Teaching with Student Data: Growth Mindset in Professional Dialogue

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A very productive way of using student data to inform further instruction, is through  professional dialogue with others. This can be done with peers or with a teaching and learning coach, who specializes in this area. This professional dialogue is crucial to ensure critical thinking, risk taking and innovation.  First of all, the dialogue has to involve decisions about data gathering:  what to look for, what type of diagnostic assessments to use, and what to observe in class. It is important that the teacher is open to different perspectives and discussion about the data gathering step, as the choice of focus will influence the data gathered. Then it is also important that the teacher be open to the results of data gathering, which may not always be what is expected or desired, but  will nevertheless be conducive to effective adjustments in teaching and learning.

Student-based coaching is therefore a style of coaching that focuses on student data as the basis for a professional dialogue with the teacher, where the goal is to adjust teaching to the student needs and the curriculum. A growth mindset is then key in teacher-coach interaction, considering the importance of a professional dialogue around student data . The idea of a Fixed x Growth Mindset was developed by Dr. Carol S. Dweck.  Match Education, which specializes in teacher professional development, has explored the idea in the teacher-coach relationship, developing what they called the “Four Horsemen of Fixed Mindset“. The Infographic below is based on Match Education’s idea of the “four horseman”, focusing on how to overcome instance of fixed mindset when dealing with evidence of student learning and the need to inform practice.

It is important to stress, when looking at the Infographic, that people do not present either a fixed or a growth mindset in all situations in life. One person who mostly has a growth mindset may present fixed mindset behavior in particular circumstances. I think we have all been in that situation sometime, when someone else presents a different perspective or approach, and we close down on our current beliefs and practice.

The idea is to use the Infographic as a way to recognize in ourselves, instances of fixed mindset approach, and try to open up and grow beyond our comfort zone. So whenever you are in a professional dialogue, keep in mind the “four horsemen of fixed mindset” that are indicated in the Infographic and try to analyze whether you fit in one of those.  The ideas indicated in green are suggestions for how to break the fixed mindset loop and have a growth mindset approach to teaching with student data.

Teaching Based on Student Data - Growth Mindset


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Coaching Cycle: Modelling Critical Thinking in Research

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As we are in a transition from the role of Academic Technology Coordinator to Teaching and Learning Coaches, I am  identifying coaching elements in what we already do,  so it becomes easier for teachers to see how these elements will be distilled out and more focused in the new role. So for this Grade 9 History end of the year project, students have to research slavery in the past to help interpret modern day slavery. In this way, students create products to help raise awareness about modern day slavery with a historical background, which are posted on a website called Stop Slavery. Last year was a big step for the History Department as it was the first time that such connection between past and present was attempted in a large product. Mr Hardwicke was teaching this course for the first time this year and he came to me asking about steps to tackle the project.

slavery archive res 700

1. Identifying learning needs

Student data: projects from last year

Having had experience with High School research and knowing the difficulty students have in narrowing down their research and making connections specially between these past and present events, I tried to zoom in critical thinking during the research process. The data used to better identify student learning needs were projects from the previous year, which were available under archived projects at the  Stop Slavery site.

Difficulties in narrowing down focus and making connections

In the first year of the project, many students focused mainly on listing information from the past, listing information from the present and listing possible actions. This happened because  narrowing down research and making connections between past and present are hard for Grade 9 students. This also happened because last year was the first time we were all involved in this type of project at this grade level.  So we were ready for improvement now, helping students develop their critical thinking during research.


2. Modelling critical thinking activity for students

Prep for the main learning goal

In class, I first started by stressing the importance of learning from the past as information to interpret the present, using a HailuDeck for which you see two of the slides below.  Without a strong research focus in the past, the connection with the present becomes weak and we may loose the meaning of this project as a strong and unique awareness service to the community that takes advantage of historical learning.

haiku lessons from past

hailu interpret present

Sharing an example of project analysis

Having made the importance of that connection clear, I went over my own analysis of a project from last year, which was chosen randomly. I explained that my modeling was a preparation for their next activity, as they would have to choose a project from last year in  small group and do the same type of analysis except they were not required to use Videonotes as I did just to help them visualize my points. This modelling raised several questions from the students regarding focus, background information, connection with the present. Even though I was the one modelling, the teacher was actively involved in answering students questions and reinforcing critical thinking ideas in research.

silvana modeling slavery videoanalysis

Below you see snapshots of  how I used Videonotes to analyze the project and then an explanation of my analysis, as given to the students.

