Course of Mind

Believe in yourself and in your students

May 21, 2019 Season 1 Episode 2
Course of Mind
Believe in yourself and in your students
Chapters
Course of Mind
Believe in yourself and in your students
May 21, 2019 Season 1 Episode 2
ISTE
Reflect on the importance of teachers believing in both - their teaching ability and their students’ ability to learn.
Show Notes Transcript

In this installment of the ISTE podcast series Course of Mind (@courseofmind), hosts Zac Chase (@MrChase) and Shana White (@ShanaVWhite) talk to Dr. Ranjini Johnbull, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education and faculty lead for the Mind, Brain and Teaching program, about the importance of teachers believing in their own effectiveness and in the ability of their students to learn. These beliefs, which go beyond subject matter and teaching strategies, have a tremendous power to affect student outcomes. A teacher who believes in their ability to teach and believes that students can achieve results lays the groundwork for successful learning. Teachers can support students by understanding their cultural context and ensuring they feel safe in the classroom, both socially and physically. This podcast is produced by NarayanKripa Sundararajan (@KripaSundar) as part of the Course of Mind project, an ISTE initiative made possible in part by a grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative DAF, an advised fund of Silicon Valley Community Foundation.



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Speaker 1:
0:03
When you think about it, there are two kinds of folks who enter our classrooms on a daily basis. First, we have students, they come to us out of their homes, out of other classes and out of interactions with their peers.
Speaker 2:
0:17
In short, they come to us with the complexity of their lives. The second group coming through classroom doors each day is us-the teachers. We walk into our spaces with great intentions and foolproof lesson plans ready to teach and research has shown. We walk in with two key beliefs as well. They're called personal teaching efficacy and general teaching efficacy. Lots of syllables, but what they really mean is we're not even talking about what you teach or how you teach. We're talking about what you believe about your teaching. Agree, disagree,
Speaker 1:
0:57
interested. We hope so. Classroom beliefs and why they matter is the focus of this episode. Let's jump right in. Hi, I'm Zac Chase. I'm Shana white and you're listening to Course of Mind, the learning sciences podcast from ISTE. In this episode, we talked with Dr Ranjini Johnbull, Assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education and faculty lead for the Mind, Brain and Teaching program. So those two groups, teachers and students, Doctor Johnbull, a former music teacher in Saint Louis Missouri focuses her research on the beliefs they bring into the classroom with them and how those beliefs affect student outcomes. It turns out teacher efficacy, personal and general is one of the most predictive factors in the school room of teacher behaviors and practices and student outcomes. That's where we started our conversation before turning to practices teachers can use to settle students' minds regarding two chief concerns, physical and social safety. Welcome to the Course of Mind.
Speaker 2:
2:00
Okay,
Speaker 3:
2:08
So what brings you to learning sciences in the educational realm? So I want to teach in music. When at my first school, my principal, Dr, Doctor Dolores Guidon was a former music teacher herself and she involved me in all of the behind the scenes leadership stuff that was going on and as a music teacher, because I got to see all of the kids in the classroom and interact with all of the teachers, I was noticing different patterns, different behaviors, different, you know, classroom cultures. As the kids came to me and as the kids left and in my conversations with teachers, you know, in, in passing and in the, in the break room. So it really pushed me to think about educational leadership and what can we do to support teachers in the classroom who are working in their best to support students and, and their lunch learning.
Speaker 3:
3:00
One of the most predictive factors in the school realm of teacher behaviors, practices, and student outcomes is teacher efficacy and those beliefs that go along with that teacher efficacy is comprised of two different constructs. You've got personal teaching advocacy and you have general teaching efficacy. So personal teaching efficacy is essentially a my beliefs that I can impact student learning when I have the skills, competencies and knowledge to engage in instructional methods, classroom management, and developed student teacher relationships. General teaching efficacy is another construct under that umbrella. That is the general expectation that teaching is going to matter no matter who does the teaching for the student outcomes. So in practice it's something like this. Um, I walk into a classroom and I'm, let's say I'm a mathematics teacher. I believe that I am a Wiz at teaching math. Um, I have all kinds of tricks in my bags and I walk into the classroom.
