Call to Action

Please click on the picture below to view the video of my Call to Action. This call to action is in reference to my innovation plan and is mindful of the lessons learned in the readings and research I have done for the Digital Learning in Local and Global Contexts course I am currently taking.

Call to Action 

Learning Networks

Retrieved from

Professional Learning Networks are invaluable forums for learning and leading in fields of study. Aided by technology, these networks can be among peers within a building or educators with similar interests throughout the world.

I would characterize my involvement in online professional learning networks heretofore as being much more of a consumer than producer. My experience has been to absorb and benefit from the insight and expertise of the contributors of the PLNs I follow.

Here you will find an annotated list of the PLNs most helpful to me and my learning:

Texas Computer Education Association) is a global, nonprofit, member-based organization. We support the use of technology in education. Founded in 1980, TCEA has been playing a vital role in increasing technology funding and access for PreK-16 schools for 38 years. Our 13,000-member association is led by a grassroots board of directors—all professional educators. TCEA’s resources support educators in the field who are enhancing curriculum with digital tools. The Technology Coordinators Special Interest Group (TEC-SIG) is a fantastic forum for sharing information.

From its website, ISTE is  home to a passionate community of global educators who believe in the power of technology to transform teaching and learning, accelerate innovation and solve tough problems in education. ISTE inspires the creation of solutions and connections that improve opportunities for all learners by delivering: practical guidance, evidence-based professional learning, virtual networks, thought-provoking events and the ISTE Standards.

I manage two accounts: one personal–@dwthurman–which I very rarely post to, and Houston ISD’s Career Readiness feed–@HoustonCCR. The Career Readiness feed is mostly used to hi-light events and accomplishments of the campus CTE programs around the district. Through my membership in TCEA, I found and have been keen to follow two individuals from the Ed Tech community: Kathy Schrock @KathySchrock and Miguel Guhlin @mguhlin.

Through my involvement in the Digital Learning and Leading masters program at Lamar University, I am a member of the Digital Learning and Leading Facebook group. From the About page: Digital Learning and Leading (DLL) Facebook Group is the place were students in the Lamar University Masters of Digital Learning and Leading program can connect and collaborate as they work toward using technology to enhance learning. The DLL Facebook Group is also the place where students and graduates of the DLL program can work together to help create significant learning environments (CSLE) that give learners choice, ownership and voice through authentic (COVA) learning opportunities.

MS Teams
MS Teams is included in my district’s Office 365 adoption. It is an excellent tool for collaborating. You can have conversations in a FB-type format, you can exchange links and files, and you can conduct a video broadcast of a training. The system allows you to tag people so that relevant info in a large team finds the appropriate person. My department is using MS Teams as a tool for organizing and disseminating content specific to the different career clusters at our beginning-of-the-year professional development. My hope is that teachers who teach the same course but who are on different campuses can use this tool to collaborate throughout the year. If anyone in the DLL program has access to this MS Teams and would like an introduction to using it, you can link to my getting started guide here.

Book Study
Within Career and Technical Education department I work in, we take part in book studies to improve our practice. A book we read recently was The Smartest Kids In The World by Amanda Ripley.

Professional Learning: A Call to Action

The video presentation of my Professional Learning Call to Action can be found by clicking on the image below:

Boring presentation
Image retrieved from:


When sitting down to create my Call to Action Professional Learning video presentation, I wanted to accomplish four main objectives:

  • Acknowledge the lack-luster impact professional development often has on its audience.
  • Present the vision for this professional learning series. This vision includes the WHY of its importance.
  • Briefly touch on the five principles of effective professional development.
  • Finally, I sought to re-justify the vision, restate the Why, and call my colleagues to action.

I began with hyperbolic reactions educators exhibit at the prospect of enduring a professional development session. I inserted a still of audience members sleeping as an attempt at humor to add some levity to the tone of the presentation.

Next, I tried to relate to my audience of CTE teachers and instructional technologists. I wanted to get them thinking about the power of their own good ideas to better education, and to see the futility of these ideas if they go unexpressed or acted on.

I then turned to the professional learning at hand and explained the necessity for it. I tried to appeal to their Why in the sense of identifying logistical issues we can all relate to, but, all the while, insisting that we overcome those obstacles for the sake of our students’ education. I also took this opportunity to include my navigating within 360-degree photographs of actual CTE relevant job sites, so they would have an idea of the end product this PD will produce.

