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Episode 18: KMT Spotlight- Growth Mindset with Dr. Kendra Thurmond

Updated: Mar 29, 2021

Desiree Harrison 0:00

Today is the first of a new type of episode for our podcast. It’s called the KMT Spotlight which aims to highlight additional voices in the math community and celebrate all of the amazing things happening.

We are looking for additional teachers, teacher educators, and parents for these episodes. If you would like to be a KMT Spotlight guest, email me at or connect with me on Twitter.

Headshot of Dr. Kendra Thurmond
Dr. Kendra Thurmond

Desiree Harrison 1:02

Today's guest is a self-proclaimed lover of all things math, a former district K-6 grade coordinator, and is currently a client experience manager for Dreambox Learning. Welcome, Kendra Thurmond, to the Kids Math Talk Podcast.

Kendra Thurmond 1:21

Thank you so much Desiree for having me. Very excited to be a part.

Desiree Harrison 1:25

Yes. It's a pleasure. And I really should say, Dr. Thurmond, because you have recently successfully defended your dissertation, where the topic is, Exploring the Impact of Growth Mindset Strategies on Mathematics Pre-Service Teachers Beliefs. And, where I saw this, it grabbed me right away, because on our podcast, we talk a lot about beliefs and teacher's beliefs, parents beliefs, and even children's beliefs about themselves and how our beliefs impact our actions and how decisions that we make about teaching and learning and about our own interests even about math, and who we believe is capable about math, and capable of doing math - there's so much involved in that, so tell us, what experiences brought you to this topic, and what were some of your findings from your research.

Kendra Thurmond 2:25

Yes, of course. So, um, initially when I started the program I was still in education, but coming out of education within the program, it made me kind of reach into something a little bit deeper. Typically, they'll say do something that's around what you do in the actual environment where you work. And so being a part of Dreambox, there really was no tie to education, in terms of doing work with teachers and things like that, so I kind of starting thinking - what about pre-service teachers? And just in my previous work in the education environment, I noticed that a lot of my teachers came in with, especially elementary teachers, came in with a mindset of - I'm not good at math, so I don't necessarily know how to teach this to my kids. I want to just do it procedurally. They didn't have a lot of content knowledge around what the topics were that they were teaching to the students.

And, I always considered, what if there were some different growth mindset strategies that were embedded into their pre-service teacher courses to help support then? So, I talked to my professor who is a fantastic person to explore and just kind of like see all the different strategies that he does in his classroom to help promote that mindset. So I talked to him about, you know, would that be something that I could do my topic on. And so when he was like, "yeah, definitely, come on in and see, you know, some of the things that I'm doing," I started kind of exploring what's out there already and what I found was, just from the research, is that there's nothing really in place that is a set curriculum to embed that into a pre-service educator's course. There's topics around it that you see when you go to the classroom. It's a big buzz word right now, into the actual math classroom, but nothing to help support teachers in exploring what that looks like.

So I kind of explored some different strategies that we talk about in growth mindset to kind of help support that, such as questioning and reflecting on your own journey as you're taking the opportunity to go through these different concepts that the students are exploring and just understanding what they have to learn. And reflecting on how you take that same opportunity to explore those content topics as well. So just having a chance to go in and observe what the teacher did, or excuse me, what my professor did with those teachers, was pretty eye opening. He started off with talking to them about growth mindset and just- what do you believe when you first come into education? Or what do you believe just in general?

And then taking that data and correlating it to what he did throughout to see if there was any change or shift in their beliefs at the end of the semester. And so it was pretty cool to see the shifts and the changes in the teachers, the pre-service teachers, based off of the experiences that they had. He embedded a lot of 3-act tasks, and exploration activities, and just the questioning and the reflection opportunities. They did a lot of journaling, and different things like that to just kind of give them an opportunity to reflect on how things were going. So it was pretty cool to see the shift there and how they did that.

Desiree Harrison 5:44

That would be really cool to see. And, I've had conversations with other people about the- what you were saying about nothing necessarily being there in the pre-service curriculum to explicitly and specifically address bias and address their own beliefs and how that is so crucial if we're ever actually going to accomplish what we're always talking about with the beliefs. Because it's - once you're a practicing teacher, it's a lot harder to have these sit down conversations and to just explore what you're thinking because you're in it. You are the one who's responsible. It's so needed, so it's so comforting to hear that these conversations are starting to happen to make that change.

And I also heard you talking about the growth mindset and having the 3-act tasks and the journals, which I'm making the assumption that a lot of these teachers did not experience when they were students going through their K-12 education, and how being in that and having those experiences is going to help them live that change instead of just reading about it.

Kendra Thurmond 7:07

You are right on target with that.

Transcript in Progress

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