Speaker 3:
3:57
This is, by the way, this is a very context specific construct. You may feel differently based on your context. I walk into one particular classroom and I see the kids in front of me and I think to myself, no matter who comes into this classroom, these kids are going to get it. So that means that I'm going to leverage all of the different tricks I have in my bag and I'm going to persist in the face of challenges when challenges arise in helping students understand the concepts and progressing forward. And I'm going to do whatever I can do to help students move along.
Speaker 4:
4:29
Right? Okay. So if I see that they're, or they're just going to get it no matter what that is general teaching efficacy, you meeting generally this is going to happen. All right? I got it
Speaker 3:
4:40
now. Switched contexts. I go into another classroom and I still feel great about my ability to teach mathematics and I have all these tricks and strategies in my, in my toolbox, and I look at the kids in front of me and I think, well, no matter who comes into this classroom, it really doesn't matter. Any teaching is not going to impact the students' outcomes greatly. So the choices that I make in developing student teacher, student relationships, relationships with the students, managing the classroom and my instructional methods change based on that belief also. So I may not pull out all my fancy tricks and strategies. I may not develop strong relationships with the students. I may manage the classroom very differently, uh, based on a belief about whether or not students are able to be taught and we'll progress no matter who comes into this classroom, including myself.
Speaker 4:
5:34
So that's a low general teacher. Efficacy meaning I, it won't make a difference. So it sounds like what we're talking about is a certain kind of set of beliefs about myself and this set of beliefs about the students who are in front of me. And I think the common narrative, at least the one that Shannon and I are most familiar with is the, well these kids can't learn narrative. Right? So I can be effective because I mean look who walked through the door, what would I be right in saying? Uh, so when I started my career, I started in a really affluent, predominantly white traditional nuclear family school and my feeling there was these kids are going to be, you know, graduated from here, move on from here. They're going to learn to read and write. They're going to do these things no matter what teacher you put in front of them. And general teaching efficacy right there. High. Exactly. Exactly. And so that was actually the reason I left the building because I didn't feel like I was specifically necessary to those kids. Does that make sense? Yes, that does make sense. It's only in this moment that we're having this conversation where I think, oh, that was teacher efficacy, but with a different narrative teacher efficacy than we're used to seeing or hearing or navigating in my space.
Speaker 3:
6:57
Right. Well, and I think there are other teachers who feel similarly, I worked with some teachers who had that same feeling, who had left St Louis County schools to come and work in the charter schools because they felt like any teacher could do what they're going, they're doing, and they felt like they didn't, they didn't need to be in that space. Even a teacher who is early in their career and was still learning would still get the students to produce, but um, they wanted a challenge. They want it to help the students that needed the most help. They wanted to be where they could utilize their talents in a space where teachers don't always want to go. Yeah, I think so. Then where did you go after that?
Speaker 4:
7:39
Then? I went to a school that was a magnet that only recruited the lowest achieving kids in the district. Uh, these were kids who had failed out of whatever school they were in or had just kind of bombed the standardized testing because this was at the height of no child left behind. And so we recruited all those kids into one school, kind of the opposite of, of the other school. I mean, oh my gosh, we have to do everything we can because these kids have shown that the traditional environment, they're not able to flourish in the way that we'd hoped for them too.
Speaker 3:
8:14
Well, and what's interesting about what you said right there is that they, they've shown that in a traditional environment they're not going to flourish. And so I wonder what we're talking about today is like what can we do about a traditional environment that can better accommodate and better meet the needs of students, all students. Because I think that, um, even when we come into an upper middle class white traditional study or traditional middleclass setting, let's say, I think that there's variability within the students states of learning their emotional states that we can kind of miss these opportunities to catch the kids who might be slipping through the cracks, who might be just kind of on the conveyor belt and not really into their own in developing and growing and, and, uh, their particular way that would allow them to become who they are fully. So couple of thoughts, like in traditional environments, did they display that they couldn't flourish in that space or is it that the environment wasn't there for them and that the teachers weren't there for them and didn't support them to be able to flourish in that space? I guess that's, that's my kind of thinking is that I don't think that, I think that kids can flourish in any space if we are attuned to them.