Finally, I reiterated the challenge before us and why executing this professional learning series will benefit our students—retouching on the Why and following the ebb and flow model articulated by Duarte. I end the presentation with a final summarizing thought about effective professional learning.

References used in the creation of my video presentation and this explanation:

Gulamhussein, A. (2013). Teaching the teachers effective professional development in an era of high stakes accountability. Center for Public Education. Retrieved from

Daniels, K. (2013). Empowering the teacher technophobe. [Video]. TEDxBurnsvilleED. Retrieved from YouTube,

Duarte, N. (2010, December 10). Nancy Duarte uncovers common structure of the greatest communicators 11/11/2010 [Video file]. Retrieved from

Sinek, S. (2015, May 5). How to begin your presentation [Video file]. Retrieved from  

Leading Organization Change: A Summary

If I want to enact change within my organization, How do I know that the change I am envisioning is appropriate and meaningful, and furthermore, how do I go about implementing the change I seek? 5304, a course in my masters program, contextualizes and offers up practical tools for leading change in an organization.

Change is inevitable, but it is resisted within organizations because it is unpredictable and uncomfortable. I have been tasked with implementing an Innovation Plan that will have a significant and long-lasting impact upon my district’s Career and Technical Education department. In order to bring about the change I envision, I will employ the strategies I have gleaned over the last five weeks.



“Why do I do what I do?” What is my purpose? These questions set the context for launching a change initiative. If, when we seek to bring about change, we start with the question of why we exist–what our big mission is –we focus on the reason for our actions. According to Simon Sinek, people are less concerned with what an organization does as why they do it. As I bring about change to my organization by implementing my Innovation Plan, I need to be clear about why we do what we do–to give students post-secondary educational and workforce opportunities upon graduation from high school. Read more about my Why Statement.

Influencer Strategy

influenceWe know that quick fixes (such as training alone) rarely if ever bring about real change. Therefore, I will be using the Influencer Model to address motivation and ability on a personal, social and structural level, with the expectation that addressing each of these sources of influence will make my change efforts successful. This strategy requires change agents to consider vital behaviors and organizational influencers when considering how change might best be implemented. The Sources of Influence Matrix is an optimal tool for organizing this change initiative.


While the Influencer Strategy does a phenomenal job at managing the behavior of change, The Four Disciplines of Execution (4DX) focuses on the system of change. 4DX is a system for managing and mitigating surprises and obstacles that arise with any significant change initiative. We have utilized the 4DX tool, created by Chris McChesmen, Sean Covey and Jim Huling, as a road map for launching and sustaining the goals of my district’s Career Readiness department. 4DX helps us to understand we are trying to bring about change and implement new initiatives despite being battered by the whirlwind on a daily basis. For this reason, we strategically set our Wildly Important Goals and check our progress regularly.

Crucial Conversations

conversationsCrucial Conversations are the nucleic acids of change. They are the granular building blocks that make change possible by clearing the air and making sure the environment is ripe for change and growth within an organization. In their book, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, authors Patterson, Grenny, and Swizler define a crucial conversation as one in which the stakes are high, there are strong emotions, and there are differing opinions. It is the job of the self-differentiated leader to recognize when these conversations are needed and to execute them following the precepts outlined by Patterson, Grenny and Swizler.


Patterson, K., & Grenny, J. (2013). Influencer: The new science of leading change, Second Edition. McGraw-Hill Education. ISBN 0071808868

Patterson, K., Grenny, J., & Swizler, A. (2012). Crucial conversations: tools for talking when stakes are high. (2nd ed.). McGraw-Hill New York, NY.  ISBN-10: 0071771328

Friedman, E. H. (2007). A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the age of the quick fix. Church Publishing, Inc. ISBN B009VHSBYK

Covey, S., McChesney, C., & Huling, J. (2012). The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving your wildly important goals. Simon and Schuster. ISBN B005FLODJ8

Crucial Conversations

There are some conversations you would like to avoid. In the moment, it is easier to defer it or avoid having it, but in the long run, not having these conversations will prevent you from achieving your goals. Be these conversations personal, such as family finances or differences in child rearing; or professional, such as department goals or job performance, there are conversations that should be dubbed crucial. In their book, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, authors Patterson, Grenny, and Swizler define a crucial conversation as one in which the stakes are high, there are strong emotions, and there are differing opinions. It is the job of the self-differentiated leader to recognize when these conversations are needed and to execute them following the precepts outlined by Patterson, Grenny and Swizler.

