Struggle is Good

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

What is appropriate struggle and how can I support?

Skilled teachers seem to have that knack for knowing how long they should their students struggle before intervening. Experience and time with a class helps a great deal here, and with practice we get better and better at it. It is vital we introduce or factor in ‘struggle time’ and after a period of time we may give the answer, or better yet, the suggested strategy for getting there. The latter helps to build resilience over time and avoid repetitions of being ‘stuck’.

The ‘sweet spot’

Affording the right amount of struggle relates to the idea of surface and deep learning described by Professor John Hattie where ‘surface’ is not about superficial learning, but rather the time when students are initially exposed to concepts, skills and strategies. It is critical as it provides the foundation on which to build upon and move to deep learning. Deep learning is the time when students consolidate their understanding and begin to apply and extend knowledge – that ‘sweet spot’ of learning that often takes more time and requires the foundations to be established first. If we intervene too often too soon we hinder the opportunity to develop surface learning into deep learning. If we pursue challenge and struggle for the sake of it and plough on regardless then it is likely we will have not laid the foundations well enough.

As an example a History class may be writing an essay exploring and evaluating events that led up to Reformation. The teacher may feel after a period of time it is clear that the class don’t have the secure knowledge of the chronology of key events in order to write the essay well. Here the skill of the teacher will be to stop, address the surface learning (explain events again or where to find relevant information) and then launch back into the deeper evaluative written work.

‘BBBB’ and Steps to Success at MACS

During March 2020, two approaches to independence and ‘supported struggle’ were considered and introduced. These have been blogged about on this website in more detail here, visit that page to read more about it and download copies of the resources which were produced for the school.

Associated further reading and references:

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