ARTS AND IDEAS
A right way to struggle?
Several common educational strategies lean into the idea that, in the classroom, challenge is something to embrace.
That may seem misguided when students are reeling from two years of pandemic learning and isolation from their peers. But many educators and scientists say that, as students now look to rebuild academic confidence, it is crucial for parents and teachers to step back when learning becomes difficult and be explicit that the challenge offers rewards.
Often, educators offer students strategies to reframe difficult tasks and get comfortable with a little discomfort. “The answer isn’t taking away challenge, it’s giving more tools to deal with challenge,” a Stanford psychology professor said.
Some educators talk about a “learning pit,” a visual metaphor conceived by a teacher in a former mining town in Northern England for an imaginary place where students go when the material becomes challenging. A student can say to the teacher, “I am in the pit with this” — an easier thing for a child to admit than “I don’t understand.” And a teacher can prepare students to “go into the pit,” as if on a spelunking adventure.
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