Learning Alternatives SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

School Name: Learning Alternatives

School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

Inquiry Team Members:Lacey Daly: lacey.daly@sd68.bc.ca
Trevor McIntyre: trevor.mcintyre@sd68.bc.ca
Brett Hancock: bhancock@sd68.bc.ca

Inquiry Team Contact Email: lacey.daly@sd68.bc.ca

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

Grade Levels: Secondary (8-12)

Curricular Area(s): Career Education, Physical & Health Education

Focus Addressed: Community-based learning, Experiential learning, Growth mindset, Inquiry-based learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Our focus this year was to increase motivation to succeed through several growth mindset initiatives and experiences.

Scanning: Students were selected to participate in various self esteem-building outdoor activities and adventures that pushed them outside of their comfort zone in terms of themselves, their trust in others and their environment. The four questions guided our scanning process as they provided a basis for where to begin from and a framework for how to design our opportunities for learning. Each major outdoor experience involved multiple days spent away from the school and outside of the city, two full-time educators, a small group of students, and activities to challenge student limitations set on themselves. Through informal discussion with each student, students reported a stronger connection and trust in both adults involved. The students mostly attributed this to the reason that the educators shared in the experience as well, participating in the activities alongside the students. After each experience, the students indicated a high level of interest in improving their skills, a sense of belonging to a group and the school culture, enthusiasm in sharing their experience with others, and showed desire to set future goals for themselves.

Focus: As a staff, we believed that our students needed experiential learning to shift their views about themselves and their education plan. We saw opportunity to help shift students out of a fixed mindset and change their perspective about themselves. Our team integrated several growth mindset strategies and our hope was to create a safe environment for students to take risks and teach them about the value of challenge.

Hunch: At Learning Alternatives, a great deal of time and energy is placed in supporting our students to find academic success to reach their goal of graduation. The graduation path can be long and arduous, restricting students from creating vision for their lives after its all done. Although several tactics and skills are implemented for employment and career building, the growth mindset of how to get there was often overlooked. We found that many of our students lacked insight into what their ‘next steps’ were simply because they believed that they would only ever become as good as they were at the time.

New Professional Learning: Learning Alternatives staff took the growth mindset inquiry to new heights, expanding well beyond the classroom, and explored the vast opportunities and benefits of outdoor education. Leaning on the guidance of Carol Dweck and her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, teaching staff participated in a monthly book club to share in the goal. Our belief was that if we could change our language and philosophy to a growth mindset, as an entire school, that we would see more sustainable and measurable long-term results in our students.

Taking Action: As a staff, we discussed our growth mindset focus monthly, as part of the regular school staff meetings. During this time, ideas were shared and discussion was held as to what was working and what areas of growth mindset strategy needed adjustment. The monthly book club also offered itself as opportunity to explore new ideas for expanding beyond the classroom and into the community with our students., such as volunteering opportunities, various outdoor activities, school culture-building experiences and student led initiatives.

Checking: The shift from fixed mindset to growth mindset amongst our students was a measurable success. By shifting the language of the entire teaching staff to a more positive context yielded more open conversation with a large portion of students about what their future goals were and how they were going to challenge themselves further in life.
Specifically, those students selected to participate in the leadership experiences outside of the school reported significant changes in their self-esteem and belief in their ability to always make themselves better.

Reflections/Advice: From this inquiry, we have learned a tremendous amount. Through persistence, culture can be shifted. We have learned that to reach our fullest potential as educators, we must first feel comfortable to take risks, before we can promote it to our students. Academics are such a small snapshot in education that our students experience and more emphasis needs to put on preparing students for what lies ahead. Openly expressing your affection towards students will create a more open line of communication and potentially build their confidence in building positive peer and mentor relationships in the future. As a school, Learning Alternatives hopes to expand the growth mindset approach to our parent population through several parent information sessions and orientations about the operations and teaching philosophy of our school.

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