of some sort. Maybe I give them a different context or a different problem related to the context, and I have them share that with me and I can quickly look and observe and go, wow, got it, got it, got it, got it, got it. Not so sure. And these three are out to lunch on it. Okay, how am I going to now deal with these people at these various stages? This is going to influence what I do tomorrow. But then it's also given me data where for this pile over here, I could add a note and say, good to go on these ideas. Maybe there's still a question. I'm like, I'm not sure if they understand this, this or this. And then meanwhile over here, it's like, okay, you have not attained that yet. You're not an F, you're not a 20, you're not a 0, you're just not there yet. And I'm going to make a note of that too.
And we want to make sure that those students know, okay, you're not there yet. Here's some ideas on what we can do to help you get better. And then here's the key part. They have to do the work in order to grow, but I need to provide them with that feedback so that they know what to grow on. And then of course, we can still do more traditional assessments, maybe I call them assessments, because even a test for me is still an assessment. It's only a point in time. It's a snapshot. And that test to me is not something that gets inaudible book and it's cemented in there. It just says, okay, yeah, you've proven to me again that you understand these things or you've proven to me again that you're not ready for these three things over here. What am I going to do to help you get there? Or what are we going to do together to try to figure this out?
So assessment is definitely a dynamic thing. I look at evaluation as more static. So I look at evaluation as more end of year, end of course. Although you have to put a midterm report or a progress report, those things are still dynamic to me. So that's a snapshot in time and students still have an opportunity to grow and build off of that so that they can turn things around for themselves.

Ali Melia: That makes sense. Okay. And so how do you feel about planning for assessments?

Kyle Pearce: For me, I feel pretty good about it simply because on an assessment, I'm going to ask students questions I want to know about them. So I used to plan an assessment based on a unit of study and I would say, well, here's my expectations that we're focusing on, and maybe these are my learning goals, maybe I've reworded them in a way that's more student friendly. Here's some success criteria, like what I want to see from them. And then I would give them this test. But now if there's questions I know they know, and I feel confident that they know, maybe it doesn't even go on an assessment or on a test because I already know that. I don't want to know more about that, I want to know more about this one. And then oftentimes too, I like to throw in a question or two that is from something we haven't necessarily done yet or a question or two from something we did a long time ago.
So you knew Pythagorean theorem two months ago. Do you still know it? And most of the time half of them have forgotten. So it's like, well maybe tomorrow we need to do a Pythagorean activity to bring that back to the forefront. And then on the next assessment, I'll ask you another Pythagorean theorem problem and let's see how you're doing now. Oh look it, we're back. Amazing. For me, when I'm creating it, I don't want to get too dead set in, I need to make sure I evaluate this, this, this, all of these things. No, I want to ask the questions that I want to know the answers to. It feels good to the teacher to be correct, correct, correct, correct, correct, correct. And you're just like, yay, everyone got perfect.
But I mean, what's the point of that? Especially if you already knew that. If you already know because of the way you're teaching your course, that most students are good here and these three students are not, is it worth my time and is it worth their time to have a question about that when I'm like, well, yep, that just confirmed what I already knew? These kids got it, these three didn't. And here we are, another mark in the mark book that's going to punish those kids and it's going to give them a bonus. Because they already knew it. These kids didn't. I already knew that, but now their mark's going to suffer.
So to me, I just want to know, I want to see if there's growth. So if I think they've done some growth, I might throw that on there. If I know they haven't or I feel confident they haven't, then is it really worth it? So try to be, I think more wise with your time as the educator, answer the questions that you have, assessment is all about answering your wonders. It's about what kids know or don't know, understand or don't understand what they can do or what they can't do. If you already have the answer to that question for a concept, then what are you going to do about it instead of what am I going to assess them on about it?

Ali Melia: Right. Okay. And you've already, I think, answered this, but do you have anything else to add for what do you seek to achieve with your assessments?

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, I think that's it. In general. I want to know more. I want to answer questions about what students know, understand, and can do.

Ali Melia: Yeah, perfect. Okay. And so do you have any resources that you seek to help with your assessments?