Speaker 4:
9:25
Right. Well, the piece that, uh, there was interesting there was, we had some of the students at that previous school and my first school who then were recruited because the space did not meet their needs to that second school and they did just amazing, amazing things.
Speaker 3:
9:43
Mm, that's so wonderful. And you had everybody on board that were exactly that was ready and willing to adjust and persist in the face of challenges and pull out different strategies and yeah.
Speaker 5:
9:57
[inaudible] I want to go back about the general and the personal self efficacy and how much overlap there are there. Because I love Zach Story. Um, as far as him feeling like I'm not here necessarily best meeting the, the students that are in front of me right now as a needs, but I know that I would be best served meeting another set of students needs. And I wonder, because I feel like a lot of people don't necessarily look at education from an equity Lens, that there is a tremendous overlap between that general impersonals teacher efficacy as to where I realized that baby, this building and this environment isn't best for me. And also maybe not best for the students. And I guess how does that revelation come about for some teachers and maybe that process and thinking and understanding, wow. Like this environment I'm not necessarily best suited for or maybe this environment is not best suited for students.
Speaker 3:
10:50
So that's rich. That's a rich, rich question. Um, first of all, I, uh, there's the personal teaching efficacy and general teaching efficacy are related constructs, but they are separate. We've found that in the literature and a lot of survey research, so they do influence one another but they're not, they're not exactly the same. My or my dissertation research was on the relationship between cultural competence and teacher efficacy. So the equity minded minded piece is something that has always been very important to me. Um, and I did find in that research that it accounted for and there was some shared variants and statistics space speak, but essentially that they're related, right? Your general teaching efficacy beliefs and your personal teacher efficacy beliefs are influenced by and related to your cultural competence beliefs.
Speaker 4:
11:43
That's incredibly important. What you're saying is that my cultural competency in my level of cultural competency is interconnected with level of personal teaching efficacy and general teaching efficacy and so that if one, if that cultural competency is, is stunted, then it is likely to also stunt my sense of general and specific teaching efficacy. That's, that's fascinating.
Speaker 3:
12:10
The way that I think about cultural competence is about its identity. Essentially it's your own personal identity and awareness of identity on a continuum. There's no point at which we're all culturally competent and that's because cultures and societies continued to change and oppression continues to be evident in all societies where there are people and we know that and identities continue to change within cultures and societies. And so we, we always need to be on the lookout and aware of how we are operating in societies in which systemically some our advantage in some are disadvantaged and leadership programs like the one that I went through. We do a pretty good job of getting leaders to reflect on themselves, the personalities, their biases, their explicit biases, maybe not in implicit biases, which I think is a lot of the equity. And cultural competence and cultural awareness work, but we don't necessarily do a lot of that with teachers. And in fact I don't think we even talked, I had never heard of teacher efficacy, um, in the school where I worked in the schools where I worked, I hadn't heard about it until my graduate studies. And I think that we as teachers need to help upcoming teachers and current teachers in their practice to understand a bit more about what beliefs are at play implicit and explicit in order to help us better analyze our interactions with students and with our, with our fellow teachers
Speaker 5:
13:35
in Zach's case key Kinda gave a really good picture of, he realized he was in one environment and he wasn't best suited for that environment. And I guess I'm wondering for teachers, are there things that they can be more aware as far as their teacher efficacy that maybe a certain environment doesn't necessarily suit them or possibly they can help students better understand the environments that they're in and maybe a certain environment, traditional, whatever the case may be. I need to make some changes to make this environment more suitable for kids?
