Formula for success. Opportunity for growth. Consistency of expectations. Championship mindset. Where do these empowering slogans come from? If you guessed Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll, you’d be half right. Since his arrival in 2010, Coach Carroll has instilled a “Championship Mindset.” Carroll requires his players to play every game as if they were playing in the Super Bowl. Some may dismiss this as self-help psychobabble, but the results speak for themselves: perennial trips to the NFL playoffs, multiple players selected to the Pro Bowl, the franchise’s first championship, and (hopefully) more accolades to come.
The other half, you may be surprised, stem from the University of Oregon’s David T. Conley. Who is David T. Conley? He’s an education scholar who specializes in college and career readiness, and the Common Core’s best proponent. In his essay “Building on the Common Core,” Conley argues the standards are an invitation for educators to do the rigorous work to prepare all students for life after graduation.
Conley believes the Common Core can achieve this goal if educators employ the following steps:
1. Learning Through Connections: Teachers should move away from kill-and-drill worksheets that makes students feel like they learn in an assembly line, to an interdisciplinary curriculum that guides students to see connections between what they are learning in school and their world. Conley calls this a “nonroutine use of information.” He explains students’ brains disseminate from meaningful and meaningless information, and this differentiation drives students’ motivation to learn: “The brain ruthlessly determines what is worth holding onto and what is not, and it discards that which it deems not worth keeping. Complex, nonroutine uses of information signal to the brain that something is important and needs to be integrated more fully into the brain’s cognitive structures.”
2. Employing Key Cognitive Strategies: Conley has done extensive research reviewing what makes students successful in college and the professional world. He concludes these students employ multiple “cognitive strategies” that prepares them for success:
• A growth mindset that embraces problems, as opposed to, shirks away from them.
• An ability to conduct research to separate useful information from extraneous data.
• Communication skills to use knowledge to construct a persuasive argument.
• Precision and accuracy to show expertise in a field.
3. Evolving from Novice to Expert: Conley defines a novice as someone who must be shown what to do, versus an expert who can independently think on his own. To guide this evolution, Conley feels teachers must create formative assessments that measure growth, rather than create exams that set students up for failure.
4. Growth Assessment vs. Standardized Assessments: For students to evolve into divergent, problem-solving, 21st century thinkers, teachers must create summative assessments that encourage students to engage in their learning, as opposed to spoon-feeding students the tools to be successful on a standardized test. He explains, “Teachers and curriculum designers need to avoid the temptation to focus on test-prep activities that require little engagement in learning. To reach the new levels envisioned in the common standards and assessments, students must actively participate in their own learning.”
The 2015 NFC Championship game was a gut-wrenching test for Pete Carroll’s Seahawks. The Seahawks played awful for most of the game, but improbably, found a way to win. Quarterback Russell Wilson, who had the worst game of his career, broke down in tears during a post-game interview. He was so grateful to be part of a team that never doubted him.
Listening to Wilson, Pete Carroll had to smile. Wilson demonstrated all of the key cognitive strategies that Conley believes are the backbone of the Common Core.
- Wilson’s Growth Mindset: Even though Wilson threw four interceptions, he still completed the game winning touchdown.
- Wilson Disseminating Information: Despite making poor judgment calls most of the game, Wilson, correctly, changed a play at the line of scrimmage that ultimately won the game.
- Wilson’s Communication Skills: Though he struggled statistically, Wilson never wavered in his belief his team would win. During his post-game interview he said, “people doubted us, and we kept fighting…four interceptions and my teammates still believed in me…it is an honor and a blessing to be on this team.”
- Wilson’s Expertise: While other quarterbacks may accrue gaudy individual statistics, Wilson keeps on compiling wins. The fact is he is 10-0 versus Super Bowl winning quarterbacks.
David T. Conley is the Pete Carroll of the Common Core. If, we, as educators embrace the Common Core as a challenge to empower our students, we will create a nation with a collective championship mindset.
In my next blog post, I will unpack how educators using the Common Core can begin to achieve this end.