slavery modelling videonotes video

slavery modelling videonotes notes

The students’ project was analyzed as follows:

  • Finding a research focus in the history from the past:
    • minute 4:41 abolitionist press: students mention the importance of abolitionist press in the US, but do not give details about what type of information it involves, how it is spread out and what is the impact on people
    • minute 7:02 free slaves in the abolitionist press: : students mention that freed slaves also played an important role in the abolitionist press, but do not go into details about what was special about free slaves in the press as opposed to other abolitionists.
    • How can we narrow down the focus in this research? So the conclusion here is that abolitionist press seems to be a good lesson learned from the past in terms of being effective in helping abolish slavery. In this way students would have to choose this topic to narrow down the focus of the research and find more details.
  • Disconsidering information that does not relate to the focus: 
    • minute 0:45 killing master slaves: students mention the killing of master slaves as one of the events that happened in the past, in what seems to be interpreted as necessary background information.
    • How can we narrow down the focus in this research? It seems clear that killings of master slaves did not directly relate to or explained the abolitionist press as a means to end slavery, unless it is used as subsidiary information to explains the type of news that worked best to end slavery. So it can be disconsidered, if not directly related to the argument.
  • Finding a connection in the present:
    • minute 4:00 trafficking in the US: students mention the lack of information that surrounds people from different countries who end up being enslaved by traffickers for believing they are going to a better future.
    • How can we make a connection to the past in this research? At this point students would have to consider if trafficking can be indeed connected with lessons learned from the past on the role of abolitionist press. A lot of critical analysis will be necessary to evaluate possibilities for communications and if a similar form of press could influence traffic and as a consequence, influence slavery today.
  • Selecting and analyzing action to help end slavery today:
    • minute 7:30 actions: here the students list a series of possible actions that are many times are already described in anti slavery organization websites.
    • How can we  suggest an action with critical analysis behind it? Here the students could choose one or two actions that directly relate to their focus on abolitionist press, making a connection of how it may work, or if it may work in the present conditions of trafficking.

3. Student activity based on model : teacher ownership

After the model project analysis,  Mr Hardwicke was totally in charge of the class, taking ownership of the analysis strategies by writing a few guiding questions on the board. He then split students in groups and asked them to choose a project from last year to analyze and discuss his questions.  As each group finished watching a project, the teacher went around prompting students to answer the questions  before releasing them to start their own research.

At this point students seemed to have understood the point of the research project and how it could be improved in terms of narrowing down and making connections.

shane 2 res 400

shane 1 res 700



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Outgrowing Tech Integration with a Teaching and Learning Coach

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At our school we are now moving from the Academic Technology Coordinator position to the Teaching and Learning Coach position. So the next step will be to clarify this transition for teachers, which in my case means High School. The first clarification is on what is a Teaching and Learning Coach, and also what it is not. The HaikuDeck below was created to explain the idea and highlight main attributes of this role:

  • Thinking partner
  • Source of ideas
  • Student data analysis support
  • Another set of eyes for curriculum planning
  • A professional learning facilitator
  • Support for reflective practice

The two highlighted attributes, support for student data analysis and reflective practice, are the ones which will differ most from the Academic Technology role and will be explained in more detail on a later post.


In order to explain the changes represented by the transition from Academic Tech  to Instructional Coach, I created the following Infographic. It stresses the smooth transition from one role to the other, as the work done from the perspective of an Academic Technology Coordinator feeds into the role of  Teaching and Learning Coach. In our 1:1 environment, learning is seen as a redefinition of the traditional into modern literacies, or 21st century learning ans many people call it. This past year, we have started to use the SAMR Model developed by Ruben Puentedura, as a way to help teachers visualize how learning can be redefined through the development of modern literacies. This idea of redefining learning in the SAMR model will continue with the role of  Teaching and Learning Coach, adding the layer of student data analysis mentioned above in what is called “Coaching Cycles”.  A Coaching Cycle will be better explained on a later post, but basically we can say that it follows a cycle similar to action research, but in a more informal way:

Coaching Cycle < — > Action Research

  • Goal: Identify student learning needs based on student data
  • Plan: action steps
  • Action: execute plan
  • Observation:  impact of action steps on students
  • Debrief : review action steps based on student data gathered during observation stage

These steps can be quite smooth and intertwined, so I will get back to those in a later post. For now, you can get the picture of where we are going with what schools many times call “technology integration”. In our case, we have moved past  “technology” to go deeper into learning in the modern world.

Teaching and Learning Coach with a Modern Learning Twist


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