Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Encouraging Productive Struggle

Last weekend I posted my thoughts about valuing "math behaviors" and the need to help students recognize some of the more "affective" sides to learning math.

The more I have been thinking about it, the more I think teachers need to talk about this--we tend to get so caught up in the "rigor" discussion that we forget to talk about how to help our students navigate this challenge.  The behaviors needed to become more growth-minded CAN be taught.  Research shows that students who can adopt this mind set can actually change the connections in their brain that lead to increased learning.  Pretty powerful stuff.

If you aren't familiar with the work of Carol Dweck out of Stanford, I highly recommend you begin there.  She has done vast amounts of research on many topics--but what has really been coming to the forefront of late is the idea of a "Growth Mindset".  The studies are staggering...and really stress the importance of our role as teachers to put students in situations where they can learn to handle new situations, that they can VALUE struggle, that they learn about taking risks, and that learning is NOT about getting the right answer.
My challenge to you this week is to spend a little time reading about her work...and I have included a short video clips to get you started.  I thought I'd also start by brainstorming a list of a few ways that you could begin to give your students more experiences with "productive struggle"...and I'd love for you to chime in with more ideas!

So...let's hear it!  Is this something you are talking about at YOUR school?  Are you doing things in your classroom to nurture this?  Let's hear about it!  Thanks for stopping by...


  1. You always write such thoughtful posts, Meg. One of the things I've been doing in my (2nd grade) classroom is to move away from looking for one correct answer, especially during group discussions. This has encouraged my students to talk to each other, take risks, and step outside their comfort zone. (Sometimes I even tell them at the beginning that there's no right or wrong answer.) To encourage this, I don't always tell them what I think, or what I agree with. I ask students at the end of the discussion if anyone has changed their mind or thinks about something differently than at the beginning of the conversation. I want them to understand how much we learn from each other, and that our understanding becomes deeper with time and practice.
    Thanks again for this post!
    One Lucky Teacher

  2. Thanks, Erica...I think this is SUCH an important topic for educators to be discussing!