Speaker 3:
14:08
Well, to answer the first question, like Zach switching from one environment to another, if we were able to build into some of our professional development, some self awareness training, um, or experiences that allowed us to understand better our own personalities, our own dispositions, our own, you know, cultural awareness, cultural competence or multicultural identities, however you want to describe that, it would better help us to think about where we fit and what we want to do and how to best do that. Well, I don't think that we do that well in teacher education currently. Some places are all right that I think we could all do a bit better now in terms of creating an environment that helps students to be ready for learning. That has to do with understanding a little bit more about how, how student brain our brains function, right? If we could help teachers to understand that our brains are first and foremost designed to help us survive, I think that very simple nonjudgmental piece of information could help us and it go a long way.
Speaker 3:
15:13
And taking the judgment and the personal, maybe the personal offense out of our reactions to the context when we as teachers are faced with challenges. So students, all, all people are examining, our brains are examining implicitly, unconsciously whether or not, and an environment is safe physically and she a safe psycho socially, right? So am I safe physically? Okay. Like your brain then puts that into background and you don't have to worry about that. Am I safe psychologically and socially here? Um, that's, that's the space in which we are working as teachers. Right? So the first thing that happens right there is the relationship between the teacher and the students. Does the teacher make me feel comfortable? Does the teacher look me in the eye? Does the teacher call on me as much as they call on the other students in the classroom? What's the body language of the teacher? Right? So students are reading and perceiving our interactions with them in particular ways that are, um, reading whether or not they are psychologically and socially safe in that setting.
Speaker 4:
16:18
Are you saying that that is happening unconsciously or that, I mean, I know that it's happening also consciously, but are you suggesting that teachers should be aware that that kind of reading of the space and of the relationship is happening unconsciously for all kids all the time?
Speaker 3:
16:35
Yeah, I do think, yes. Yes. I think that it would be important. I think it's important for teachers to understand that it's happening, happening unconsciously, and that kids are coming into your classroom with a particular emotional states where they may have not been feeling very safe in the previous class. Let's say you're in a secondary school situation and they are coming to you with maybe an hour to two hours worth of inks build up from the last class, whether it was not being socially safe amongst their peers or not being socially and psychologically safe with the previous teacher or from wherever they came at the bus stop or from home, you know, um, wherever it was. Students come in in a way at times where they're not ready, um, to engage in higher level cognition. And so what can we do as soon as they walk in the classroom to help them get into this environment?
Speaker 3:
17:30
How can we make it warm? How can we greet them in ways that allow them to know like, Hey, I care about you and you're safe here. So what are some of those ways? Yes, I mean very simply like literally greeting kids at the door is, is one is one way, you know, having some kind of regular routine that they know that when I enter this space like I'm going to be acknowledged. Versus are you sitting at your computer as a teacher and you looking away and students are coming in and they know what to do so they just get started on it. Do you, do you actually say hello to them and welcome them in? Is it a fist bump?
Speaker 4:
18:04
So this is, this is fascinating. You're saying the me sitting at my desk maybe in the back of a room on my computer with do this now on the board at the beginning of class. That impacts or has the potential to impact students' brains for the rest of the class.
Speaker 3:
18:22
It could, it depends, right? So it's variable based upon the student. Now for a student that everything is all right and peachy keen. I'm walking into like a hoe to the classroom, they're probably fine. And if also, if the relationship has been established between them and you and that student thinks that you already liked them and that you already think that they are smart, valuable, and a good kid, quote unquote good kid, than having that on the board is not going to disturb that child. Right? So if a kid who struggles and has challenges outside of your classroom comes in and they're not acknowledged on a daily basis, like a welcome, hello. If there's nothing to do to help them enter your space and, and transition, then that could, that could definitely affect them. Not because of maybe anything that you did right there, but because of what they are dealing with before they come to you.
Speaker 5:
19:16
I'm just curious about this from both the peer and the teacher realm, especially with the various of ages that we're, if we're talking about k through 12 but peer interaction is always going to be, uh, must in school environment. And then of course teacher interaction with the student learning. How is there more weight put based on age? Like if I'm in high school, if I don't feel safe with my peers in a classroom as far as my learning compared to if the teacher doesn't make me feel safe, whereas maybe if I'm in first grade, is it more or less if I don't feel safe with the teacher, that's going to impact my learning a little bit more than maybe my peers.