Kyle Pearce: Ooh, good question. I would say, I mean the curriculum document is huge. That's our starting point to know what it is that we're even trying to teach, trying to understand in the course. So I'd say that's first and foremost. What else? What else? What else? I suppose it would be looking at the data I've already collected. So if I look at what students are struggling on, I want to make sure that I'm either putting that into my practice and then seeing if there's growth, or what's coming up next for us to learn more about what do kids already know coming in that I want to learn more about.
But in terms of other resources, I mean, shoot, I don't know. I guess there's some really great reads. I would say Tom Shimmer's work is really great. I'm trying to remember the name of his book. His book is something like Grading From The Inside Out, I think it might be called. Grading From The Inside Out or something like that. Tom Shimmer has got some really great stuff on just thinking about assessment and evaluation differently, which I think really connects to your growth mindset theme.

Ali Melia: Okay. And what are your experiences with accommodation and assessments while fostering the growth mindset?

Kyle Pearce: Well, when we talk about accommodations, accommodations typically are things that are written, in my opinion, are written in a individual learning plan because we as educators are too rigid in how we evaluate. So to me, I try to accommodate for all students. So I don't need an IEP for a student to say, "Hey, I need double time." What I do want to pay attention to though is do they really need double time or are they just dragging out the inevitable, which is they don't know what they're doing? So if it's I need whatever that accommodation might be for me, I look at it and I just try to think, is this something that's going to truly help this student and benefit the student, not just the mark, but actually benefit what they know? Then I'm pretty open to it. I'm pretty game.
I don't really worry so much about that because I try to be as flexible as possible to help students achieve, but not game a system. So that's very clear. I need to be very clear on that. I'm not like, "Oh yeah, you just bring in cheat sheets and copy off your friend" or those types of things. But I mean, if they're like, "This thing really helps me" and it actually is going to help them demonstrate their understanding, then I'm more power to you type thing. So that's where I stand on that. I think we just have to be more flexible and accommodating to who the student is and who they are as a learner.

Ali Melia: Okay. And what are your experiences with extensions and assessments while fostering the growth mindset

Kyle Pearce: Extensions? Do you mean extensions by time extensions or extensions to the content?

Ali Melia: So say if they had a project due or maybe if they had a test and moving the test to a later date.

Kyle Pearce: To me that is a learning skill. It is not something we are able to assess and well, actually, I shouldn't say that. We can assess students' learning skills, but I'm not going to allow it to affect their evaluation of the course content. So to me, the big question is when we talk about extensions, I look at it as having an open conversation with students and trying to help them to become better at organizing their time. So for example, in grade 12, we have a data management project we typically do, and there are students who would end up presenting late and so on and so forth.
But so all I would do is I would open that to other groups and say, if you'd more time to also improve, if you think it's unfair that this person has an extra week to work on it because so and so passed away in their family, or they had some other issue go on in their life, they were away for tournaments, then I would just open it up to them too and say, "You have an extra week if you'd like to make yours even better also."
So I look at it from that perspective. I don't want to promote procrastination, but I also would not use marks as a means to try to get students to hand things in on time. I feel like the real issue is that we need to help students better organize their time and better understand that procrastinating is not actually going to make it better. Oftentimes students hand it in late and they still do poorly. So I don't take it personally, I just try to work with the students so that they can hopefully get it in so that we could put an end to the saga of the missing project.

Ali Melia: That makes sense. Okay. So next section is supports and challenges. So what challenges have you faced when implementing assessments to foster growth minded students?

