onsdag den 30. september 2015

Growth mindset in kitchens and schools

I have always been impressed by great chefs. Why? Simply because they always strive for improvement. When they've done their best, they always seem to ask: how can I make my best better? A very clear example of this was seen when René Redzepi, headchef at Noma, commented on the decision to close down Noma and open a brand new restaurant:
"We have spent the last twelve years trying to figure out what it means to be a chef in the Nordic region, and now we are ready to start that restaurant we have been practicing for."
Wow. And I mean: wow! They have been "practicing", and at the same time maintained a position as best or near-best restaurant in the world.

"Never mind the measurement. How do we feel about our potential? That is the real question."
When I say "best or near-best", I am obviously referring to a measurement of quality, and that measurement can always be challenged. Were they really the best? What does it mean to be the best? Etc. But what is exceptional about this case is that the measurement doesn't seem to have been the goal. The goal was improvement. The goal was - actually - never reaching the goal. Never mind the measurement. How do we feel about our potential? That is the real question.
We have recently seen a very high-profile case that provides the counter example to Noma: VW.
The multinational, multi-billion dollar company that used to be the beacon of quality and reliability has in fact been teaching to the test - and rigged the results at that. Apparently, all that has mattered to VW has been the measurement. What happens on a daily basis during driving and to nature has apparently not been a great priority. Neither has real improvement. As long as they could make the measurements look good, they were happy.

"the VW approach: make the measurements look good and never mind reality"

All this has profound relevance for education. There is - and so there should be - a tide of debate on quality and the measurement of quality. We are measured by Key Performance Indicators, and pedagogical development is supposed to be based on evidence. In this tide, we are all at risk of being sucked down by the VW approach: make the measurements look good and never mind reality - which in our world translates into: never mind the learning! A danger that is all the stronger because there is a strong headwind in the discourse for anything that is quantified and measured. We are always fragile when given the chance to look good and look right.
"Not improvement for the measurement, but measurement of the improvement"
Let's consider Noma. They did focus on reality, on the real product, on nature, on learning. And what is extremely interesting is that they didn't sacrifice the measurements in the process. They actually practiced while the measurements were strongly in their favour. And this is the course we must follow in education. Focus on the real learning, on creativity, on critical thinking, on training real persons for real democracy - but at the same time produce results with positive consequences in the measurements. Not improvement for the measurement, but measurement of the improvement.

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