Get Unstuck

unstuckFor my innovation plan to launch successfully, I need to, first, identify where I am stuck and unbundle the problem with CPR (the content, pattern, relationship analysis). It is clear to me where I am stuck: I and members of my team live in the whirlwind. The prospect of starting a major initiative in the midst of the daily duties is daunting. I would characterize this problem as one that falls into the Content domain. It is essential that I and the people I will be working with–CTE instructors, and Campus Instructional Technologists are supportive of this endeavor.

Start With The Heart

heartNext, I need to engage in self reflection and honestly assess whether my actions are indicative of what I really want. I need to be perfectly clear of what I want for myself, for others and for the relationship. This stage of the crucial conversation is about managing my own emotions and focusing on how my message is being delivered as much, if not more, than the content of my message. The key to successfully delivering the message I am trying to impart is to be open, honest and respectful to my colleague with whom I am conversing.

Learn to Look

lookWouldn’t it be nice if when we were engaged in a conversation that was turning crucial we could hit the pause button like on a Tivo remote and get our ducks in a row before proceeding with the conversation. Unfortunately, conversations are organic that can ebb and flow due to a number of factors. Practicing learning to look for moments and cues that can turn the conversation into a negative experience rather than a positive one is extremely important. It’s tough to do on the fly, but three things to be on the lookout for are:

  • The moment the conversation is turning crucial
  • Signs the your conversation partner isn’t feeling safe. They are exhibiting silence and or violence behaviors, which means their fight or flight reptilian brain is taking over and reducing the likelihood of meaningful conversation
  • My own style or behaviors under stress. When I feel my top lip starting to curl in anger involuntarily or my hands start gesticulating more wildly, that’s a sure sign I need to pull back and refocus.

Make it Safe

Being guided by your emotions during a crucial conversation is a recipe for disaster. When emotions dictate the conversation, we are more apt to say hurtful things or disengage, leaving the problem to fester. Sometimes it’s helpful to clarify what you do not want. For example,  “I don’t want confusion or ambiguity to persist around this issue.” Another strategy for keeping the conversation safe is to share something you respect about the person. This tactic can defuse hostility. Finally, it is appropriate to apologize when one has said something disrespectful. Some say apologizing is a sign of weakness. That is inaccurate. If an apologize is warranted, give it.

Master My Stories

storiesThe key is to master my stories, not let them master me. We compose narratives for ourselves to make sense of the issue we are trying to resolve. When a CTE instructor was angry with me for not receiving the equipment she had been promised and was expecting, I created an elaborate victim story absolving myself of any responsibility and placing the blame on the shoulders of everyone from the procurement department to the vendor, even to our legal department for not having executed the MOU in a timely fashion. The more productive strategy is to turn my victim/villain/helpless stories int a useful story that will lead to productive dialogue.

State My Path

path-into-the-hillsWhen striving to articulate your rationale for the path forward, consider how open you are being to others’ views. Are you talking about the real issue facing your organization? Are you expressing your views confidently and effectively? it is helpful to keep the acronym STATE in mind:

  • Share your facts.
  • Tell your story.
  • Ask for others’ paths.
  • Talk tentatively.
  • Encourage testing.

Explore Others’ Paths

Sometimes we should try to “walk a mile in their shoes.” Presumably if the person you are having a crucial conversation with is a family member, friend, colleague, or you have some other kind of meaningful relationship with him or her, we should be able to consider that person reasonable, rational and decent. Keeping this in mind will go a long way in defusing highly charged conversations. I can, on occasion, become flabbergasted by a friend’s political stance. Regardless of how misguided I believe their positions to be, when I stop to remember how much more we have in common than we disagree about, just acknowledging that mid-conversation does wonders to keep the talk civil and increases the likelihood of arriving at some kind of mutual understanding.

