P. Robert-Jan Simons graduated from the University of Amsterdam in the specialty of (developmental and educational) Psychology in 1973 and has worked as a researcher in the universities of Amsterdam, Nijmegen, and Tilburg in the Netherlands. He received his Ph.D. on the role of concrete analogies in learning from Tilburg University in 1981. In 1990, he became a professor of educational psychology at the University of Nijmegen and in 2001, at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. He has been the director of institutes for educational research, teacher training and school leadership. In 2014, he became an independent consultant and researcher, managing his own company “Visie op leren” (vision of learning). Simons has been the president of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI). His main research topics include (digital) learning, (peer-) feedback, learning styles, mind-sets, professional learning, leadership of learning, assessment of learning, and organisational learning. He has written and edited books on learning and instruction, work-related learning, and new learning, as well as over 250 articles and book chapters.
Mindshifts related to learning
A mindset consists of a complex combination of knowledge, emotions, attitudes and behavioural tendencies. A mindshift is a fundamental shift in a mindset. Three of these mindshifts will be discussed: from fixed mindset to growth mindset, from assessment of learning to assessment from and assessment as learning, and from surface to deeper learning. The first mindshift is based on research by Carol Dweck, who showed that students as well as teachers have 2 different mindsets: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence and general abilities such as creativity, curiosity and critical thinking cannot be changed because of their genetic determination. Growth mindsets take as a point of reference that intelligence and general abilities can develop through learning and practice: you can learn anything. These mindsets are highly changeable, such as through rewards and feedback. Research reviews show that having a growth mindset is the best predictor of learning success because of its relation to students who have high expectations. Therefore, it is important that teachers and parents help students to develop and maintain a growth mindset. The second mindshift is about assessment. Recent research shows that two ways of assessment are better for learning: assessment for learning and assessment as learning. The first is a form of assessment that helps students to learn and takes place during learning. The second (“as learning”) is a form of self-testing: students learn best when they continuously assess themselves. The mindshift here involves the realisation that formative assessment and self-assessment are important drivers for learning. The third mindshift is the one from surface learning to deeper learning. Besides surface learning directed at memorisation and knowledge, there is an upcoming need for deeper ways and outcomes of learning. This pertains, among other things, to unfamiliar application and use in new situations (contextualisation), thinking critically about knowledge, solving problems with knowledge attained, using knowledge creatively, and relating and integrating various separate knowledge elements.