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Week 13 (April 15-21): Solution-finding Practices (Part 2)

It requires a paradigm shift to think and behave with a solution-focused mindset. In addition, our brains are wired to scan for danger, and therefore is much more likely to focus on the negative. The solution-focused mindset, though, is aligned with a growth mindset and the importance of learning from mistakes and set-backs.

  1. How may you help children develop a solution-focused growth mindset?
  2. How may you help other teachers develop a solution-focused growth mindset?

8 thoughts on “Week 13 (April 15-21): Solution-finding Practices (Part 2)

  1. While I do think it is easy to focus on negative aspects of any profession, I have noticed that it is especially easy to fixate on the worst parts of our jobs as teachers in the field of education. Speaking from experience, it’s a trap that is easy to fall into. What I’ve realized is that while it may feel somewhat therapeutic to vent about what has gone on in my classroom, it doesn’t feel as good as when I discuss a classroom issue that has a solution that I can grow from. I also truly believe that a negative attitude or feeling is contagious. I see it amongst teachers and even students. I, too, have been sucked into this negative mindset and since taking this class, coupled with my advanced psychology course, have become more cognizant of the growth mindset and how it can change the climate of the workplace and classroom setting. At this point in the school year, it is tempting to lament over students’ behaviors and SOL testing preparation. I also find it ironic that we, as teachers, complain over students’ in ability to problem-solve or find solutions but consider ourselves to be the experts on how to overcome an obstacle.
    As I watched Dan Jones’ video, its content seemed to correlate directly with what has been occurring in my classroom over the past two weeks. I am in the process of interviewing sixth grade students who are interested in enrolling in Intermediate Art next school year. This is an accelerated, gifted, year-long class being offered to seventh graders. Sorting through candidates has been an arduous process that involves going through portfolios and applications, however, I have found a lot of joy in the individual interviews with students. Without realizing it, I was framing most of my questions during those interviews with a solution-based mindset. I asked students what they wanted to get out of the experience of taking Intermediate Art. I also asked how they saw art fitting into their future. We discussed challenges they had overcome in the art room as well as examples of how they had excelled. It was so interesting to see how their answers differed and I think it’s because of how the questions were framed. Some students wanted to improve on their art skill sets while others wanted to improve on their organizational or time management skills. During the interviews, I also gave students hypothetical scenarios where they would have to explain what their solutions or approaches would be to presented challenges. It ended up becoming more of a conversation between myself and the student, rather than a formal interview. Not only did this approach make my students more comfortable with answering questions, but it also provided me with insight on how they would overcome obstacles in the art room or how they would cope with different types of issues throughout the year.
    As teachers, I think we can make more of a conscious effort to use more positive language in our classroom that reinforces a solution-based mindset. We can also do this more with our colleagues. I think it’s also important for us to model for our students the different approaches to various challenges. If a student is struggling with an assignment or something outside of the art room, I first try to relate their issue to one of my own that I may currently be experiencing or have experienced before. For example, I had a student the other day who was struggling with a two part assignment for her history class that was distracting her from completing work in my own. I had to sit down with her and tell her that I, too, was struggling with some of my own assignments for grad school and that using biweekly to-do lists has helped me immensely. We sat down and created one together that pertained to her own coursework. Upon finishing this task, the student felt more willing and able to overcome the challenge of her assignments and was definitely looking at her work through a solution-based lens.

    1. Emma, I think it is great that you have been able to put some of these solution-focused practices into place with your middle school students! I agree that it is all too easy to get sucked into the negativity, especially as the stressful time as SOL season that is looming. I agree that this course and our Advanced Ed. Psych course set a wonderful groundwork for adopting a growth mindset within ourselves as well as in our classroom! I loved the story you shared about the study who was struggling with her history assignment and how you were able to sit down with her and work together to create a to-do list to make it more manageable! Good luck with your arduous process of interviewing for next year!

    2. Emma,
      I loved reading about how you are using some solution based problem solving, both with your students and yourself. Sharing your struggles with your student who was having similar issues was a great way to make it more relevant to her; and then helping her create her own to-do list was definitely solutions based!
      I totally agree with your observation that it is so easy to get sucked into the negative mindset, especially at this time of the year. There is so much stress during the last nine weeks of school, and some of us handle stress better than others. I have also tried to implement some of the growth mindset ideas with my students, and I have found that it helps me to not fall into that negative track. Just changing some of the wording of things we say all the time has helped me stay away from negativity.

  2. While watching the video about Focused Therapy, I was struck by how much the theory resembled the educational practice of giving students voice and choice. The emphasis in Focused Therapy was placed on finding the way to work with the client, by meeting them where they are at the present time. Ultimately, you are setting the goal, and moving them in the direction you want them to go. From this dancing with the client, you move together; either moving forward or backward; but always moving. Voice and choice gives the students the ability to choose who they work with and what they work on. By giving students voice and choice, together you explore the way to move forward.
    I think that the growth mindset allows for children to explore ways in which to move forward, whether it is academically or behaviorally. When children believe they can get smarter, they are more inclined to work towards that goal. The solution focused growth mindset could involve giving students voice and choice, setting a goal together, and moving towards it. This also gives students a chance to make mistakes, which are an integral part of learning. We need to teach students to not be afraid of mistakes. I still believe that any effort that moves a student to develop a growth mindset depends on first developing a relationship with that student. A strong foundational relationship would have to be the basis for establishing a growth mindset.
    Helping teachers develop a solution focused growth mindset would also involve establishing relationships. Teachers are more inclined to try something when they can see the results. By working together, we could move more teachers toward the growth mindset. It would be similar to using Focused Therapy; engaging in the dance with your colleagues and moving together, either forward or backward. We can acknowledge where they are; whether they are having the worst day or the best day; and empathize with they as they move through those feelings and emotions. I also believe that the strength based practice of finding what is strong instead of what is wrong, would help move other teachers towards a focused growth mindset.