Move to Action

action-clapboardAt the end of the day, it is about more than the conversations. Getting in touch with your emotions and triggers is extremely beneficial. Understanding how others are approaching an issue is helpful. But the goal in having the crucial conversations is to move to action. The crucial conversation is a means to an end. That end is executing the mutually accepted plan you have formulated to accomplish your Wildly Important Goal. How do we ensure we are progressing from talk to action? We are checking in regularly with our 4DX scoreboard.


Patterson, K., Grenny, J., & Swizler, A. (2012). Crucial conversations: tools for talking when stakes are high. (2nd ed.). McGraw-Hill New York, NY.  ISBN-10: 0071771328

Covey, S., McChesney, C., & Huling, J. (2012). The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving your wildly important goals. Simon and Schuster. ISBN B005FLODJ8

Four Disciplines of Execution

Retrieved from Strategist.IO

As a way to create more opportunities for students to learn about what they are likely to encounter on job sites upon entering the workforce, the Career Readiness department has created a Wildly Important Goal (WIG) of establishing a collection of virtual job sites students and teachers across the district can access electronically by January 2020. You can learn more about this goal by reading my Innovation Proposal. Creating this library of virtual simulations is a goal we are striving to achieve amidst the whirlwind of our daily duties. We will employ the Four Disciplines of Execution model to provide clarity to our priorities as we strive to reach this goal.


The Four Disciplines of Execution–4DX–is a system for managing and mitigating surprises and obstacles that arise with any significant change initiative. We have utilized the 4DX tool, created by Chris McChesmen, Sean Covey and Jim Huling, as a roadmap for launching and sustaining the goals of my district’s Career Readiness department.

4dx pictochart

Stages of Change

What follows are the authors’ observations of the stages groups within organizations pass through when undergoing a major change effort.

Stage 1–Getting Clear

No, not like the Scientologists in Hollywood. This stage demands that everyone on the team trying to execute the WIG be perfectly clear about what the the Four Disciplines of Execution look like as it pertains to the team’s goal.

The WIG (Discipline 1) is the Wildly Important Goal. It is a goal that will make all the difference between the organization’s success or failure. Because of the law of diminishing returns, it is crucial that teams only identify and work to achieve 1 to 2 WIGs at a time.

When working toward a Wildly Important Goal, the team will have a lag measure that will reflect the status of achieving the WIG. Team members must have the discipline and restraint to Act on Lead Measures (Discipline 2) so that they do not get bogged down in the enormity of the overarching goal. These lead measures influence and are predictive of the WIG’s success.

We know that engagement changes behavior. When team members can see that they are moving the proverbial ball (in this game metaphor), they report more happiness and job satisfaction. A way to promote engagement is to Create a Compelling Scoreboard (Discipline 3). This scoreboard should be easy to access and interpret, show both lead and lag measures, and tell us if we are winning or losing at the “game.” This scoreboard shows at a glance how many virtual simulations have been created at each CTE campus:


Finally, we will Create a Cadence of Accountability (Discipline 4) in pursuit of our WIG. When we each have others who are aware of and dependent on our individual work efforts, it ramps up accountability, and in turn, that accountability increases the likelihood of successful goal completion. We will foster accountability by holding regularly-scheduled meetings in which we report on commitments, review the scoreboard and make new commitments.

Stage 2–Launch

The operative word within this stage is focus. The team must be focused ignoring (or de-emphasizing) the whirlwind while full attention is given to the lead measures that will ultimately shepherd the team to successful goal attainment. As we work toward the goal of establishing a collection of virtual job sites, we must trust the process of chipping away at the identified lead measures and resist the temptation to focus only on the lag measure. These lead measures include:

  • Conducting collaborative meetings among CTE instructors and Campus Instructional Technologists on the topic of creating work site simulations
  • Make business contacts and identify procedures for filming on location.

Focused baby steps.

Stage 3–Adoption

The new method for bringing about significant change is beginning to take root. During this Adoption stage, team members are either embracing or resisting the new disciplines. It is up to the leader to keep the ship sailing in the right direction encouraging the models, by giving potentials added support and addressing issues with resisters. It is at this stage I expect to observe which CTE instructors and Campus Instructional Technologists are meeting to overcome the logistical and technical challenges this WIG presents. We are checking that scoreboard regularly.

Stage 4–Optimization

Now we’re cooking with gas. We are acknowledging and celebrating the minor successes we are experiencing, which are leading us to our WIG. Team members are accountable to the team as a whole, which is driving more success. And, as an added benefit, creating more enthusiasm and satisfaction with the work of the department as a whole.

