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Beyond the Buzzwords: Making Meaning of the Mindsets

When you walk through the halls of the Lower School at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School (MVPS), you will notice that each classroom has one thing in common: a small blue poster hanging on the wall. Upon closer inspection, you will see the six Mount Vernon Mindsets and their three indicators. The poster is an excellent visual representation of the kind of student mind we build at Mount Vernon (MV).

Mindset Poster 2014-15

However, we wondered if the students had a good understanding of all that each mindset encompasses. When we told students to collaborate, what did that mean? Did they know its meaning went beyond simply working well together? Did they understand that a communicator is not just someone who speaks, but also someone who listens to the ideas of others? We also wondered if we as teachers had a good understanding of all that each mindset encompasses. When we went on learning walks and instructional rounds, were we equipped with a solid knowledge of the facets of each mindset? Could we recognize and assess their infusion into our colleagues’ classrooms? As a Kindergarten teacher, did I understand what “suspending judgement” (language from the Creative Thinker section) looked like in my classroom, as well as in grade four? This led us on a quest to make the Mount Vernon Mind poster more than just a display of buzzwords in our classrooms. We used these words, but were we making them meaningful to students?

We had two goals this summer. Our first goal was to dissect the Mount Vernon mindsets and examine how they relate to EdLeader21’s Four C’s. We looked at Creative Thinker, Collaborator, Critical Thinker (known as Solution Seeker at MVPS), and Communicator. We looked at how the MV mindset indicators overlapped with EdLeader21’s indicators, and from there, created a set of student and teacher friendly proficiency scales for each of the 4C’s. We decided to create our proficiency scales in grade level bands (K-2) and (3-4), which allowed us to use language that was developmentally appropriate in order for students to self assess. We structured our proficiency scales to mirror those that the children are familiar with from the work of Lucy Calkins in Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop. Our hope is that teachers use these mindset proficiency scales to help communicate the growth of the whole child with parents.

Our second goal was to provide teachers with grade appropriate lessons and children’s literature ideas for launching each mindset. Through these tangible activities, students will have the opportunity to experience and explore what each mindset looks like in their classroom. We hope that this provides students with the tools to connect future experiences on the playground, at home, and in the classroom back to the mindset lessons. This will also allow students to recognize the mindset indicators within themselves and their peers.

During pre-planning, we will present our work to the Lower School faculty. By providing teachers with these resources, we believe that students and teachers will ultimately have a better understanding of the 4C’s, how they contribute to the development of a future-wise student, and how to assess and communicate growth in these areas. Teachers from all departments can use the literature and activities provided to introduce the mindsets and build upon the lessons in the future. As teachers begin to teach the mindsets through literature, we hope to build a “Mindset Library” in the LS Inquiry Zone. This in combination with all of the other resources will encourage teachers and students to expand their understanding of the Mount Vernon Mindsets.

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Post by Meghan Fedor, Sophie Lintner and Lindsey Whitehead. These three educational practitioner-researchers have embarked on a leadership-study about the Mount Vernon Mindsets and received an MVIFI R&D Grant (2016, Type 1) to advance our learning and assessment work as a School that wants to contribute to, and not just consume educational research.

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