Kyle Pearce: You know what? I think the challenge is, I don't know if it's necessarily based specifically on the growth mindset. I mean, I'm sure there's challenges, especially with other staff members when you're in a building, when you're in a school, especially yourself being in teachers college, you might have a view about growth mindset or you might have a view about learning or teaching or assessing or evaluating. And you're working under a teacher that you basically have to do what they do, whether you believe it or not, which is a really tough spot for someone to be in. The same is true when you get your first long term or your first contract position. You're going to be in a building where as a building, oftentimes the educators in that building sort of mold this view of how they see the education world working. So if you come in over here and you're going, "Yay, growth mindset, everyone can succeed." But meanwhile over here everybody is taking off 10% per day for a late paper or for missing a quiz or whatever it might be. That is certainly a challenge.
There's also challenge on the parents and student side because it's different. You might have, one of your biggest challenges might be the students, the top students in your class who tend to get the high marks, they tend to get very upset when you change these policies because they're the ones that it's working for. They're like, "We're doing well. We're at the top of the class. We do everything on time. We have a good schedule. We have a good home life. We have money. We have all these other things that all these other kids may or may not have." Everything's working well for them. And then suddenly they see it as unfair because they're like, "Well, why should they get what I get?" So it's more of a comparative piece. So some of those challenges become, how do I help my staff be open to it? How do I not disrespect the staff in my messaging to students when I say I do not believe in docking marks, but yet the next class over the teacher's docking marks?
How do I address that? How do I engage in that conversation without offending? Because then people get their backs up and things get very out of sync there. And then in your own classroom, how do I ensure that students look at themselves as like, this is your journey, it's not you versus them, and that I'm going to try to help all of you have success in this course and to try to be as fair and equitable as possible? Equitable is a better word than responsive as possible. Then it's not about equality, and it's not about necessarily fair because unfortunately, life isn't fair. And the example I use for students that struggle with this, I ask them about their home life. I ask them about, "Oh, you have two parents at home. That's interesting." I'm like, "Do all the students in here have two parents at home? No. Okay. I'm wondering, do you live in a home? Oh, your parents own a home? Oh, that's great. Well, there's some students in here, their parents rent a home."
And you have this conversation and you sort of help students come to realize that sometimes there's other factors out there where people get advantages, whether it's fair or not, and ultimately you don't need some of the support I'm offering this student, which is something that you should be maybe grateful for or happy about, that you don't have to stay in at lunch every day to learn the material and that student does to receive that support. So those are just some of the challenges, having your beliefs, but then trying to navigate them without offending others and ensuring that everyone else sees it as a benefit.

Ali Melia: That makes sense. Okay, and I think you touched on this, but how to overcome these challenges, if you have anything else add?

Kyle Pearce: I think just that general idea of having an awareness of what's happening around you and why some people might push back I think is really important. And if you come in maybe too bull in a China shop, like "I'm going to change the world." You come in like that, then people get very defensive very quickly. So I would say coming in with strong beliefs, sharing those beliefs, but then also being respectful of the fact that other people may not have those beliefs yet, growth mindset, and maybe we can help them move towards it.

Ali Melia: I love that. Okay. So for next steps, from your perspective, what are some important steps necessary to implement assessments that foster growth mindsets?

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, necessary steps, I guess is to maybe rethink what assessment and evaluation means to you. And you have to start there as when you give a formal assessment or evaluation. And again, I look at those are two different things, and depending on a quiz for some people is an assessment, but for others it's an evaluation. So if that mark stays in the grade book permanently, then that's an evaluation. But if it's an assessment, then that's going to be a little more dynamic. So thinking about when you are assessing or evaluating, what is the purpose? What is your goal? Is it to fill up the grade book? Is it to make sure students get the mark they "deserve?" So thinking about what you're truly assessing, what do those numbers mean? And what do my policies say about what those numbers mean?
So I think asking yourself those things is a good starting point because once you learn more about your assessments, that helps you understand your own beliefs, whether they were explicit now or whether they're just sort of unconscious, that is the starting point. And then try to figure out what do you want assessment to be, an evaluation to be? What do you want it to be? If you want it to be about growth, then maybe there's some things that we need to shift or change in order to make that happen.

Ali Melia: Okay. And do you have any last advice to give a beginning teacher for planning an assessment?

Kyle Pearce: This is a hard process, and I think you have two options. Your first option is you just go in and let it happen. Get kicked around and struggle and hope for the best. Or you can look at it the other way and just accept the fact that you're not going to be perfect right away, even though as much as you want to, you want to prepare yourself and do the best you can, accept that you're not perfect, and accept that the entire process of teaching over the 30, 35, who knows how many years you plan to do it for. That you yourself are going to be the best version or the best model of growth mindset if you approach every day with that open mindset, you will grow and your practice will look different.
If 10 years from now your practice looks exactly the same as year 1, then you are in a fixed mindset and you are acting as though that's the way life works. But if 10 years from now your practice looks different and 20 years from now it looks different than the 10 year, and 30 years, it looks different than that. Hopefully it's in a positive manner, it's moving in a positive direction. But that would be the best way to model growth mindset is by doing it. Do the work, walk the walk, don't just talk the talk, and you will love this career. It's going to be such a fascinating and rewarding career.

