How to get kids to take academic risks

photo of girl studying from behind herFrom the Washington Post, Valerie Strauss shares the 6th in a series of essays about letting students struggle in class.  She shares the essay by Valerie May who talks about her biology class in relation to Carol Dweck’s growth mindset.  She writes:

“The power of Dweck’s theory lies in a teacher’s ability to help students shift from a fixed to a growth mindset. I teach AP Biology to high ability sophomores, many of whom come to the course with fixed-mindsets. Within a few weeks of beginning the course, they realize that this course is unlike any in their past, and frustration begins to take hold. Many will admit that their success in school has usually come with minimal effort. Typically the top students in their classes, they are not accustomed to struggling and find it uncomfortable seeking help. They have learned to associate assistance with a lack of ability.

While the primary focus of my course is biology, significant time is spent learning how to learn while creating an environment where students feel safe taking academic risks. Effort is expected, and students learn there is no shame in an incorrect response as long as effort has been put forth and they have learned from their mistakes. In-class activities and homework assignments are purposeful in their design to provide students with opportunities to practice the learning that will lead to success while not being overly time-consuming. Frequent, low-stakes opportunities are provided for students to assess their progress while allowing me to provide ungraded formative feedback. Many of these opportunities for feedback prior to a test are voluntary. Rather than complying with a teacher’s demand, I want students to see that seeking assistance is a choice they can make to improve the understanding. This helps them to develop into empowered learners….”

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  • Nathan S. Gibson

    Nathan S. Gibson is an independent worker compliance business partner who provides expertise and creative solutions to enhance workforce flexibility and maintain compliance. He helps mitigate the risks associated with the misclassification of self-employed consultants, freelancers and independent contractors.

3 thoughts on “How to get kids to take academic risks

  1. It sounds as if the teachers are trying to encourage active learning. This is awesome! This way, students automatically don’t realize they need help. They know they can do the work on their own and seek help for the tougher homework problems. It’s a good way to teach independence at a young age.

  2. Wish my children had experienced her classroom – things were far too rote in most of their classes (with about four notable exceptions). When I was in school, we were required to create science projects each year. My favorite project was not the two where I won a prize. Instead, I still love the project where I tried to recreate perpetual motion using moving water (powered by a battery-operated, water wheel I made myself) set at an angle to capture just the right degree on the earth’s rotation. It failed miserably and the C grade that counted double toward our grade that marking period forced me to work doubly hard to get As on the tests so I’d end up with a B. But I still think about that project and wonder if I were just a tad off on the earth’s rotation calculations and, therefore, just shy of a rousing success. Kudos to the teacher and good luck to all your students.

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