An Interview with a Teacher who Promotes Mindsets: Kathy Kampa

An Interview with a Teacher who Promotes Mindsets: Kathy Kampa

By: Kathleen Kampa Vilina

How did you learn about Dweck’s Mindsets?

Seisen International School, the school I taught at in Tokyo for 31 years, has always been on the cutting edge of new thinking in education. We learned about growth mindset and how to implement it in our classrooms. I’ve continued learning more by reading academic articles about it, listening to TED talks, and reading Carol Dweck’s book.

What do you like or dislike about the Mindsets idea?

I think the mindsets idea is really important for success in school. Knowing that we’re a mix of a Fixed Mindset or a Growth Mindset, we know where we can stretch our thinking to grow further.

How do you implement the ideas in class, or your life?

I want my students to love learning. I don’t want them to stress out about assessments, being at the top or bottom of a class. Being at the top, many students are often hesitant to try something new. Being at the bottom, they may have low self-esteem. If we look at our students like the vegetables in our garden, we know that some will ripen before others. Some need different things to nurture their growth.

At Seisen International School, which is an IB school, our kindergarten and elementary students followed the Primary Years Program (PYP) framework. In this program, inquiry-based, transdisciplinary learning leads students to deeper, conceptual knowledge. It’s motivating and engaging for both students and teachers.

One of the aspects I loved about PYP is the student/teacher profile. The profile guided students and teachers towards success. For example, a six-week unit of inquiry on “Who Am I” might include a focus on being a risk-taker. When you’re a risk-taker, you’ll try new things, even when it’s uncomfortable. During our unit, we would plan learning engagements that would help students learn more about the unit as well as understand the student profile. We would read books about how students could take risks in their daily lives, or how successful people had taken risks. We’d apply that aspect of the profile to that unit. Being risk-takers really helped students develop a growth mindset. 

We’d use the big YET to express ongoing progress. I tried doing it, but I can’t do it YET.

When we look at learning, it’s not all about assessments. It’s about the tiny steps that we need for success. We had a chance to work with Pam Hook, who taught us about effective feedback through the SOLO taxonomy. These three questions from the taxonomy guided students in their learning: “What am I learning? How is it going? What do I do next?” By reflecting on their learning, students and teachers can determine how well they have understood the content. Each student is on their own journey to success.

John Hattie also taught us about effective feedback. Guiding students on their learning journey by providing constructive feedback about their successes and areas of growth is one of the best things we can do. 

What advice do you have for teachers about it?

I want every student in my class to be successful. Every child wants to go home feeling like they can succeed. That child doesn’t want to be the failure at the bottom of the bell curve. So, support each student. As I say, CCBA: Catch Children Being Amazing. 

I want to give each student feedback to discover how they can grow. And for those of us who teach very young learners, we plant those seeds early on. We want to inspire our students to be curious, resilient, and motivated to discover something new each day. I want my students to bring questions to class rather than fearing that they’ll be called on. I want them to wonder out loud and solve big problems in the world. 

Anything else?

Let’s help our students be changemakers. Let’s give them the confidence, courage, and ability to solve problems. Let’s teach students the skills they need to learn on their own so that they can tackle anything.

Kathy Kampa, co-author of Magic Time, Everybody Up, Oxford Discover, and Beehive and Buzz, is a passionate educator of young learners. She seeks to nurture children’s imaginations and spark creativity through fun and engaging activities. Kathy believes that music and movement should be a part of every young child’s learning.

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