    1. Marchia,
      I’m so glad that you pointed out giving students voice and choice! That is such an important factor to keep student interest and motivation and it fits perfectly into this solution-focused mindset. I really enjoyed reading about students being able to set goals, as this is something that I also want to work on within my own classroom. In fact, I remember asking “what’s our goal?” a couple weeks ago and one of my first graders gave me a puzzled look and asked what I meant. This helped me realized that my young students need help defining what a goal is and setting appropriate goals for themselves! I also liked that you pointed out relationships in regard to colleagues! We are constantly thinking about building relationships with students, however, I agree that building these relationships with our coworkers is an important aspect as well so we can all move towards a solution-focused growth mindset!

    2. Marchia,

      There is so much about your post that I agree with. As an art teacher, I’ve had to learn to be more flexible about giving my students voice and choice. Like any teacher, I want to have control over my classroom so sometimes it can be difficult to step back and let students explore ways to move forward with their work. When I first started my career, I definitely hovered a lot in the classroom and probably gave more input than was necessary to students about their work. I eventually realized that I was turning their pieces into my own with all of the suggestions I was making. By stepping back and allowing them to take control of the concepts, techniques and methods by which they created original works of art, they actually began to excel more in the classroom.

      I think what you said about developing a strong relationship with students as the foundation for establishing a growth mindset is especially true. Whether it be academically or behaviorally, I don’t think students will be as willing to grow unless they trust the adult they are working with. I also think that when students are more comfortable with us as teachers, they are also more willing to make mistakes because they know that a. we won’t judge them for those mistakes and b. we are there to support them as they work through those mistakes.

  3. I definitely agree that it takes a paradigm shift to think and behave with a solution-focused mindset, but after reading and learning more about it, I am excited for this to be something that I can work towards as a teacher. I have used a clip chart as a part of my classroom management plan the past three years because it was something that I was always exposed to in my student teaching and field experiences. Last semester I chose it as a common classroom practice to research and saw that it actually wasn’t as great as it’s chalked up to be, but I was left feeling “what do I do now?” I think restorative practices and solution-focused mindset is the route that I was to learn more about to replace the clip-chart. One thing that I am eager to implement every year is teaching my students about the 24 character strengths. My practice project for this semester allowed me to see the impact it had to focus on student strengths and do strength spotting with my first graders. Explicitly teaching what each character strength means and how we can use each strength at school was a really fun project to explore with my students. I also started off this school year with Carol Dweck’s “Power of Yet” and my students LOVED it and still talk about it. I think fostering the growth mindset at the beginning of the year is important, but I also want to be more diligent about cycling back to it throughout the year. I also really loved how the video for this week talked about “Reframing fears into strengths.” This is an important lesson for students to learn, especially at such a young age, as they can foster the growth mindset and continuously be learning from their mistakes. The video also discussed how having students identify and describe how they’ll utilize strengths is an important step for them to focus on the positives.

    The shift to help other teachers develop a solution-focused growth mindset can be lead by example. Adopting it first within my own classroom with my students can lead to positive change that can be shared with colleagues and administration. The article from solutionfocused.net explored the ideas that a whole school can make a shift towards solution-focused mindsets. I enjoyed reading about the main features of the program being future-oriented and goals-based, emphasis on the individual, and creating a mutual sense of support and respect among teachers, administrators, staff, and students.

  4. I believe that because of my personality and character strength of gratitude I am able to see the good in everyone and in any situation. There is always a “good side” even if it doesn’t outweigh the bad in that moment. Because I understand that change is a process, I focus on the progress, no matter how small; it is still a step forward. Going back to earlier discussions, I take every opportunity to compliment and acknowledge the “small wins.” When meeting a student that I will be working with, I begin with having them complete a form that asks them to list their strengths, qualities, compliments that people have given them, something they have done for someone else, etc. This helps them to be conscious of the positive traits that they have that they may not have even realized about themselves. This helps to shift to a growth mindset as they start to become more aware of their capabilities. When Kerrigan and Reubenicht talk about supporting students, they touched on some very simple, but important strategies to implement strength based solution focused practice. Be encouraging and have conversations about hopes, passions, vision for the future, and even concerns and fears. Helping them to realize that they have everything they need to work through challenges on their own but also assuring that you are there to support them. Another way to help develop a solution-focused growth mindset is to teach students that it is ok to make mistakes. We learn and we grow from our mistakes and that also helps to develop character, humility, and resilience. Also knowing that there may be another chance to pursue that area of interest and take in on in a different way. I know that personally I show my students that I believe in them (because I truly do). If they are not successful in what they are attempting I just let them know that they will have another chance and it’s about timing sometimes. You will have your time to shine.
    Teachers are another story. It is sometimes difficult to get them to buy into solution-focused growth mindset. You have some that will jump at the change to try something new to help develop the social, emotional, and academic success of their students. I think that having teachers watch Dan Jones video in a faculty meeting would be a start. The video is short enough but so very informative. Teachers just want strategies to use in the classroom, but most times would rather do without the long drawn out explanations as to why. This would be the perfect opportunity to have teachers that already use this practice to share success stories, etc. All of the steps in solution-focused therapy are steps that most of us as adults would appreciate. Looking for a way in….building rapport and relationships; use “normal” language…no one wants to talk to someone who uses too lingo that they don’t understand (it could make them feel inadequate or even just annoy them); and opening up a dialogue that has allows for dancing with the student. I think this is also a great way for teachers to show students that they respect them and talk to them, not at them.

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