Stage 5–Habits

At this stage, team members have internalized the 4DX process. It is no longer a method they must struggle with to accomplish a goal; it has become ingrained, a working habit. In order to maintain this high level functioning, we will celebrate having achieved the WIG, and move quickly on to the next Wildly Important Goal. We emphasize that devotion to high performance on the lead measures is what got us to this point.

4DX and the Influencer Model

If you are going to hang a shelf, you need a couple different tools to complete the task. You will probably want to have a level on hand to ensure your shelf is, well, level, lest all your bric-a-brac slide off. You’ll also want a screw driver to drive in the screws of your shelf’s support brackets.

Similarly, when trying to implement significant change within your organization, it’s good to have a couple different tools in your tool box to address different aspects of change. One of the tools needed would assist with managing the behavior of change in your organization for you goals to be successful. This tool, the Influencer Model, addresses motivation and ability at the personal, social and structural levels. A second tool is one that helps to manage the system of change. It looks at four disciplines of executing change effectively, and the five stages the people attempting to bring about the change are likely to encounter.

One model is not better than the other, rather, they are both extremely useful in addressing the different aspects of the change process. Therefore, in order to implement change successfully in an organization, both models should be used in tandem.


Chesney, C., Covey, S. & Huling, J.  (2012)  The 4 disciplines of execution.  New York, NY:  Franklin Covey Co.

Grenny, J., Patterson, K., Maxsfield, D., McMillan, R. & Switzler, A.  (2013).  Influencer:  The new science of leading change(2nd ed.).   Provo, UT:  VitalSmarts, LLC.


Influencer Strategy

Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

These lines from Bob Dylan’s seminal song capture what I have been learning throughout the Digital Learning and Leading masters program. Change in education, brought on by new technologies, is inevitable. In my coursework, we are encouraged to consider how we will be educational leaders who proactively shape the change we want to see (swim), rather than being overcome by it (sink).

We all know that change is difficult. It forces us to abandon comfortable routines, and it often thrusts us into situations in which we are not sure of the outcome. This discomfort and the understandable aversion to it is what makes implementing change—both on a personal and organizational level so hard.

What if, however, there were tools we could employ that would assist us in confronting the nettlesome human behaviors that thwart our efforts to change? The current course I’m taking, Leading Organization Change, has exposed me to the Influencer Model, which is a road map for exponentially increasing the likelihood that the changes I am striving for will take effect.

In my position as a CTE administrator within my school district I have developed an Innovation Plan that seeks to offer teachers and students the opportunity to experience a real-world job site virtually. For this plan to be successful, various stakeholders within the district will have to embrace the project. Specifically, my plan requires that CTE instructors rethink how they expose their students to work sites and embrace and learn new technology tools.

We know that quick fixes (such as training alone) rarely if ever bring about real change. Therefore, I will be using the Influencer Model to address motivation and ability on a personal, social and structural level, with the expectation that addressing each of these sources of influence will make my change efforts successful.

Retrieved from Leadership: The Power of Influence

First, we start with the end in mind.

Desired Results

By January 2020, teachers and instructional technologists will have created an online repository of 10 virtual job sites that represent at least five different career clusters.

Next, we determine the behaviors that are essential to bring about the results.

Vital Behaviors

  • Campus Instructional Technologists and Arts A/V and IT instructors will collaborate with instructors from the following career clusters to determine facility features and equipment that should be hi-lighted in the virtual tour of a worksite.
    • Health Science
    • Construction
    • Manufacturing
    • Agriculture/Food/Natural Resources
    • Transportation/Distribution/Logistics (Aviation and Maritime)
  • Career cluster instructors will create 360-degree photographs and virtual reality simulations of real-world worksites.
  • Instructors in the career clusters identified above will coordinate with a business partner to set up a time to film at the business partner’s facility.

Finally, we recognize there are individuals whose buy-in is critical to the success of this innovation plan.

Organizational Influencers

  • Assistant Superintendent of Career Readiness
  • CTE Instructors
  • Director of Instructional Technology
  • Campus Instructional Technologists
  • Campus Principals

sources of influence matrix




The “Why” is Key

Retrieved from: 

We affirm that well-prepared career and technical education students are the backbone of tomorrow’s workforce.

