I finished Jo Boaler’s MOOC last week. I thought it was very good. It is worth checking out yourself (tip: watch the videos at double-speed), but here is a summary of what I learned:
- It is important to foster a “growth mindset,” rather than a “fixed mindset.” I was familiar with Dweck’s work before, but I feel I understand it better now.
- Writing “I am giving you this feedback because I believe in you and want you to improve” once on a student’s paper at the beginning of the semester seems to have a huge positive impact.
- If you want to encourage a growth-mindset, it is very important that you ask open questions. Boaler gave the following example: instead of giving the students a particular rectangle and asking to find the perimeter, ask students to draw a rectangle with perimeter equal to 26. These tasks both “test” the same concept, but the former has only one right answer, while the latter has many.
- One of the problems that struggling students have is that they do not know that they can decompose numbers to help them. For instance, they do not know that 12*7 can be solved by doing (10+2)*7=10*7+2*7; they tend to believe that this is not allowed. “Number talks” are useful in demonstrating that this sort of manipulation is encouraged; a number talk is basically asking students to do a mental calculation (like 12*7), and then hearing all of the different ways that students calculated it. Then students see that there are many ways of doing the problem, and all are acceptable.
I am teaching a “math for liberal arts” course this semester, and I basically have it designed. However, after going through this MOOC, I am planning on tweaking all of my prompts to make them more open. I don’t think that I will be very good at doing this, but it will be good practice for me. Additionally, I think that I will incorporate weekly “number talks” with them (I will definitely do this in my spring course for elementary education majors).
There was a lot more in this course, but these were the highlights for me. I found that this course was definitely worth the amount of time required; Boaler did a nice job of giving just enough “homework” to be useful, but not so much that it was overwhelming (in fact, the homework was pretty minimal, time-wise).