Ali Melia: So I was so interested to hear your experience about how you hit your wall in university, because the same thing happened to me. I did really well through high school, and then I went into engineering and I hit a complete wall. I thought, these were my thoughts in my head that I was stupid, I was wrong the whole time thinking I was smart, and I failed first year of chemistry and everything just shattered for me. And I actually went through my undergrad at Queens just working so hard, and I thought I was kind of just compensating because oh, I wasn't as smart as everyone else here, so I have to work super hard. And I think the growth mindset really only clicked when I got to teachers college thinking, wow, I have been in a fixed mindset all this time, and I even got a master's in biomedical engineering. But I think, I almost just thought, no, my hard work is paying off for this intelligence. I'm not as smart as everyone else.
And so that's what I'm so passionate about now going into teaching is that I want to change that and I don't want anyone else to experience that. And I can relate with you, Kyle, of that, I see students hitting that wall at different levels, and I want them to get out of that because I want to keep their doors open for math and let them know that they can do anything they believe in. I want to keep them in that gross mindset.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. While it saddens me to hear your story and how it happened, I'm happy it happened for you, if that makes sense. Because they say that nothing good comes without pain. All growth comes through pain. It's never pleasure. You're never happy through growth. There's a challenge there. And the fact that you had that challenge and you overcame the challenge, you stuck with it. All of those pieces, I think, say a lot about you, even though maybe your mindset wasn't where maybe it would be best leveraged, if that makes sense. It may have been easier for you had that growth mindset sort of clicked in earlier, and it being less about how smart you are, or intelligent you are, or capable you are, and more about, wait, this is kind of how the brain works, and everyone is different and everyone has these different experiences.
But I think that's such a great message for everyone listening, is that they look at one person's journey and then they hear yours. And I'm wondering if everyone is maybe reflecting on their own journey throughout their life where maybe they've had challenge, maybe where they've had more of a fixed mindset. I think we sort of default there. We're very hard on ourselves. So super interesting reflection, but what a great story and something that I think people will learn from.

Ali Melia: Yeah. Thank you.

Kyle Pearce: Well, thanks for having me and for having the conversation, and yeah, we're really excited to share this with the Math Moment Maker community.

Jon Orr: All right, everybody, after that episode, I'm reflecting on big ideas that Kyle and Ali talked about here in this one that you just listened to. And I'm often reminded of the interconnectedness of the aspects of our job and our career and our craft, knowing that if you're going to change assessment, that's going to start to change your teaching pedagogy and your teaching strategies or vice versa. Or if you're thinking about mindset, it's going to lead in changes in other areas. Everything is connected, and that's a big idea that sometimes we forget about, that we think about, "Oh, I need to change my assessment practices." Not thinking about how it's going to change. It is going to change the other areas in your day to day work. So awesome stuff for that episode. I'm so glad that we listened to that and Kyle had a chance to talk with Ali.
So hopefully you right now are writing down your big ideas, your kind of big takeaways from this episode as we always like to think about. We do not want these ideas kind of washing away like footprints in the sand. So do us a favor, let us know how you're reflecting. Are you talking with a colleague? Are you going to share this with your partner? Maybe you're kind of writing things down in your notebook or your journal. How are you going to reflect on the learning you had here today?

Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. John, one place that I love that people are starting to do, not consistently yet, but I feel like we can get there, but something that people are starting to do is reflecting in a review on Apple Podcasts. Friends, last week we had over 10,000 downloads of our episodes, so there was a lot of Math Moment Makers listening last week, yet only 2, only 2 shared their responses via a review and a rating on Apple Podcasts. So I'm going to encourage you right now, if you haven't done that yet, like I'm talking to you, I'm talking to you right now, pause and take a quick moment. It'll take you under two minutes to rate and leave us like a two or three liner.
And not only will it let us see, we get a weekly email, shows us all of those responses and ratings and reviews and feedback, but also it helps other educators to discover the podcast. That is what Apple uses to decide what podcast should I be sharing with people to try to encourage them to listen to something new. So help us help other educators by taking a moment, hit that rating button and leave us a short review. We can't wait to read it in next week's email.

Jon Orr: Show notes and links to resources and complete transcripts are found over at makemathmoments.com/episode210. Again, that's makemathmoments.com/episode210.

Kyle Pearce: I love it, my friends. Hey, until next time, I'm Kyle Pearce.

Jon Orr: And I'm John Orr.

Kyle Pearce: High Fives for us.

Jon Orr: And a high five for you.

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