Language for Framing Challenge

Resources, ideas and prompts for discussion related to Challenge and Engagement

A final word, on the words we use!

Our language and the things we say, and indeed the way we say them, is the main communication method of our expectations and beliefs about our students and their so-called potential.

Much has been made of the work of Dr. Carol Dweck and mindsets and this page is not a detailed critical analysis of that as such, however it is considering some language that Allison and Tharby have found, and discussed in ‘Making Every Lesson Count’, that can be more conducive to learning and supports learners to engage with challenge:

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  • Dweck advocates the use of “yet”, we don’t want to overcook this so it becomes a bit gimmicky, however most proclamations of “I can’t do it!” can be followed by a “…yet!”. We need to reinforce that learning takes time, and mastery takes even longer. Too often students focus on the finished product they see in others and do not have awareness of the struggle and the journey that was unseen.
  • “If it is not excellent, it is not finished” – said with integrity and belief, it can become a mantra for a class who will wish to strive for better.
  • When our learners get stuck, leave them there for a few minutes, don’t intervene too quickly, ask them to “keep thinking about it and try to……I will be back in five minutes”.
  • A tough one for teachers to digest but how about “there is no such thing as clever” – at least as an opener to discussion about mindsets, rather than compounding the myth that intelligence is fixed and static, discuss the fact that it can be developed with sustained effort and hard work. We know this as adults, we know this how memory and learning works, but we often fail or forget to reinforce it.
  • When really stuck try to re-frame things, if they can be reminded of a time when they were not stuck? “I know you can do this as I remember when you…”
  • Some schools have adopted the approach of really promoting the language of their subject/subject experts and model it and expect its use in answers and response; “in this room we speak like a scientist/writer/musician” and so on to hammer home the expectation of key and accurate language. This can also be used with “write like a…” as shown in the example for History, below.
‘Write like an Historian’ resource by Hannah Collis (@HistoryCollis on Twitter) – framing language for challenge through writing

Associated further reading and references:

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