18 July, 2007

PERFORMANCE versus MASTERY: a preview of our presentation in Scotland

One of our assumptions is that a key determinate of the apparent lack of engagement is the motivation of the students. In this study we sought to gain some insights into factors that might influence the nature of the needs, goals and ultimately the decisions the students make about their participation in the learning of chess and subsequently mathematics.

The underlying model was derived from the work of Dweck (2000) who identified two perspectives on intelligence. One is a fixed perspective of intelligence entitled entity theory in which people believe that their intelligence is predetermined at birth and remains fixed through life.

Dweck suggested that students who believe in the entity view require easy successes to maintain motivation, and see challenges as threats. The alternate perspective is where students see intelligence as malleable or incremental and they can change their intelligence and/or achievement by manipulating factors over which they have some control. Students with such incremental beliefs often choose to sacrifice opportunities to look smart in favour of learning something new. Not only their goals but also their needs regulate particular outcomes.

Directly connected to these views of intelligence are the ways that students describe their own needs and goals. Dweck suggested that entity “theorists” have performance related goals, and rely for success on tasks that offer limited challenge. When experiencing difficulties, the model suggests that such students lose confidence in themselves, tend to denigrate their own intelligence, exhibit plunging expectations, develop negative approaches, have lower persistence, and deteriorating performance. Such students particularly seek positive judgments from others and avoid negative ones.

Incremental “theorists”, according to Dweck, have mastery oriented goals and tend to have a hardy response to failure and remain focused on mastering skills and knowledge even when experiencing challenge. Mastery oriented people do not blame others for threats, do not see failure as an indictment on themselves, rather they hold learning goals which are to increase their competence when confronted with difficulty. Confidence in their own ability does not make a difference to students who see intelligence as incremental and success is not needed to build mastery oriented objectives.

Dweck argued that an entity view of intelligence leads students to focus mainly on performance goals whereas an incremental perspective allows students to focus on mastery oriented goals. In other words, the students’ regulation of their decisions and actions is a response to how they define their needs and how these define their goals.

It is interesting to consider the implications of this for teaching. Students who have performance goals could be a direct result of significant adults such as parents and teachers who tended to exaggerate the positives and protect them from negative information.

Dweck claimed that, by their actions, some teachers teach students that they are entitled to a life of easy low effort successes, and argued that this is a recipe for anger, bitterness and self doubt. Dweck suggested that some teachers respond to students experiencing difficulty by providing easier tasks, the net effect of which is to create a climate in which challenges are feared rather than addressed.

Dweck (2000) argued that teachers can teach self regulatory behaviours such as decoding tasks, perseverance, seeing difficulties as opportunities, and learning from mistakes. This capacity for teachers to enhance positive self-regulatory responses is evident in quite separate research strands on self fulfilling prophecy (e.g., Brophy, 1983), and motivation (e.g., Middleton, 1995).


Harry said...

Dweck's claim that teachers can impart to students a culture of persistence, resilience and self regulated learning or a self sabotaging culture of defeat has merit but I wonder if Dweek has failed to take into account the larger cultural framework which includes; family life and family values, and an assortment of intersecting socio-cultural factors and dynamics such as; TV, consumerism with its emphasis on immediate gratification, and advertising. It is hard to believe that an individual teacher can achieve all that Dweck suggests.

It is true some teachers respond to students experiencing difficulty by providing easier tasks, thereby entrenching a culture of avoiding challenges and weakening the students capacity for sustained effort.

One teacher in a classroom with 26 students sometimes has to follow the point of least resistence and this can mean providing the disaffected kids with easy tasks.

Dweck's argument that teachers can teach self regulatory learning and persistence is nevertheless inspiring, particularly her emphasis on mistakes as learning ladders, and ideally that is an important teaching goal.

In the chess program, in grades 2 and 3 kids can often get upset when they lose and the challenge is to try help them see the task as an opportunity to build resilience. I try to do this by encouraging them to see themselves as part of a class where persistence and taking up challenges are the prized values. I encourage them to see the rewards of endeavour.

If there is any one out there who would be happy to share some of their insights into building persistence and a 'can do attitude' in the clasroom, it would be most appreciated if they would put them on our community of learning blog.

ashlee said...

My name is Ashlee .M. Beckett and I am in grade 3 and I am 8 years old. This is my comment
I think that chess is a mind game and it is a great game for all ages. When my teacher said we are starting chess I thought that it was going to be boring but when Harry came in and started talking about it I started to pay a attion. I had a game with my Friend Kezia. And i won. Ive neaver played a game with my friend Brianne and if i did i would think that she would win. We play bye levels first gos Dungeon and if you win a game you go up to Pawn then gos Knite iam in Knite and so is my friend Kezia lets get on with the levels next gos the bishop then gos rook then gos Queen then gos King then gos Dragon then gos the finley WIZARD. ive still got haeps to write iwill tell you the points the pawn is 1 the bishop is 3 the rook is 5 the king is priceless and the queen is 9 iad love to stay here and write some more but ive got go and play chess on the computer


Bye Bye
From Ashlee