Moving to productive struggle

From “Mrs. Maas, how do I do this?” to “I finished and helped a friend.

How might we engage more learners simultaneously, offer visible opportunities to show what they know, and personalize feedback, intervention, and enrichment?

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 7.16.14 PM

What if we offer learners pathways to guide progress, actions, and collaboration?  What if we encourage productive struggle by offering guidance about process, actions, and collaboration? What if we intervene with coaching?

In case you cannot read Becky‘s learning progression above, I’ve included an edited version of it here:

  • Level 4:
    I can complete my item, and I can help others with theirs, explaining the circuit.
  • Level 3:
    I can build a wired item for Mom with materials provided.
  • Level 2:
    I can plan a wired item (layout and switch) with help from classmates or Mrs. Maas.
  • Level 1:
    I can get ideas from others on a plan.

Becky guides learners to plan, collaborate, test their independence, and then, when possible, contribute to the success of others. And, through the process, learn about circuits too.

“Collaboration by difference respects and rewards different forms and levels of expertise, perspective, culture, age, ability, and insight, treating difference not as a deficit but as a point of distinction.”  (Davidson, 100 pag.)

When our learners do not know what to do, how do we respond? What actions can we take – will we take – to deepen learning, empower learners, and to make learning personal?


Davidson, Cathy N.  Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. New York: Viking, 2011. Print.

 

Productive struggle and essential feedback

How might we teach and learn more about perseverance? I wish we could rephrase the first Standard for Mathematical Practice to the following:

I can make sense of tasks and persevere in solving them.

Just the simple exchange from problems to tasks make this process standard a little more global for learners.  What if we encourage and expect productive struggle?

Some struggle in learning is good, but there is a key distinction to be made between productive struggle and destructive struggle.  Productive struggle allows students the space to grapple with information and come up with the solution for themselves. It develops resilience and persistence and helps students refine their own strategies for learning. In productive struggle, there is a light at the end of the tunnel; learning goals not only are clear but also seem achievable. Although students face difficulty, they grasp the point of the obstacles they face and believe that they will overcome these obstacles in the end.(Jackson and Lambert, 53 pag.)

How might we make a slight change during the learning process to challenge our learners, to promote productive struggle, to persevere, and to learn, through experience, critical reasoning?

But many people are petrified of bad ideas. Ideas that make us look stupid or waste time or money or create some sort of backlash. The problem is that you can’t have good ideas unless you’re willing to generate a lot of bad ones.  Painters, musicians, entrepreneurs, writers, chiropractors, accountants–we all fail far more than we succeed. (Godin, n. pag.)

What if we reframe “failure” as productive struggle and perseverance?

  • Level 4:
    I can find a second or third solution and describe how the pathways to these solutions relate.
  • Level 3:
    I can make sense of tasks and persevere in solving them.
  • Level 2:
    I can ask questions to clarify the problem, and I can keep working when things aren’t going well and try again.
  • Level 1:
    I can show at least one attempt to investigate or solve the task.

We cannot emphasize enough the power of feedback. Given the right kind of feedback, struggling students can gauge how they are doing and determine what they need to do to get to mastery. It can help students quickly correct their mistakes, select a more effective learning strategy, and experience success before frustration sets in. (Jackson and Lambert, 68 pag.)

How might we highlight many paths to success? What if we make paths to success visible enough for learners to try, risk, question, and learn?

When people believe their basic qualities can be developed, failures may still hurt, but failures don’t define them.   And if abilities can be expanded – if change and growth are possible – then there are still many paths to success.” (Dweck, 39 pag.)


Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: the New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House, 2006. 39. Print.

Godin, Seth. “Seth’s Blog: Fear of Bad Ideas.” Seth’s Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2015.

Jackson, Robyn R. (2010-07-27). How to Support Struggling Students (Mastering the Principles of Great Teaching series). Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development. Kindle Edition.

Maybe we need to think of it as teachnology rather than technology. (TBT Remix)

The time with our learners is limited.  We have to make some very important decisions about how to use this time.  We must consider the economics of our decisions based on the resources we have.  Is it cost effective, cognitively, to spend multiple days on a learning target to master something that a machine will do for us?

Is what we label as problem-solving and critical thinking really problem-solving and critical thinking or is it just harder stuff to deal with?  Can we teach problem-solving and critical thinking in the absence of context?

Do we have a common understanding of what good problem solvers and critical thinkers look like, sound like, and think like?  If we are teaching problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity, shouldn’t we know what that means to us?  Shouldn’t we be able to describe it?

Does technology hamper or enhance a learner’s ability to problem solve and think critically?  I think I might be back to the struggle of using calculators to compute and a spell checker to write.  Do we even know enough to make a decision about technology until we experiment and learn by doing?

If you have not read Can Texting Help Teens with Writing and Spelling? by Bill Ferriter, stop reading this right now to read Bill’s post.  It is a great example of leveraging technology to promote creativity and critical thinking using technology.  Read about having students write 25 word stories.  This is teachnology, not technology.  Tweet, text, type, write on paper – it doesn’t matter – unless you want to publish your work.  The technology, Twitter in this case, aids in the critical thinking; you are restricted to 140 characters.  The technology offers the learner a way to publish and see other published work.

My ability to transport myself from place to place is actually enhanced and improved because of my truck.  I have no idea how my truck works other than gas goes in, step on the brake to stop, R means we are going to go in reverse, etc.  I do not need to understand the mechanics; I can have that done.

