Through countless observations and experiences, it is my belief that the majority of teachers and parents have this irresistible urge to rescue students who may be struggling through a task. Sheepishly, I’ll admit to actually taking a pencil out of a student’s hand and solving the problem myself, thus robbing her of the opportunity to fight through discomfort and come out “smarter” on the other end. So often, it’s how we deal with difficult moments in life that helps us grow, learn, and then grow some more! It’s moments of struggle that allow us the opportunity to change perspective and try a different and more successful approach. Productive struggle creates learners with no limits because failure doesn’t deter them from reaching their goals. To fail is to grow!
Employers, college professors, and community leaders of the 21 st century are looking for a certain set of skills that may be hindered by efforts to protect our children from failure. These skills are different from traditional academic standards and refer to a broader set of knowledge, work habits, and character traits that are believed to be critically important to succeed in today’s world. So what does this mean for educators of the 21 st Century learner?
Below is a “Quick Win” list of 4 ways to promote productive struggle with our children.
1. Praise your children for persevering through a problem. Make it a habit to praise effort, even if the answer is incorrect. Make a fuss around those great wrong answers! Soon your children will welcome more challenging problems that require struggle and critical thinking because effort is celebrated.
2. Allow time for children to tinker with ideas. Go Slow to Go Fast. To enrich the learning process, children need time to explore and grapple with the task at hand. Giving opportunities to collaborate and re-adjust thinking pays off in the long run because retention of information will be on a much deeper level…
3. Provide non-routine problems that can’t be solved with formulas. Memorization and drills do not develop critical thinking skills. Instead, offer your children problems that can be approached in different ways. Make sure to have tools available at all times so that they feel comfortable using them to solve creatively whether it’s through objects, pictures, charts, graphs etc.
4. Encourage Growth Mindset. Our brains are malleable … even old brains can learn! Never miss an opportunity to remind your children that they can be successful at anything as long as they keep trying! Shout from the mountaintop that you believe in them! Help them to understand that struggle is just one tiny step away from success!