Learning Environment, Design and Purpose


We always talk about the reasons why our students are not performing to the state’s standards.  Why they are not challenging themselves? Why do they just give up without trying?  There are so many other questions we always have about them, but we never stop to think about the real reasons.  We need to start to think more about the student than the grade or percentage on a test.  In order for our students to be successful we need to make sure that they are going into a learning environment where they are free to explore without any judgement.  They need to go into an environment where they are aware of the purpose of their learning.  


In my graduate course on creating significant learning environments, I had to think about what type of learning environment I wanted my students to have.  I need to create a significant learning environment that promotes a growth mindset.  In creating a significant learning environment, I talked about the different challenges I will encounter and how I will handle them.  It is important  for my students to feel comfortable in the classroom and  to be able to come in the classroom with the freedom to ask questions without feeling like they are not smart because they need to ask for help.  I want them to be able to leave the classroom with a feeling of wanting to  go online to learn more.


In the process of figuring out  what I need to do in order to create a significant learning environment, I had to think about my own learning philosophy. Figuring out what my learning philosophy was, will allow me to better help my students.  Learning about all the different learning theories will help me figure out how to help my students learn about their learning.  Once my students and I figure out the way they learn, we will work together as a team and be able to change their mindset from fixed to growth.


In the process of creating a significant learning environment and promoting a growth mindset, I still have to design how I want to implement my innovation plan.  In my graduate course I was introduced to a new taxonomy, Fink’s 3 column table and re-introduced to UbD Design, backwards design. I understand both of these as forms as lesson plans.  The Fink’s 3 column table was the hardest plan I have encountered.  It is setup to have the ‘endgame’ in mind.  What I want my students to have learned at the end of the year.  This will help me be able to really create activities that will truly help my students learn.  The UbD design is geared more for the of the weekly lesson plan.  It is more detailed and more student centered.  Both lesson plans will help me organize my innovation plan so I can share them with my administrators and fellow colleagues.   Having these lesson plans will make sure that I am providing my students the best learning environment for growth.


Finishing this graduate course on learning environment opened my eyes and made me realize that there is still so much more work to be done.  Figuring out what my learning philosophy will help me be a better teacher to my students.  I will be able to relate to those students who learn the same way I do and help them begin to think about learning a new way.  To think that learning is an ongoing process and that there is not one way of learning, there are multiple ways.  Learning about the different learning theories so I can help my students be better learners.  Creating a significant learning environment and promoting a growth mindset will be an ongoing process.  With a growth mindset, every obstacle, every setback is a learning opportunity that we need to embrace.  Our learning is neverending.



Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.

Growth Mindset

This whole notion of having a growth mindset is very strange from the beginning.  As I read the book, Mindset: The new psychology of success by Carol Dweck, I thought to myself that I fit this description perfectly since I do have a some fixed mindset tendencies.  However, as I continued to read  growth mindset I would think to myself that I think like that as well.  So is it possible for me to have a mixture of both? Some would say no, and that I would either need to be one or the other.  Well, I disagree, and I do fall into both categories.  If I know where my fixed mindset comes to light, I can then talk to myself and get on track with the growth mindset.  I can tell myself that I am not failing, and I am still learning and I will continue to learn.

Intelligence is not something you are born with.  Intelligence is a skill that you continue to work on.  To have a growth mindset is to not let failures stop you, and to overcome any fear you may have.  It is a learning journey where you are not afraid to explore.  Children are more open-minded when it comes to learn play.  It is not until they go to school where they may start to doubt themselves or  become scared of trying, or  exploring.   They start to think of themselves as either being a failure or successful.   We need to start making sure our children do not think this way, so they can continue to explore and be risk takers.  

Importance of Growth Mindset

Adults and children need to have a  growth mindset so we are not stuck in the unknown.  Usually, we do not continue our learning because we are either afraid of failure or because we think that we know it all.  If you do not continue trying you will never know if you can succeed or if there is something more out there for you to learn.  If we are afraid of failure than we are not learning.  Think back when you were a child and you wanted to climb all the way from one side of the monkey bars to the other.  Did you stop trying because you fell or did you continue to get back on until you were able to do it?  You continue to get back on the monkey bars until you did it.  How did you feel afterwards? You probably felt great.  You learned how to swing across the monkey bars and never gave up.  We need to make sure our children and us, adults, never give up.  The growth mindset is to never give up.  

Be a “Yet” Learner and Growth Mindset

In my classroom it is important for my students to learn that just because you may not understand a skill the first time, means that you did not understand it, yet.  To be able to have this mindset in the classroom, is important to incorporate it in the culture of the classroom.  The same way we teach our students the classroom procedures, how to give positive critical feedback, how to disagree with one another, is the same way we need to teach them how to be a “yet” learner.  It is important to give them opportunities where they are going to fail and have them believe in themselves to continue.  They may not get the skill the first time or second, but as they keep trying they will learn it.  Students need to be exposed to situations where they will be tested with this mindset.  The change of mindset will not be a quick change, from one day to to the next, but it will take some some time  Throughout the year students will constantly need to be reminded that they are “yet” learners.  They are able to master the skill and build upon that further.

Growth Mindset and Grading

For students grades can be a stressful aspect of their schooling.  Not only do they feel pressure to get good grades on their own, but they also get pressure from their parents.  It is important for them to know that they are not defined by a number.  Just because they may get a bad grade or not understand a skill, it does not mean that they will forever be stuck there.  Once students are used to having a growth mindset they will not be preoccupied with their grades.  They will start to value their need to continue learning over grades.

Improperly Promoted Growth Mindset? What to do?

Growth mindset is fairly new to me, so of course there will be bumps in the road.  There is no set guidelines and there is not going to be someone walking me step by step throughout this process.  There will be times when I will fall back on my fixed mindset habits.  The way I can I prevent or to fix it is to realize when it’s happening.  When I do fall back to the fixed mindset, I can talk it out. Tell myself that it is just a setback and I can learn from it and let this become my mantra.  When students do the same, have a conversation with them.  Talk it out and work through the obstacle.  Just like with growth mindset, just because I do not succeed does not mean I am a failure in promoting a growth mindset in my classroom.  With everything we try to do in life, it will take time.

Growth Mindset and Innovation Plan

The growth mindset will have a great influence/impact on my innovation plan.  Having my students go home and watch instructional videos without having me in the forefront will be a challenge for them.  It will be a challenge because when they watch the video they may not understand the skill and feel inadequate when they come to the class the next day.  Once they realize that it’s okay for them not to fully comprehend it the  first time and that no one will negatively judge them about it, they will feel more comfortable.  Their mindset will also start to change and they will put their full effort when they have online learning in the classroom.  They will care more about the learning and the journey than getting a good grade or a perfect score.  Ultimately that is what I want my students to achieve from this mentality, the growth mindset.  They are more than a number or percentage on paper.  They are a growing little humans that need our support, encouragement, and challenges.


        Dweck, C., & T. (2014, October 09). Carol Dweck, “Developing a Growth Mindset”

Retrieved December 16, 2016, from https://youtu.be/hiiEeMN7vbQ

      Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random


Understanding by Design (UbD)-Backward design

Understanding by Design (UbD) backwards design according to Wiggins and McTighe (2005) “… involves thinking a great deal, first, about the specific learnings sought, and the evidence of such learnings, before thinking about what we, as the teacher, will do or provide in teaching and learning activities.” (14)

This past week I was asked to look at the UbD Design, backward design.  At first I felt comfortable using the model since I had been exposed to it previously in my school district.  In my district, this design is used to help teachers create their lesson plans for the upcoming units, which range  from a week to months at a time.  When I started to write my UbD design I had the mentality , that I was writing it for one unit, but I soon realized that was not what was being asked.  I later realized I had to design a UbD for larger units.  I had to combine two units together to make sure that my UbD design fit over  a long period of time.  So I took my Operation units (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) and combined them together.  Once put together it would take about 3 months to teach.  With that in mind developing my UbD design was more difficult than i originally thought.    The following  UbD design is one that I developed for a 4th grade math unit on the four basic math operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division).

Stage 1- Desired Results

Establish Goals:

Students will…

  • Analyze different digital media to create tutorial videos.
  • Add and subtract whole numbers and decimals to the hundredths place.
  • Determine products of a number using properties of operations and place value understanding.
  • Represent the product of 2 two-digit numbers.
  • Multiply up to four-digit number by a one-digit number.
  • Represent the quotient of up to four-digit whole number divided by a one-digit whole number.
  • Interpret remainders.
  • Utilize different strategies to solve real world math problems.
  • Analyze, evaluate and solve one to two step math word problems.
  • Be exposed to different strategies they can use to solve math word problems.
Students will understand that…

  • Using different strategies will help them solve math word problems.
  • Using digital media will help them grow as a learner.
  • Solving math word problems may involve more than one operation.
Essential Questions:

  • How do we analyze word problems to choose the correct math operation(s)?
  • How can we use the created videos to help further student’s learning?
  • How can using different strategies can help solve math word problems?
  • How do all four basic mathematical operations connect?
Students will know…

  • How to solve multi step math word problems using multiple operations.
  • How to analyze a word problem and choose the correct math operation(s) to solve.
Students will be able to…

  • Create tutorial videos.
  • To make connections between the four different math operations.
  • To create a plan for their own learning.

