Friday, September 18, 2015

Productive Struggle: Teaching Well

It's always interesting to note the words that stay with you after you read a book. Recently I read Principals to Action, Ensuring Math Success for All and the words that stayed with me were "productive struggle."

What is productive struggle?

Productive struggle is struggle that is rightly challenging and forward moving. This struggle is not overwhelming or defeating, but struggle enough to develop good learning. We can see this kind of struggle supported in the video below:

How is productive struggle exemplified in your own life and work?

How do you promote productive struggle in the classroom?

This year, my teaching/learning efforts are filled with productive struggle. Rather than some of the oppressive struggle that I've experienced in the past, this year I'm experiencing productive struggle in the following ways:
  • Implementing a relatively new shared model of teaching with colleagues.
  • Teaching math and STEAM with greater depth and personalization.
  • Teaching teacher candidates how to teach math to elementary school students.
All three of my main efforts this year are worthy and positively challenging goals. I believe in those goals and I know there's lots to learn to achieve the goals with strength.

Similarly, I will make ever effort to connect student learning and struggle with meaning, relevance, scaffolding, and systematic, strategic process to learn math and engage in STEAM problem/project based learning.

To face productive struggle with confidence and strength, I'll emphasize the following:
  • reflection and analysis
  • goal setting
  • planning and design
  • modeling, coaching, and collaboration
  • taking risks, making mistakes, and learning from them
  • acknowledging goals met and celebration
I'll be thinking a lot about productive struggle this year, and I'll also use that term with students as the year moves forward.

How do you promote productive struggle in your own life and the life of your students? In what ways is that approach working to improve your craft and living? Why does this emphasis matter with regard to teaching children well?