Thursday, November 13, 2014

Embrace the Struggle!

     I am always trying to think of better ways to teach my students math and reading and everything.  I often reflect after a lesson, especially a lesson that doesn’t go well, and try to figure out what I could have done differently to better to enhance learning and understanding.
     My biggest realization in this reflection has been that as a teacher, I don’t let my kids struggle enough.  I know that sounds counterintuitive – they are supposed to learn from me, not struggle in class.  It’s hard for me not to respond immediately to a plaintive “I don’t understand this – help me.”
     The brain is like a muscle – the more you use it, the more it grows.  Scientists have found that intelligence grows most when we make mistakes doing difficult tasks rather than repeatedly having success with easy tasks.

     A study by Dr. Carol Dweck from Stanford University shows that people tend towards one of two learning mindsets – fixed or growth. Fixed mindsets mistakenly believe that people are either smart or not smart – that intelligence is genetic. Growth mindsets correctly believe that intelligence can grow through effort, struggle, and failure. If you only focus on tasks that are easy for you, you limit your learning.
     Fortunately, teachers and parents can change this. One thing we can do is follow what Dr. Dweck and others have developed called “growth mindset interventions.” Instead of praising a perceived strength by saying “You are so smart”, we need to praise our student’s learning process by saying things such as “I really like how you struggled with that problem.”
     We, both parents and teachers, need to let our students struggle with learning, make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes. We need to acknowledge the effort a student puts into learning, and the growth that comes from making mistakes and then learning from the mistake.
     Together, let’s guide the process of learning. We need to let our children make mistakes, and then guide them to take pride in their struggle to learn. I’m trying to help my kids embrace the struggle – come join me!

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