Stage 2- Assessment Evidence

Performance Tasks:

  • Flipped Classroom instructional videos
  • Student-created tutorials
  • STAAR like worksheets
Other Evidence:

  • Quizizzes
  • Small group notebook
  • Providing peer feedback
  • SeeSaw Journal
  • Peer work
  • Exit tickets

Stage 3- Learning Plan

Learning Activities:

1.     Teacher will have students activate prior knowledge of the four basic math operations. W

2.     Students will have a have a small quiz on their prior knowledge. (From this data the teacher will be able to make small groups, prepare for misconceptions for new knowledge.) W, T

3.     Students will be given the url for the instructional videos. (Students will be introduced to each operation one at a time.) W

4.     When student come in the classroom after watching the instructional videos, they will be completing a group project. (Multiday) H

5.     Students will continuously work on math word problems. E

6.     Students will be asked to make short videos using different software. W,H

7.     Students will be completing independent work, peer work and small group instruction on the various math operations. E

8.     Students will design a plan to create their tutorial videos. E, O

9.     Students will collect data based on their completed work in order to tailor their learning. (What they are not mastering? What can they do to master the skill?) E, T, O

10.  Teacher will work with students in small group to fix any misconceptions they may have. R, T

11.  Students will get with a partner to provide feedback on their tutorial videos. R, E

12.  Students will be uploading their videos to SeeSaw. O

W = Help the students know Where the unit is going and What is expected? Help the teacher know Where the students are coming from (prior knowledge, interests)?
H = Hook all students and Hold their interest?
E = Equip students, help them Experience the key ideas and Explore the issues?
R = Provide opportunities to Rethink and Revise their understandings and work?
E = Allow students to Evaluate their work and its implications?
T = Be Tailored (personalized) to the different needs, interests, and abilities of learners?
O = Be Organized to maximize initial and sustained engagement as well as effective learning?

UbD and 3 column table (BHAG)

I found both of these lesson plan models very difficult.  Of the two, the UbD was easier to work with.  Since I had been exposed to this design in the past,  I felt more comfortable using this method..  I believe that UbD design would be more beneficial for lesson plans for smaller period units.  The 3 column table is more suited for long term goals, such as semester term goals.  

I can see myself using both templates for my innovation plan even though the 3 column table is by far more challenging for me.  The way I would use the 3 column table would be to plan the year long goal for my students. This is what I would  show my administrators at the beginning of the year.  The UbD design would be more efficient for my unit lesson plans.  They would be about the skills that I need to teach, what my instruction is going to be, and what activities my students will partake on.




         Fink, L. D. (2003). A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. Retrieved fromhttps://www.deefinkandassociates.com/GuidetoCourseDesignAug05.pdf.


          Wiggins, G., & Mctighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design, expanded 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Aligning Outcomes, Assessments and Activities

t is very important as a teacher to develop an effective lesson plan.  During my undergrad, we were taught to look at the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) and come up with activities to help the students  master the skills.  At the end of the lesson plan, that is when we start to think about what the students should have learned.  Now we are told to look at the ‘end game,’ what is the goal of the student? What is it that they really need to master? How can we achieve this goal?  We are now coached to design our lesson plans around what the student should have learned and their  goal.  

In my graduate course we were asked to look at a new type of planning, the 3 Column Table, based on the work of L.D. Fink (2003).  In his plan, not only do I have to think about how instruction and activities, but also think about the long term.  I have to think about how this skill/standard is going to help them outside the classroom, and how they can continue their learning.  This goes beyond what I have been previously exposed to and it’s not easy.  Coming up with my Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) was so difficult, to this moment I still think I need to tweek it.  I had to step back constantly and think about what I want my students to achieve in the end.

Using the Fink’s guide I came up with a 3 column table for a 4th grade math unit on the four basic math operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) that will run over a three month period.




         Fink, L.D. (2003). A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning.

San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.