Speaker 3:
19:55
Right? It's absolutely age, age and Developmental Bay development based, right? Because once you hit adolescence, it's you, the primary interest is how do I look socially? Right? Um, so, and this is, this is somewhat related to our biological design for survival, right? So sort of survival can be just on physical, like physically, individually survival, but also survival is also about legacy and reproduction, which is why when you go ahead and move into adolescence your senses are heightened toward your peers and how you are socially perceived because you're moving into puberty. Right? And so you're interested in that. Your, your body is designed to think about reproduction and mating and you know like on a very biological level, right? So yes, adolescents, your peers are going to be perhaps an even more factor, which is why we have to make sure that we, we create these environments in our middle and high school classroom environments that encourage positive interactions and a safe, a safe social environment.
Speaker 4:
21:00
So I would guess that greeting kids at the door is not the only thing that you would recommend where the research has shown educators do to create that space. What are some other kind of a practical pieces throughout the year? Maybe the beginning of the year that we have seen as supportive of lowering that worry, that anxiety threshold and the brain.
Speaker 3:
21:24
Sure. By the way, I would just want to mention that some of the research that we do is looking at teachers' efficacy beliefs before and after they learn about um, neuro educational principles that we teach through my mentor's book called the brain targeted teaching model. And it talks more extensively about that. And I just encourage anybody listening to this to think about that because there are lots of different strategies from that book that I'm, that I'm kind of siting here. One of them is, is to allow for student choice in your learning activities. Of course within the boundaries of assignment objectives or learning objectives. There is a pretty decent book out there called the project approach that helps teachers think about designing projects to address standards. What allows students to do these projects on subjects of interest, right? So allowing students to have some ownership in their work, providing opportunities for student voice, right?
Speaker 3:
22:17
So an emotion check at the beginning, middle, and end of your class or throughout the day so you know, how are you feeling? It could just be thumbs up, middle thumbs, thumbs down. You could do something like, all right, now everybody take those thumbs if they were thumbs down or middle thumbs and ball them up, throw them out, throw them out the window. Let's, let's physically get up and jump up and throw them out. All right, now everybody that has a has a thumbs up. I want you to share that thumb with your classmates and that might be a obviously a lower elementary. Yeah.
Speaker 4:
22:45
But like I just felt better about myself just hearing about that. I just gave myself my own thumbs up. I think I gave you all thumbs up as well. So I liked that activity and I'm a grown woman, so
Speaker 3:
23:00
right. Yeah. Well, and I think we've done this, we've done this before. Some of our talks, um, with our graduate students at Johns Hopkins School of Education. You know, before we give a lecture, sometimes we are lecture or presentation. I'll sometimes have everybody stand up and we do the yoga half fold and reach up all the way to the sky and just like get in tune with your body and then the fold all the way down to the ground. And release, breathe in and out and let your spine start to release. But bit by bit, breathe in again, breathe out and then slowly rise up. Release all the tension that you brought in with you. You know, even just getting, getting your physical body moving and literally saying, let's release it all right, can allow for everybody to become more centered. So in addition to like physical, like emotion checks, you could also integrate technology with this.
Speaker 3:
23:51
You could use something like cahoot, like how are you feeling today? And it's just a, a note to me to know like, how do I feel? And you've got some rating scale, you know right now, how are you feeling? Okay? And then you or you could do it on paper and say like, I've got a little thing here for you. I just want to know what you're feeling right now so that I can inform what I'm going to do at the beginning of my classes for the rest of this week. Um, you could give students an opportunity to have to vote on the order of how you do your activities and your lessons for that day. If there's some option there. Asking students for feedback on how they think the teacher could help them more. So how do you think I could help you? What would be really helpful to you? Um, in terms of learning this content? You know, those could be on slips of paper. Those could be, you know, individual activities, individual meetings with students at the end of a class period. Um, over the course of a week, there's a group out, actually Zach, there's a group out in Colorado in Denver called project voice.
Speaker 4:
24:52
Yeah, I know them. They're wonderful.
