Matt Courtois Talks Growth Mindsets

You know that we both run the Trinity CertTESOL course, and I think in the first cert course that I ran, I noticed a couple of teachers who seemed like they were there to prove what they already knew rather than really focusing on acquiring new knowledge and skills. I had some great trainees who, although they came in with less experience and knowledge of teaching skills and language, wanted to improve and were in the course to become better teachers. But then I had those trainees who… I didn’t know why they were there. It’s always really frustrating to not see your trainees develop.

It’s a twenty week long course, and I would basically see these few trainees not implementing any of the feedback that they got after their teaching. They wouldn’t necessarily implement anything from the training or the observed teaching in their own lessons.

It felt like some of the strongest teachers on that course were there to get the certificate. The first time this one teacher got an A in one of their teaching practices, they had chosen to teach a lesson that they were very confident in teaching. I told this person that they couldn’t teach a lesson like that again. It wasn’t that they would get an A if they taught it again, they just wouldn’t benefit from doing it because there was no development opportunity. So this person had to try stuff that they were uncomfortable with and hadn’t done before, and experiment.

I decided to add in a training session about Carol Dweck’s models of growth mindsets and fixed mindsets, because I thought that was the problem, right? There’s a fixed mindset. They’re coming in ahead of everybody else and while everybody else is improving and surpassing them, they’re just staying the same.

It didn’t work out that well for them, to be honest. I don’t think the running of the growth mindset training and additional reflection sessions improved the mindsets of a couple of those teachers; it only really affected the teachers who already had a growth mindset to begin with. However, on this current cert course I’m running, I added a bit about growth and fixed mindset to the very beginning of the course, and I tried to set that precedent right at the very beginning, and so on this cert course it’s a lot better.

I know some of the very strongest people on this cert course have told me they got into the course to get the piece of the paper, and now they see themselves improving as teachers. I think all of the trainees have a growth mindset at this point.

I would say catch it early. You know these trainees, you know who they are immediately, and if you don’t catch it and let it linger for a while, it festers and it just gets worse. So don’t let it do that. Deal with the issue before it becomes an issue by giving them that model of a growth mindset and letting them choose what kind of trainee they want to be.

In the first few weeks of the course, we were talking about how to accept feedback. You know, they’re going to be criticised, they’re going to be presented with ideas that they don’t agree with, but they need to be open to these ideas and they need to implement these ideas in their teaching, and it’s not about passing or failing. It’s about experimenting.

It’s up to you if you want to spend all that money and not learn anything and just get a piece of paper, or get something out of the experience and come out with some new knowledge under your belt.

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3 thoughts on “Matt Courtois Talks Growth Mindsets

  1. A great example of how giving out grades has a counter productive effect! I wonder on courses like these if trainees were graded on their improvement, how many new techniques they had tried to implement or on risks they’d taken if the behavior without be different?


    1. I like the idea of having a holistic approach to training – after all aren’t we still in the age of social constructivism (or is it connectivism).

      Trainers may need to understand and give teachers the space to explore, adapt and create; to make use of the feeding frenzy of approaches, methods and techniques in a way without being judged or docked points but in learning for learning’s sake.

      I guess measurements or assessments need to start somewhere though, and the easiest point is that everyone starts with a blank slate ~ ho hum. A new rubric anyone?


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