On Changing Minds

It’s a bit like hiking through a cool, shaded forest on a crisp autumn morning.  It’s quite cold as I wander down the trail, enjoying the occasional beams that find its way through the canopy to my frigid body.  The trek seems never ending. Am I lost? Will I ever feel the enduring warmth of the sun again?

Looking ahead, I believe I’ve spotted it.  A welcome oasis of sunlight. As I enter the clearing, exiting the dark for the light, I thrust my chest out, my head upward, and arms out wide, accepting the warmth as  rejuvenation for the body, mind, and soul.

And so it is wandering through education research and writing; always searching for more to know, more to read, more to apply in the classroom.  It can be daunting and overwhelming.  It can be confusing as philosophies are questioned and challenged.  How does this information support or counter other theories?  What do I even believe anymore? 

And then it happens.  


The ‘ah-ha’ moment.   

Reading a particular article, book, or even tweet can allow for that serendipitous moment.   


I get it now.

Through the deluge of growing information, it all clicks.  It makes sense. Clarity from a forest of confusion.

I was fortunate enough to experience this beautiful, yet ephemeral, moment a couple of weeks ago.  While chatting on twitter about myths of education and difficult conversations with colleagues about their beliefs, Dr. Oliver Caviglioli commented with the following tweets:

What would you need to hear to convince you otherwise?

So simple and poignant.  This question represents purpose; purpose for writing, for presenting, for debating on social media, for learning.  Why participate in any of these arenas if there’s no thoughtful consideration of another’s beliefs? Why engage if there’s no possibility of changing your mind?  You’re just wasting your time, right?

After a few days of contemplating Oliver’s tweets, I thought of different areas where this applies to my professional career; most notably as both a learner and a teacher.  

As a Learner

While participating in professional development or social media debates, do I seriously consider what it would take to change my mind?  Am I open to hearing others’ beliefs, opinions, and research? As a person who participates frequently in edchats, where topics are typically known before the actual chat, I know I’ve been guilty of writing off a chat because of the topic; believing I already know what I know and I don’t need more information.  I’ve already made up my mind. The end. This same scenario can be applied to professional development sessions. Am I open to being convinced? If not, am I wasting my time? Am I wasting others’ time? What possibly could I learn? This close-minded approach is no good. It can lead to holes on one’s beliefs and biases that can impact the classroom.  Just as we ask our students to be open and willing to learn, we should do the same.

As a Teacher

On the flip side, when presenting, teaching, or writing, is my audience really considering what it might take to change their mind?  I highly doubt it. To be quite honest, I don’t believe I’ve ever entered a professional development with the mindset of, “Ok…if the presenter can show me three pieces of evidence that support his/her claim and refute my beliefs, I’ll change my mind.”  It actually sounds quite absurd to try and quantify it like that, really. But it’s still valuable to consider the overarching sentiment.

I believe I will start my future presentations this way.  Just a slide:

What will it take for me to change your mind about ____________?

A powerful approach, just to get the audience considering the topic with an open mind.  What do I need to do to get you to stop using learning styles inventories to rate and differentiate your classroom?  What do you need to hear/see to make you reconsider your beliefs about the statistics used on the learning pyramid?

For someone who has strong beliefs in these two myths or really anything to do with the classroom, that is a powerful question that is rarely actually considered by presenters, writers, teachers, students, parents, administrators, et cetera.  

I think it could positively change the way debates are had in the classroom, how presentations are listened to and considered, and increase the substance of edchats.  All with just considering one question:

What would it take for you to change your mind?

I hope this has provided some clarity and sunlight for you.  I’m off to the woods again.

4 thoughts on “On Changing Minds

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  1. This may be one of my favorite blogs of yours. It not only makes me question my thoughts of how to approach a debate, it makes me question my own thoughts when I dig my heels in…and I can’t wait to use it in my classroom.

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