We leverage technological innovations to promote learning that is flexible and student centered.

We prepare students to enter the workforce with the knowledge and skills necessary to be productive and valued leaders in their fields.

All of the lessons we learn about effective advertising in a Marketing 101 course seem to go out the window when we seek to bring about change to a large organization. I recall learning that an effective advertisement will, among other things, create a sense of urgency and will appeal to the consumer’s emotions–often times by personalizing the pitch. I was reminded of these tried-and-true marketing techniques when I viewed Dr. John Kotter’s videos, The Heart of Change and Leading Change: Establish a Sense of Urgency and Simon Sinek’s Start With Why.

By starting with a “why” statement, it forces the change agent to think beyond simply stating what an organization does; the “why” statement brings into focus and articulates a universal reason for existing. The why speaks to a higher calling.

Organizations are made up of people that usually are resistant to change. It is no mystery why…change brings about uncertainty, and the unknown is uncomfortable. Nevertheless, change is certainly needed–particularly in education. So the question becomes: how do we persuade stakeholders in our education circles to make the changes necessary in order to bring about better teaching and learning? Many educators are, well, well-educated. They are aware of the trends and the studies and the statistics. Repackaging this data and providing it to them in a new way will not bring them aboard the boat that will sail them to significant change.  We must find a way to appeal to their hearts. This is what Sinek and Kotter posit, and it is a strategy I intend to employ when sharing my innovation plan.


Kotter, J. (2011, March, 23). The heart of change. . Retrieved from

Kotter, J. (2013, August, 15). Leading change: Establish a sense of urgency. . Retrieved from

Sinek, S. (2014, March, 3). Start with why: Ted talk short edited. . Retrieved from

Pulling Together the Elements to Create a Significant Learning Environment

pull together

As I continue to refine my Innovation Plan, which allows for students to create virtual work sites using 360-degree photography for the Career and Technical Education classroom, I am keenly aware of how important it is to create a significant learning environment. Creating significant learning environments (CSLE) means putting the learner first. The learners’ needs are what dictate the activities and instruction. CSLE also calls for the teacher to relinquish the “sage on the stage” role in favor of the “guide on the side.” This means the instructor becomes a facilitator and mentor in the classroom. CSLE means embracing an approach to learning the provides learners choice, ownership, and voice through authentic learning opportunities (COVA (Harapnuik)). Please read my previous post about Creating Significant Learning Environments here.

Developing this innovation plan also required me to think through my learning philosophy. The three major learning theories, Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism, each have appealing definitions that undoubtedly play a role in how people learn, but after studying each, Constructivism, with its emphasis on the learner’s active involvement of making meaning and knowledge, is what holds the most weight with me. Please check out my post on Learning Philosophy here.

How to carry out instruction is a crucial part of my innovation plan. I explored two different processes for designing instruction: Fink’s guide which utilizes the Three-Column table, and Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design. Both have attractive components in course development, but I appreciated the structure of the learning activities in the Understanding by Design model slightly more. Use the links above to view my posts for each model.

Finally, my Growth Mindset Plan looks at the transformation-inducing work by Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Of all the elements necessary to create a significant learning environment, I find this to be the most important. Learners’ perception of their intelligence being fixed or able to grow is the foundation we all approach learning. If we view intelligence as static, we see little reason to put forth effort because, as the thinking goes, our intelligence is what it is. We avoid challenges and cower to obstacles, and above all else, seek to appear smart. Embracing a growth mindset, on the other hand, accepts the scientific research that through effort and persistence, we can expand our intelligence. We embrace challenges, accept criticism, and look to others’ success as inspiration.

It is with each of these elements that I continue to create a significant learning environment within my educational community, which includes myself, my children, and the CTE teachers and students within my district.


Creating Significant Learning Environments

Learning Philosophy

Three-Column Table

Understanding By Design

Growth Mindset Plan (Part A)

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (expanded second ed.). Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Fink, L. D. (2003). A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Harapnuik, D. COVA.

Harapnuik, D. (2015, September 29). Why Use an ePortfolio. Retrieved from

Dweck. C (2016) Mindset The New Psychology of Success Updated Edition Ballantine Books

Developing a Growth Mindset

Since being introduced to the ideas found within Carol Dweck’s work on the Fixed and Growth Mindsets in July of 2018, I have had some time to reflect on how it has impacted my thinking and my practice as a parent and member of an educational community. You can find my initial post on the Growth Mindset here.


