So, I am complicated. The growth and fixed mindsets exist inside of me at the same time. I wonder if MCQ tests encourage a fixed mindset because there is no meaningful feedback that accompanies it - it is either correct or incorrect. Perhaps this is where electronic quizzing can be used to develop a growth mindset because there can be feedback tailored to each of the responses that encourage students to think about why they choose a particular distractor in contrast to choosing the correct answer. This is one reason why I prefer to go over each test in my classroom so that I can unpack the question and think through the possible answers and explain why one particular answer is better than the others.
Similar to a fixed mindset, labelling students with a particular learning style implies that students have a fixed mode of learning and that the other modes cannot be developed. This was certainly the mindset that some of my first-year students presented to me this past year. The resistance to the flipped classroom style of teaching with TBL seemed to be from their assumption or desire that there was no need to read before class. There was a seeming expectation from students that they would be able to be successful in university without needing to read very much or very deeply. There was a sense from students that teaching would cater to their preferred mode of learning. But they did not view it as their preferred mode of learning but rather as their innate or fixed learning style. Learning styles had produced in the students a fixed mindset about how they learn. Granted, not all students felt this way. I had a healthy handful of students who were successful and it seemed to me that this was because they embraced the work of reading rather than trying to avoid it.
So the equation I am trying to make with these learning styles and mindset is that inventorying students for their learning style in secondary school develops in some students a fixed mindset about their reading ability. And as such inculcates in them a sense that the ability to read is an innate skill that they do not need to develop because they do not learn that way. Rather, they learn by listening to instructors and seeing videos. Not that there is anything wrong with that: listening to a teacher and watching a video of a process can certainly facilitate learning. But the written word is still where the majority of our knowledge is found and avoiding reading is avoiding a rich information source. In addition, the evidence to date does not support the theory that teaching with students' preferred learning mode enhances their learning. Rather, the learning mode needs to mirror the type of skill or ability being mastered (see the many resources below).
How should instructors respond to this fixed mindset and instead design an environment which nurtures a growth mindset around reading ability? Reading is a skill to be developed. But that requires showing students that reading ability is required for success and that reading can be learned/developed. Of course, they know this - they learned how to read in primary school! But the ability to read fiction vs non-fiction or non-fiction vs academic articles are very different skills. And I think this needs to be explained to students: that there are different ways of reading and reading rewires their brains to facilitate learning. Reading for pleasure vs reading for information vs reading for learning. Each of these reading modes requires a different approach to the text that many students have not learned and continued reading practice allows the brain to reconstruct itself.
What are those different reading approaches? Reading for pleasure simply requires understanding the context of the written word and the descriptions/explanations of plot, character, and setting to wash over you. In contrast, reading for information requires carefully noting the facts and figures and ensuring that no piece is missed. This requires focused attention and effort but not necessarily for understanding. In contrast, again, reading for learning requires understanding of what is being conveyed by the text - the meaning of the text or process being described. This often includes attending to the information, but also attending to how the information relates to itself and what has been read before, especially if it is reading to understand a process (e.g. metabolic regulation) or an argument (e.g. philosophy). Reading for meaning vs information vs pleasure requires very different levels of engaged effort and not all students have been made aware of those differences. Not all students have learned the strategies that can be used in different contexts: transmission vs transactional reading.
But students' expectancy values do make them wonder if it is worth their effort to develop this familiarity with the course material. This is what students are thinking when they view the reading requirements of my assigned pre-class coursework. Is it worth their time and effort to read the assignment? This is something that Ambrose et al and Cooper et al consider. How to develop students valuing of the effort required to learn? So in my context, how do I develop students' valuing of reading effort?
Anecdotally I know students begin to value reading when they begin to see their reading efforts producing learning in themselves. When their reading efforts result in better understanding of the material which translates into better exam scores, which, unfortunately, is the currency that students & institutions value most.
So, how do we develop students' valuing of reading? How is students' expectancy value of reading for learing developed for coursework?
I honestly do not know. What I do, is set up the course structure using team-based learning so that students are held individually responsible for the pre-class learning by administering a reading quiz. In addition, by having them repeat the quiz as a team via two-stage testing, students are able to see for themselves the learning that results in their peers who do put in the effort to read. But that simply shows them that students who read carefully and with effort and attention earn the benefits of increased learning. But they may not necessarily know how to go about reading effortfully. So it does require training/teaching on my part as an instructor to show/teach students how to read for learning.
How do I do that now? I do explain that there are different reading modes: pleasure and learning. And then I suggest strategies for reading for learning. Read with a pencil in hand to write thoughts/notes in the page margins. Avoid excessive highlighting (better yet, avoid a highlighter altogether). Take time to look up new words in a dictionary (online is fine). If you want to keep the book in pristine condition (e.g. a library book or a rented book or a book you wish to resell) then read with a pencil and blank piece of paper at hand. The important point is to have a conversation with yourself while reading. Ask questions about what is being read. What does this mean? How does that connect with what I just read before? Why did the author take the time to write this? What are they trying to tell me? To convince me of? Why does Haave think this is important to read? How is it connected to the course? How is it connected to my life? Why should I care? Why do the author and my instructor think I should care about what I am reading? How can I use what I am reading to improve my understanding of the course, of the world, of my life? How will I be able to use what I am reading in the career I aspire to? In the person I am trying to become?
Resourceslearning styles theory
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