Opening Minds by Peter Johnston


About a month ago, while browsing through Twitter I came across the hashtag #cyberpd and a tweet by Laura Komos that encouraged people to read the book Opening Minds by Peter Johnston and join a group that was going to discuss the book in July. I decided that I would jump straight in and ordered the book. Well, the book took a long time to get to Australia and I have only recently received my copy. Even though I started behind everyone else I am still hoping to be able to keep up.

Here are the most important things that I have taken away from chapters 1-3:

Chapter One is called “Choosing Words, Choosing Worlds”. I think this sums up the first point nicely. The words we choose to use in our classrooms help to create and define the classroom worlds for our students and ourselves (page 1). It is important to remember that we as teachers have a huge role to play in shaping our classroom worlds. I loved on page 1 when Peter Johnston described a time when one of his nieces said “I need a bigger world”. This made me think, what are we doing to create a bigger world for our students?

I have been involved in a conference called PLNLEAD which looks at how to lead in a networked world. As a result most of what I am reading and learning about at the moment comes back to creating sustainable local and global connections for my class and how to encourage others to expand their “worlds” and make connections.

I think it is important to reflect on the words we use and how we can challenge our students to move forward and not stand still. The example in Chapter Two that talked about the word ‘yet’ made me think about how something as small as the word yet can make such a difference. If we challenge students to think of the areas they need to work on as areas they haven’t yet mastered instead of areas they will never understand we give students the power to influence their own learning. Just a simple shift in mindset can result in a student believing in themselves and in turn achieving what they thought they couldn’t.

In Chapter Two, Peter Johnston mentions two types of students. Those who adopt a fixed-learning frame and those who adopt a dynamic learning frame. Students who adopt the fixed-learning frame think of themselves as never being good at something or already being smart at something. Those with a dynamic-learning frame consider that if they work hard they will be able to achieve anything. We need to encourage our student to adopt a dynamic-learning frame so they can learn as much as they can and expand their “worlds”.

Chapter Three discusses the need for students to see that they are on a learning journey and to recognise how far they have come. Students who view themselves as dynamic learners realise the importance of learning from mistakes and are not afraid to get things wrong. I think it is so important for teachers to encourage students to take risks and to have a go in the safe environment of the classroom. Page 32 talks about asking the questions “What are you thinking?” and “How did you do that?” These two questions open up many possibilities for teachers to encourage students to see the power of their learning.

Term Three begins for my State tomorrow. I hope that with a new term I can bring a fresh mindset to my classroom and continue to help my students to value their learning journey as much as I value my own.

7 thoughts on “Opening Minds by Peter Johnston

  1. Aimee,
    I’m glad your book finally arrived and you have joined the #cyberPD conversation. You have me thinking about this question you posed, “What are we doing to create a bigger world for students?” In the last few years of developing a more global learning community I have come to realize how much I benefit in learning from such a wide variety of people. This more global collaborative conversation has helped me to learn of new possibilities in making the world bigger for my students. You mention sustainable local/global connections and their significance in building a dynamic learning framework. You’ve given me much to ponder.


  2. Like Cathy, I was blown away by your question: “What are we doing to create a bigger world for our students?”

    This is such a great question and I will need to think about it for a while. I know that this is definitely something that I need to consider as I get ready to start the new school year soon.

  3. Hi Aimee

    It was great to meet you last Friday the Eastern Region Network. Since chatting to you in the group I have been curious to see some of the learning you have been doing with others, especially your students. Like other comments here, I too am very interested in the idea of creating a bigger world for our students. The insight you shared with the group on Friday, where you said your next step with your blog was to explore ways to create sustained connections within the blog environment, links nicely to this. A bigger world could be interpreted as having more connections across the globe (which is great) and also a bigger world could mean deep and sustained relationships that open us to perspectives of others. Your discussion in the group seemed that you are exploring both of these.

    • Hi Jayne-Louise,
      Thanks for your comment and the lovely email your sent via Paul. I enjoyed sharing my journey and hearing the feedback from the group. I definitely think there are different ways to interpret “a bigger world” and that’s what I like about the phrase. I hope that next year I can build on this idea and make some of the sustained connections that I spoke about.

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