Productive Student Struggle

So, I’m about four weeks into the new year after being out of the classroom for six years.  I can tell the honeymoon is over. As an Instructional Designer, I had noticed for years the Teacher aversion to including productive struggle into their lessons.  It wasn’t until now, that I understand why.

Sir Ken Robinson talks about creativity being killed in modern education over and over.  He’s even written a book about it. If you read other modern educational reformation books, you start to see other buzz words too, like grit.  I think that creativity and grit are the symptoms and end results of a problem that we as educators are facing. When I was teaching Fine Arts, I know my students were Creative.  However, what they struggled with was Curiosity. I think that maybe by spoon-feeding our curriculum to students, we’ve created a class of student who isn’t curious, and by default, less creative.  

Similarly, I am beginning to wonder if the same can be said about grit.  Perhaps because we have spoon-fed our curriculum by walking them through every detail of the processes, students don’t know how to struggle.  They want to give up and try again, just like in a Video Game. The problem is that they can’t look up the cheat codes on YouTube for something a teacher creates to be a productive struggle.  If they persevere, we say they have grit. So grit is a product of struggle just like creativity is a product of curiosity.

You can’t teach someone how to swim without water, so perhaps the solution is to increase the amount of productive struggle we put the students in to learn.  As a default, they learn how to persevere and can be said to have grit.

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