I do not need to understand the mechanics; I can have that done.   I don’t need to know how to change the oil in my car.  I need to know that I need to have the oil changed in my car.  And, very important, I don’t need to learn this lesson by experience.  It is too expensive to learn experientially why I must have the oil changed in my car.

Isn’t it too expensive to spend 2-3 days on some topics that we traditionally teach?  Are we getting the biggest bang for our cognitive buck?  Often our learners can’t see the forest for the trees.  They never get to the why because of the how.  Don’t we need to learn when and how to use technology not only to engage our learners, but to increase our cognitive capital?

How can we learn to ask

  • Why are we learning this?  Is this essential?
  • Will technology do this for us so that we can learn more, deeper?
  • Does this have endurance, leverage, and relevance?
  • Shouldn’t we use technology to grapple with the mechanics so the learner shifts focus to the application, the why, the meaning?

Maybe we need to think of it as teachnology rather than technology was originally posted on January 26, 2011.

Fractions with unlike denominators – a lesson plan

Vicki graciously allowed me to teach our 5th graders again today.  Kerry and Marsha gave their time to observe and offer me feedback.

Learning Progression 

Level 4:
I can show what I know in numbers and pictures.

Level 3:  
I can use equivalent fractions to add and subtract fractions.

Level 2:
I can use visual models to add and subtract fractions.

Level 1:
I can decompose fractions into the sum or difference of two fractions.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

photo 2

We used the Navigator to collect responses from all learners prior to going over each task.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 8.24.34 PM

Think of the questions and the peer-to-peer discussions.  There are as many students answering 4/8 as 14/15.  Can you describe the thinking that might yield an answer of 4/8?

IMG_1274

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 12.02.34 PM

How might we work toward making thinking visible? Why is peer-to-peer discourse so important? What if we practice flexibility to show what we know more than one way?

#TEDTalkTuesday: Making ideas clear by visualizing them

Tom Wujec: 3 ways the brain creates meaning

We make meaning by seeing, by an act of visual interrogation. The lessons for us are three-fold. First, use images to clarify what we’re trying to communicate. Secondly make those images interactive so that we engage much more fully. And the third is to augment memory by creating a visual persistence. These are techniques that can be used to be – that can be applied in a wide range of problem solving.

So the act of collectively and collaboratively building the image transforms the collaboration.

Sunni Brown: Doodlers, unite!

There are four ways that learners intake information so that they can make decisions. They are visual, auditory, reading and writing and kinesthetic. Now in order for us to really chew on information and do something with it, we have to engage at least two of those modalities, or we have to engage one of those modalities coupled with an emotional experience. The incredible contribution of the doodle is that it engages all four learning modalities simultaneously with the possibility of an emotional experience. 

Steve Johnson: Where good ideas come from

Pathways to success trump fear of trying

The prodigy was afraid of trying.  “Everything I was going through boiled down to fear.  Fear of trying and failing….If you go to an audition and don’t really try, if you’re not really prepared, if you didn’t work as hard as you could have and you don’t win, you have an excuse….Nothing is harder than saying ‘I gave it my all and it wasn’t good enough.'” (Dweck, 42 pag.)

I wonder how many learners (student-learners and teacher-learners) are afraid of trying and failing.

The result is a violent aversion to risk. You have no margin for error, so you avoid the possibility that you will ever make an error. (Deresiewicz, 22 pag.)

This means there’s a lot of intelligence out there being wasted by underestimating students’ potential to develop. (Dweck, 64 pag.)

When people believe their basic qualities can be developed, failures may still hurt, but failures don’t define them.   And if abilities can be expanded – if change and growth are possible – then there are still many paths to success.” (Dweck, 39 pag.)

How might we highlight many paths to success? What if we make paths to success visible enough for learners to try, risk, question, and learn?


Deresiewicz, William (2014-08-19). Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life. Free Press. Kindle Edition.

Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: the New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House, 2006. 39. Print.

#LL2LU Show your work – grade 4

How might we foster a community of learners where everyone bravely and fiercely seeks feedback?

I was at EduCon in Philadelphia when this tweet arrived last week.

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 3.40.31 PM

Am I showing enough work? How do I know? What if we partner, students and teachers, to seek feedback, clarity, and guidance?Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 3.45.26 PM

Success inspires success.

Yesterday, I dropped by Kato‘s classroom to work on the next math assessment and found our learners working together to apply math and to improve communication.

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 3.54.14 PM

Now, I was just sneaking in to drop off and pick up papers.  But, how could I turn down requests for feedback?

Here’s the #showyourwork #LL2LU progression in the classroom:

Grade 4

Level 4
I can show more than one way to find a solution to the problem.

Level 3
I can describe or illustrate how I arrived at a solution in a way that the reader understands without talking to me.

Level 2
I can find a correct solution to the problem.

Level 1
I can ask questions to help me work toward a solution to the problem.

And here’s one child and her work. “Ms. Gough, will you look at my work? Can you understand it without asking me questions? Is is clear to you?”

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 4.10.55 PM

I see connected words, pictures, and numbers. I like the color coding for the different size bags.  I appreciate reading the sentences that explain the numbers and her thinking.  I also witnessed this young learner improve her work and her thinking while watching me read her work.  She knew what she wanted to add, because she wished I knew why she made the final choice.  I’d call this Level 4 work.

What if we foster a community of learners who bravely and fiercely seek feedback?

Seeking brightspots and dollups of feedback about learning and growth.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,400 other followers

%d bloggers like this: