Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Teaching Well: That Just Right Challenge

Children were asked to leap about four grade-levels forward.

Behavior issues began. Discouragement and depression observed. Whining and complaining too.

That's not surprising as when I read about cognition and how we learn, the importance of the "just right challenge" is evident. Few of us can leap ahead four grade levels or increments at a time. That would be like asking me who has no dance experience to compete in Dancing with the Stars. I too would be discouraged and defeated.

This is one of the big issues with the common core standards at the elementary level--the leap is too great for some students for multiple reasons.

I am actually a fan of the Common Core Standards, but would like to see them associated with progression rather than grade level. A progression focus would help us to positively teach every child at a just right challenge level. A progressive approach would mean that students would take tests that level up as their skills grow.  The progressive approach would also help to leap schools forward to more authentic models of teaching and learning.

Our teaching team met at our PLC to discuss this issue. We discussed cognition, programming, and support models. It was a very good conversation. Then today when I was able to differentiate to a better challenge level for a number of students, there was little whining, complaining, discouragement, and despair--as with most children, when the challenge is just right, the eagerness to learn is there.