Mastery oriented learners are intrinsically motivated to learn for competency rather than to be driven by external rewards or fear of punishment. They are empowered learners who make conscious choices about effort to learn. Examine what practices you can implement to empower your student.
Subscribe to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast on iTunes or visit BarkleyPD.com to find new episodes.
Steve [Intro]: 00:01 Hello and welcome to the Parent Wellbeing and Student Learning During School Closures Edition of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. With the extended closing of schools, we as parents have entered into a new territory regarding what we have known as “school learning.” With this and future podcasts, I’ll look to share my experiences as a teacher, educator, parent, grandparent, and continuous learner.
Steve: 00:34 Developing mastery oriented learners. Mastery oriented learners are motivated by building competency, becoming competent on a task. They are intrinsically motivated rather than driven by extrinsic rewards or by fear of punishment. Mastery oriented learners want to learn for the sake of learning rather than for grades or teacher or parent approval. Mastery oriented learners believe that ability is changeable. That’s what has been labeled as a growth mindset. In other words, if I can’t do something now, that’s not a fixed situation. I can change my ability with practice, repetition, more trial and error learning, with input or feedback from someone else who does know how to do it. Mastery oriented learners believe that failure is part of success. They persist when learning is difficult and they adjust their effort to the particular situation. My personal
example of that is when we have a piece of furniture delivered from Ikea, that is not an easy task for me.
Steve: 02:06 I know that in order to be close to successful, I need to slow down. I need to reread, I need to check after each step. It takes much more effort for me to put together that piece from Ikea than it does to produce this podcast. If you think of a learning continuum, and on the high end of that continuum, we have mastery oriented learning, then the opposite end of the continuum might be called self-limiting learning. Self-limiting learners believe that ability is fixed and unchangeable. I can’t do that, so it’s a final condition. They call that a fixed mindset. There’s no value in investing hard work or effort as the condition won’t change. Self-limiting learning frequently causes people to see failure as fatal or an indication to give up rather than to consider another approach or to increase the effort. Self-limiting learners frequently select tasks that are easy or they develop avoidance behaviors that prevent having to have their performance evaluated or having their performance be public.
Steve: 03:36 They believe that being successful is outside of their control and they learn to blame others situations or conditions as the reasons for not being successful. Now, you’ve probably figured out by now that all of us are mastery oriented learners sometime and self-limiting learners at other times. The key is knowing the behaviors that we are adopting so that we can change the behavior if the outcome is important to us. As a personal example, I’m not real handy with repair jobs, either around the house or car. I label my ability as low and I usually take a self limiting behavior. I’ll go work extra hard on some other job in order to earn the money so that I can pay someone else to do the repairs. Now, my technology skills are pretty similar to my repair skills, but learning how to make a podcast brought out my mastery oriented behaviors.
Steve: 04:55 I called people to get help and advice. I used a trial and error process learning from my mistakes. I had to build practice sessions into my work. I was reinforced and increased the effort as I began to see initial signs of competence. Knowing mastery oriented behaviors and being able to choose to implement them is key to being an empowered learner. So what can we do as parents to empower our learners to be mastery oriented? As usual, modeling is one key component. How do you demonstrate mastery oriented when you’re working to learn a new skill or new information? You watch the video on YouTube about how to replace the washer in the faucet with parts lying in the sink and you back to watch it again. What are you saying? Are you saying this is impossible, self-limiting, or are you saying I must have missed something, let me watch this again.
Steve: 06:09 Another strategy that can be helpful to your learners is to define effort and ask your learner to assess their effort at the conclusion of a learning activity. In order to assess it, they need to have some elements to look for in considering how much effort they put into something. Here’s some key indicators. One, time. How long did I spend on the task or activity? To put forth effort really requires time. Two, repetition. How many repetitions did I do? How often did I practice that same piece of music? Three, do overs. A sign of effort is a willingness to go back and start again, to do the task over in order to increase the success. And four, patience. Patience is a sign of effort because frequently our initial effort doesn’t have pay off. I don’t see an immediate return for the effort I’m putting in, so I need to be patient. You’ve all experienced that when you’ve gone on that seven day diet and at the end of seven days got on the scale and did not see a pay off for the effort that you put in. You need to have patience to stay with those same behaviors longer and that patience is a sign of effort. So you’re looking for time, repetition, do overs and patience.
Steve: 07:59 After defining effort, you can now begin to ask your learner to assess the amount of effort that they put into a particular task. Let’s say on a scale from one to five, five being high, how much effort went into this task and explain why you’re giving it that score. Now explaining is the extremely important part. You see, a child could tackle 10 math problems and have solved none of them correctly, but they could have put in a high degree of effort because the student tells you that they attempted each of the 10 problems. They watched a video clip to try and get some extra help. They called a friend for help, but she wasn’t home. So the effort could be high even though the successful completion of the task was long. Now I can flip it. A student could have done all 10 math problems correctly, but their effort could be low because they already knew how to do the problems and all they had to do was apply the formula. Part of being an empowered learner is being able to decide when the task is worth a high degree of effort. Avoid indicating to your student that every task they tackle should be approached with full effort. Consider, when do you just straighten up a room and how does that compare to doing spring house cleaning? A conversation with your learner before they begin a learning task about the effort that they plan to put in, why they plan to put it in and how they would go about tackling something with high effort.
Steve: 10:08 This conversation can advance their mastery orientation and their empowerment as learners. Lastly, another thing that I can do as a parent is to become conscious of my language and my child’s language and build in a switch from self limiting talk to mastery oriented talk. I can stop and replace, this doesn’t work with, I need to try something else. Assist your child in rephrasing a statement like “I’ll never be good enough to make the jazz band audition in the fall,” with, “I’m going to need to build in a vigorous practice schedule throughout the summer in order to make that jazz band audition.” Replace a statement such as “there isn’t enough time to learn how to do this,” with, “we need to create a schedule that gives us enough time for trial and error learning.”
Steve: 11:32 And as a parent, be sure to replace a statement such as this, “what a great report you’ve written. You’re really smart,” with, “what a great report you’ve written. I can see the effort that you put into researching and into writing.” This extra time that we have with parents and learners working in close proximity may be the perfect time to engage in conversations about mastery oriented behaviors and language, laying the groundwork for all of us to become more empowered learners. Thanks for listening in.
Steve [Outro]: 12:21 Thanks again for listening. You can subscribe to Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud on iTunes and Podbean and please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.