Surface and Deep Structure
May 6, 2011
A Closer Look at Surface Structure
July 15, 2011

Optimizing for Ownership

“Optimize for ownership” is a phrase we use often here at Nurturing Wisdom. With ownership comes a sense of control, of investment, and of pride. We believe that optimizing for ownership ultimately results in engaged, high-quality work amongst our team. But we don’t limit this approach to the adults at Nurturing Wisdom; we want all of our students to take ownership, too! How do we accomplish this? Erin, one of Nurturing Wisdom Tutoring’s owners, explains here.

Establish high expectations and clear goals. When I meet with students, I tell them that the tutor will teach them content and strategies, but it is dedicated and consistent work on the student’s part that will lead to improved grades and scores. Meeting regularly, completing homework, and taking practice tests are some of the major steps students take to achieve their goals. But working with a can-do attitude, asking questions, and learning from mistakes are just as important. Students take an active, rather than passive, role in their learning.

Establish routines. We teach students how to effectively use their assignment notebooks, we help them create a system of folders and binders, and we show them how to study a little bit every day. They will learn interactive study strategies, and they will learn how to self-advocate. Working through a process of modeling, guided practice, and finally independent practice, our goal is for students to internalize and apply what they’ve learned from their tutor. Students get to know their own process of learning, which helps them take charge of their learning.

Establish a growth mindset. We sometimes hear from parents and students that they’re disappointed in a score or a grade. At Nurturing Wisdom, we avoid using the dreaded D-word! We encourage families to look beyond that brick wall to figure out what the student needs to work on. A shift in attitude will often reveal what a student has done well.

One example of this happens with ACT tutoring. On the ACT, students may have a lower reading score on their mid-test than their pre-test. But when we look closer at the student’s mid-test, we may find that errors are clustered in the final passage. When errors are evenly distributed throughout the reading section of the pre-test, students show a need for comprehension and test-strategy work. But when errors are clustered at the end of the section, we see that timing is the real issue. Rather than feeling disappointed in a lower score, we will celebrate this shift and focus on timing strategies. Students are armed with a sense of control and optimism when we take this tack.

I love hearing about improved grades and scores as much as anyone, but what is really music to my ears is hearing about a student’s increased confidence and ability to transfer skills. By optimizing for ownership, we create lifelong independent learners.