Wednesday, July 2, 2014

#70Days - Constructive Struggle on #EduRead!


It's Wednesday! At 8 pm Central Time join us for #EduRead on Twitter!

Tonight we are discussing an article from the book entitled, “Faster isn’t Smarter: Messages about math, teaching, and learning in the 21st century.” This essay is about “constructive struggling!” If you like this essay, check out these others posted on the Math Solutions website!

The author, Cathy Seeley, states in her introduction, 

“I began to wonder whether our compassion for students and our desire for all students to succeed might in fact be disadvantaging them.” 

 And from that point I was hooked!  Seeley agrees that we cannot just copy the models of other countries, but we definitely spoon-feed our students too much.  We tend to remove the complexity from problems in an effort to make math less frustrating for our students.

A look at those American classrooms where teachers and students invite complexity shows that the kind of mathematics problems students can really sink their teeth into  (and consequently might struggle with) are often more interesting and engaging than the problems we have traditionally provided in math classrooms. It turns out that offering students a chance to struggle may go hand in hand may go hand in hand with motivating them, if we do it right.

Here’s my dissection of constructive struggle vs pointless frustration:

see saw.pngThe trick seems to be to find just the right balance so that the struggle that students experience is constructive, instructive and not frustrating.

Seeley says, “If we do our job well and make students think just a little harder, we can prepare them to take on some of the most difficult problems we face today as well as the unknown problems we are likely to face tomorrow.”

So the big questions are … how can you determine the right amount of frustration for any given student on any given day … and how long do you let students wrestle with a question before increasing the help that you give?

One strategy I plan to use are the "stoplight" cups - red, green, yellow. You can read about them in @druinok's blog on formative assessment.

I also want to add a reflection questionnaire to go with each test. I realize this will be after the fact.  But I am hoping that as the year progresses this feedback will help me know my students better and help them to know themselves better as well. These are the questions I'm thinking about asking:
1. How much of the homework did you do in this unit?  (most, some, little, none)
2. Did you complete the study guide for the test? (most, some, little, none)
3. How would you rate this test?  (challenging, reasonably difficult, average, quite easy)
4. What question was the most challenging for you?
5. What question do you think I should have asked on this test but didn't?

I'm looking forward to our chat, #EduRead!

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