Samantha Rodgers' blog

Growth Mindset and ‘Grit’

Working with a primary school on Monday on Assessment Capable Students, I was reminded of a conversation I recently had with the principal there about the Learning Support programme that my daughter, was a part of, and the importance of ‘growth mindset’.

In previous years at the school, she had been supported in both literacy and numeracy, with varying strategies. Most of the support removed her from the classroom, so for example, when maths was on, she would go and do maths somewhere else.

This model had problems: firstly, the timings were never quite synchronized, so she would do some maths in class, then be taken out, and return when the students had already moved on to something else. While we appreciated the time and strategies used, my daughter was always on the ‘back foot’ coming back into the classroom: she didn’t know what was going on and didn’t want to interrupt to find out.

She had also begun to feel conspicuous in the class, always being removed and the ease with which she accepted the model of support in previous years, was wearing thin.

The beginning of this year, however, was a little different.

Her support in literacy was reduced to a short 10 minute slot before school each morning, as her skills and confidence had grown. The support itself would focus on reinforcement and gradually decreasing each term until she no longer needed that support.

In maths, a small office space between her classroom and the next was cleared for small group work. I was told that she would be supported with a teacher in the office space or at the back of the classroom should she need it, and that pretesting would determine what level of support she needed. No more leaving at arbitrary times and being lost in the lesson when she returned! The new model reflected the pedagogy of ‘just in time’ learning, supporting her when and how she needed it.

When I spoke to the principal, she spoke about Carol Dweck’s work on Growth mindset, saying that she didn’t want students to feel that they could only be successful when working one-on-one with a teacher or EA, and in a separated environment. Dweck’s work encourages students to not fear failure, but see it as a learning moment. The use of the word ‘yet’ is key in the learning journey for a growth mindset student. I can’t solve that problem… yet. It also relates to Duckworth’s work on Grit and developing resilience. Students should be ‘allowed’ to fail at times; to develop the skills of learning how to tackle problems that aren’t readily ‘solvable’, to consider what next, and how to tackle it with a different strategy.  I agree wholeheartedly with this philosophy and am glad that the school is able to personalise my daughter’s learning to the extent of providing this support. She is a happy child at school and is growing in confidence by being in the class and having to try hard with her maths, but ‘having a go’ nonetheless. As a parent/ teacher, I know that should she need extra support, she will get it, but just as importantly, she has the opportunity to develop her resilience and grit as a learner. What more could I ask for!

Action Research as a professional development tool

Today I attended another of our foundation-wide CPD day for all secondary teachers in ESF (all 700 of them) designed with the curriculum group leaders. I led one session with Pam Ryan- the Foundation’s Director of Education- on the subject of Action Research. It is a subject close to my heart because in my mind it is one of the best forms of professional development in education. Being foremost a practitioner, but also now as an academic, action research bridges the gap between the two and provides teachers with a rigorous and structured mechanism to innovate, collaborate and reflect. What is best about research of this kind is that it focuses on classroom practice and improving student outcomes as its key purpose. The next step for our Foundation is to support this learning not just at a personal level, or a school level – where it is starting to be done- but at a Foundation level , where teams of teachers across our secondary schools can meet and learn together.

[slideshare id=26692013&doc=actionresearch-130930070421-phpapp01]

The Ten Faces of Innovation

Innovation is one of those skills that is highly valued today: how do you heighten your own creativity?

Tom Kelley, creator of IDEO – a design firm- has written a series of books around maximising creativity.

In this read, ‘The Ten Faces of Innovation’, he outlines 10 archetypes of innovators. Are you an innovator? Which one are you?

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Three good reasons for learning about and using concept based curriculum

The reasons behind understanding concept based learning and how to incorporate it into our teaching are becoming increasingly more important for several reasons.


1)    Many of our students come to secondary schools with a background in it.

In our ESF context, all students who come through the IB PYP have been taught within an inquiry framework, using concepts which link together in interdisciplinary units of learning. The IB MYP’s Next Chapter is also moving further towards the concept driven curriculum with the introduction of key concepts within each discipline area needing to be covered by units of learning.

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Where to for CPD?

Yesterday, I held a professional development one day conference for 800 ESF teachers and colleagues from around the region. The theme of the day was ‘Futures Thinking’ and along with a short keynote and plenary, the day comprised one hour workshops that were grouped under 5 broad strands; Learning and Teaching, Learning Technologies, Well-being, Leading Learning, and Enterprise. Ian Gilbert- the educational writer – gave our Keynote and 4 sessions on the day and we also welcomed Stephen De Silva- who was absolutely brilliant by all accounts- and a number of other eternal workshop leaders. In all, 93 members of the ESF community presented workshops, and we had 120 workshops in total.

It leads to the question of… what next?

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How to make the most of professional development?

For the past few months I have been working on putting together a teachers’ conference for the secondary teachers within the foundation in which I work. The day looks great: over 120 one hour sessions are on offer under the key strands of well-being (for students and teachers), leading learning, learning and teaching, learning technologies and enterprise.

With 800 teachers together in one place, the event is bound to generate energy and excitement about working with one another, the question is how to make a lasting impression from the day and to encourage sustainable and authentic networks from the workshops given.

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Heidi Hayes Jacobs: Interdisciplinary Curriculum


Here are my notes on a little gem of a book by Heidi Hayes Jacobs, all the way back in 1989. She really knows her stuff!


Interdisciplinary Curriculum: Design and Implementation

Edited by Heidi Hayes Jacobs (1989)


CHAPTER ONE: The Growing need for Interdisciplinary Curriculum content (Heidi Hayes Jacobs)

Why Look at Curriculum Integration?

-       The growth of knowledge  growing at an exponential proportions and curriculum designers need to focus on what to teach and also what to eliminate. What do we focus on?

-       Fragmented Schedules schools react to school requirements by fragmenting the curriculum into ‘lessons’

-       Relevance of curriculum  a common concern is the relevance of isolated and discrete activities that aren’t applied. Continue reading

Michael Fullan’s Choosing the wrong drivers for system wide reform

This article by Fullan was sent to me by my foundation’s Education Adviser and it is a great- yet short- explanation of ‘drivers’ that don’t work in creating lasting change in schools against those that do. He uses current US and Australian policy to illustrate his points and the article is blunt in its message. Great reading material for educators leading change!


Choosing the wrong drivers for system wide reform

Centre for Strategic Education Seminar Series Paper No. 204, May 2011

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Everyday leadership- hear hear!

Everyday leadership

Today I found this great talk by Drew Dudley about everyday leadership where he shows how we need not to try to change that world- but how we should try to change the world around us. He relates an interesting little anecdote that illustrates how powerful an effect we can have on others, without even knowing.

This idea was brought home to me today as I left my job of over 10 years, as a teachers in a secondary school. Students and teachers alike over the past weeks have been sharing how I have impacted their lives and the difference that I have made to them, and in turn I have reflected on how so many of them had changed my life. So when I came across this Ted Talk, it really hit home with me. EVERYONE can make a difference and it is often those random act of kindness, when you take the time to listen to another, to help someone if you can, that show real leadership.