Pomegranate Lab and the Growth Mindset

Larry   •   April 26, 2015   •   0 Comment

Our Founder, Larry Liu, shared his thoughts on how the Growth Mindset impacted Pomegranate Lab.

Q: How did you first hear about Growth Mindset, and why did it resonate with you?
The idea of changing mindsets was something I had thought about a lot as a student teacher, but I first heard about the growth mindset when I taught it as part of my AP psych curriculum. It was a moment of epiphany. So much of what I had observed as a traveling student teacher was focused on short-term gains that would disappear after the student moved to a new context, whether that was a different teacher, subject or school. I struggled with that, and the growth mindset seemed like a powerful way to address it in a sustainable way.
It resonated with me because it was a way to produce durable, long-term change. And for me personally, it was an investment that acted as a force multiplier for my teaching.
Q: Speaking of teaching, what do you think is the hardest thing about incorporating a growth mindset into your day-to-day classroom?
It’s challenging because it’s complicated. You’re trying to get students to change their fundamental beliefs about themselves, and changing attitudes takes time. Once my students and I were on the same page in our belief that intelligence and skills aren’t fixed traits, I found that we made amazing gains in the classroom.
My personal strategy when I was teaching was to make progress more visible and to use it as a motivator. I wanted to show students where they were and how far they had come. I also had them reflect constantly and turned the feedback process into more of a conversation than a one-way stream of communication.
Q: Can you give an example of how that process worked?
For feedback, I’d include follow-up questions and pose new ideas along with my evaluations. This didn’t fit terribly well in the traditional classroom setting though, because there were few opportunities for students to revisit assignments after they were finished. What good were ideas and questions if we didn’t provide a forum or opportunity to build on them? The closest I got was encouraging students to talk with me about the questions and ideas that I posed after the assignment was finished.
What did you find were some of the major challenges in the success of this process?
The major challenge for me was in the logistics. As a high school teacher, I had between 150 and 200 students per semester, so it was a significant challenge to keep track of where each student was in the follow-up/ feedback process.
Another of the challenges with mindsets is that they take time and effort to develop. Most teachers I know already have a very full plate, so any change that requires a large and ongoing investment in time and planning is challenging.
Q: You took some pretty bold and innovative steps to try and fix some of these challenges. Tell us about Pomegranate Lab.
Pomegranate Lab is trying to address some of these challenges so any teacher can foster growth mindsets in his or her classroom. We packaged growth mindset “practice” into the regular every-day processes of the classroom like assignments and lesson planning.
Because we piggy back off of what teachers are already doing, our tools don’t necessarily increase their workload but do foster a growth mindset. Teachers are already planning lessons, so now they can plan in a more reflective / iterative way with Common Ground. Students already need to do assignments, so now they can write more reflectively / iteratively with Inscribe.
We say that we create apps “by teachers, for teachers,” but our approach is systematic, involving teachers, students, parents and administrators.
Q: Can you tell us some of the things you’re really excited to offer the education sector through Pomegranate Lab?
I’m really excited that Inscribe allows teachers to have conversations with students that revolve around the student’s work because this makes the learning more reflective and differentiated. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, teachers can better meet students where they are.
I’m really excited for Common Ground because it allows teachers to gather insights about each lesson and improve.
Q: Some people worry that technology is removing the personalization in learning. But you seem to view technology as a good tool for developing a growth mindset.
We agree that technology is sometimes leveraged to dehumanize the learning process, but we take a very different approach. Our goal isn’t to automate the teacher or the student, but to use technology to reduce the barriers in communication and organization to make learning even more personalized.
Q: What’s your vision for education?
It is not enough to have our students learn what humanity already knows; we must teach them how to learn what humanity does not yet know.
My vision for education is a system that focuses more on students learning how to learn than trying to cover ALL of the content. I think we’re past the age where we can teach students everything they could possibly need to know. However, by learning how to learn, students will be able to meet any novel or unfamiliar challenge of tomorrow.
“We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t yet been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.” The growth mindset equips them for this kind of future, and we’re excited to play a role in promoting it.


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