Speaker 3:
24:54
Right, exactly. So they, I mean, I came in contact with them at a conference at some point in time and it's, it just confirms and, um, lives out this principle of the emotional climate and fostering a really strong emotional climate, but asks the teachers don't often, we don't often ask our students like, what could I do better to help you learn this content specifically because it's very vulnerable for us. Right, right. And, and it also puts us into that psycho social defense state. Am I good enough as a teacher?
Speaker 4:
25:26
So we are coming at it with personal efficacy than we aren't going to be vulnerable enough to, to open up to that kind of feedback. But it sounds like it's very similar or it's a parallel to how students brands might be working, that if they're walking in with this kind of tension and they're working in this kind of anxiety from whatever they're bringing in with them, then there are probably not going to be interested in my killer lesson on symbolism because in the end, so in the same way, if I'm walking through class thinking, oh my gosh, I don't know how to reach these kids, then I'm probably not going to be helpful even when they answer the question about how I might add.
Speaker 3:
26:01
Right. Yeah. That's, that's also very true. Which is another reason why we need to support one another as teachers in the teaching context and um, and for school leaders to, so how do we, how do we help teachers to be vulnerable with one another? Look, look to each other for resources. And I think, you know, kids are so kind at their core, right? People are kind at our core. And so being honest with students about how you're feeling and being aware of how you're feeling as a teacher is an important thing. I think that, um, I'll never forget this time when I was a teacher in Saint Louis and it was a really tough day. And I remember crying at the end of the day and one of my middle schoolers came in and kind of saw it and I'm wiping my tears away. And it was, I don't think it, I don't remember it being about them, about them or their class.
Speaker 3:
26:54
Um, or I think it was just the, um, just all of it all together from that day. All three of us is probably add that. Yeah. Great. And, uh, the next day the kids, um, when, when I had them at the end of the day for their elective, they had prepared us, the Reuben stuttered song, I'm sorry to sing for me because they were worried that it had been something that they had done. Oh, I know. I mean, just wonderful. Children are children and young people are wonderful. This was, this was St Louis City. These kids were in engaging in activities and experiences in their lives outside of school that were very adult, you know, I mean, they had, they had worries and stresses and challenges and safety issues that were beyond what I ever experienced in my middle class life growing up in Springfield, Illinois. But, um, but that they were so compassionate that they did that the next day.
Speaker 2:
27:54
So let's consider our two groups, teachers and students. Let's take a moment to think about what we've learned about how what they believed about our classrooms affects what happens and what is learned in our classrooms. What does doctor John Bull have you considering about your own personal and general teaching efficacy? What about how you can answer students' questions of their own social safety in our classrooms, in shift practice in your classroom to improve that sense of safety for all students so we can improve learning. For us, three key takeaways were this clip. What can we do about a traditional environment that can better accommodate and better meet the needs of students? All students. There's no point at which we're all culturally competent this because once you hit adolescence, the primary interest is
Speaker 3:
28:45
how do I look socially and this? All right? Now everybody take those thumbs if they were thumbs down or middle thumbs and follow them up, throw them out, but rumors was about the window.
Speaker 1:
28:54
Maybe you've got your own practices for improving teacher efficacy, maybe something different stuck to you or maybe you were thinking about how you settled students' minds in your classrooms. We'd love to hear about them, share them on social media with the Hashtag Course of Mind or tag us @Courseofmind. In our next episode, we'll continue our conversation with doctor John Bull as we ask what the research would suggest about creating and maintaining a sense of social safety and for historically marginalized groups. Join us next time on Course of Mind. I'm Shaina white and I'm Zach Chase and we'll learn with you next time.
Speaker 1:
29:34
Course of Mind is an SD podcast made possible in part by a grant from the Chan Zuckerberg initiative, Daf and advised fund for Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Our producers as Sundar, our editor and music maestro is Trevor Stout. You can find me Shana white on Twitter @ShanaVWhite. You can find me at @MrChase and Kripa is @KripaSundar. As always, for more on how learning sciences can inform your practice. Check out the Course of Mind Twitter feed @CourseofMind where you can learn about how other educators have applied learning sciences in the classroom and learn what we're learning.
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