I have come to realize that I have been entrenched in a fixed mindset for much of my life. Internalizing and trying to live by the precepts expressed in Dweck’s work has been powerful and comforting to me as a learner, parent, and educator. When I consider the best way to spread the Growth Mindset gospel, I believe the first step is to fully accept and live out the Growth Mindset one’s self and model it as a way of approaching learning. For me, this means embracing learning. This can be as simple as consciously flipping the switch in your mind from off to on. Instead of approaching new, unfamiliar learning with the attitude that says: “This doesn’t apply to me; I don’t need to know this; I’m not going to bother,” we should accept that learning anything new is fascinating and is a great opportunity to broaden our perspective.

My own children have forced me to think a lot about the Growth Mindset lately. Both are brilliant and talented in their own ways (would you expect a parent to have any other opinion?), but one clearly embraces a Growth Mindset, while the other exhibits more fixed mindset tendencies like her father. I’ve thought a lot recently about why that is. I don’t have any definite answers, but I have made some insightful observations. School has always come easy for my son. He was placed in GT classes in first grade, and throughout middle school and high school, he received only one B. He is a senior this year and has been accepted to Rice University. Thinking back on his secondary education, the thing I find interesting is that he didn’t seem to stress much about his grades. I think he knew they would be fine. When he worked on projects, he would get absorbed in the learning, and he thrilled at ways to reveal his quirky personality through the assignment. He loves puzzles and just seems to approach any mental challenge as something fun to work out.

My daughter is also a straight A student. She works hard to maintain a strong GPA, but she does so more by collecting dots. As an example, when studying for an AP World History test recently, she was rattling off facts about Mesopotamia. Her knowledge was impressive, but when I asked her what current country occupies this region, she replied with something like “we don’t have to know that,” or “that won’t be on the test.” I died a little inside at that moment. Her reply revealed that she was only interested in regurgitating what the teacher told her was important. She wasn’t trying to connect dots.

Knowing what I know now about the Growth Mindset, I have concerns for both of my kids. My son, who has received praise for his intelligence by well-meaning relatives, friends, teachers and (I hate to admit it) his parents, will soon be challenged like he has never been challenged before. Having spent a childhood being told how smart he is, how will he handle it when the work is extremely difficult? I hope his growth mindset is strong enough to see him through the challenges of university work. Lately, I have taken every opportunity to shift my praise to his work ethic and process rather than his intelligence.

For my daughter, I have been stressing the power of “yet.” When she struggles with a concept, as is sometimes the case in Algebra II, I reassure her that not grasping it yet doesn’t mean she won’t; we just need to try some different approaches and perhaps seek out some help from her mom and brother who are far more equipped to help her at math. I think the tendency to collect dots is a defense mechanism for many students.

Observing the profound differences in mindsets of my children, I ask myself what accounts for this difference? After all, they were raised similarly with access to the same resources. Yet, one is more likely to embrace challenges and persist in the face of setbacks while the other puts a premium on looking smart, which causes her to avoid challenges and ignore negative feedback. I will leave the answer to this question to the researchers and psychologists, but I do intend to combat the Fixed Mindset and stimulate the Growth Mindset every chance I get as a learner, parent and educator.

After modeling the Growth Mindset myself, I think the next most important thing I can do as an educator is to de-emphasize grades. When a grade is eliminated (preferably) or de-emphasized (practically) I have the power to fully implement the concept of “Yet.” “Yet” means removing the consuming pressure kids feel to get good marks and look smart. “Yet” means every child is capable of learning; it just means we must work on it and try different resources. And it is the working on it—the process—that will be praised in my educational community, not how quickly someone understood a concept.

If the effort and the progress are what is stressed in a learning environment, the tendency to cheat to look smart is diminished. Moving forward, I will be modeling persistence and rewarding effort and process in learning over grades. I will encourage my educational community to recognize the difference between fixed and growth mindset thinking, and when they recognize they are employing fixed mindset thinking to rebuff it with a growth mindset.


Dweck. C (2016) Mindset The New Psychology of Success Updated Edition Ballantine Books