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Facing Challenges not Avoiding Them

The concept of a growth mindset has received great traction in the educational community.  If you are not familiar with the work of Carol Dweck, please watch either of the videos below to get some more information.

TedTalk (~10 min.)

EdWeek Keynote with Q & A (~ 60 min.)

A key takeaway for me here is how we address student "weaknesses".  In an environment where choice is allowed in terms of accessing, engaging, and expressing, it can be easy to fall into a pattern where we allow students to only operate in modes that they are strong in.  If students aren’t encouraged to work in multiple modes, this can reinforce the idea of the fixed mindset.

This is something I have seen in my classroom.  Students will continue to choose one form of assessment because it presents the least amount of challenge to demonstrate what they know and are able to do.  I am hoping to change this for term 4 in my classroom. I am not going to be removing choice from my classroom or forcing students into options.  I still think it is essential that when measuring content knowledge that I remove barriers there.  But, I want students to face a challenge and look at the process of trying new strategies, reflecting on their success, and asking what else can I try.  As a part of their term reflection, I asked students to identify a challenge in class that they feel is important to their future that they would like to address. This was an attempt to get them to start thinking about a challenge even before I introduced the idea of facing challenges.
You will see that some of these challenges are specific to high school coursework; some push a little beyond.

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In May, after the unavoidable content push towards AP testing, we will spend 5 weeks looking at these challenges.  Students will hone in on a specific challenge to address.  I will be developing a framework for them to track their progress over those weeks.  They will be trying out strategies and reflecting on the results of those strategies.  It is my hope that students will find a thoughtful way in which they will be able to face a challenge that may not be physics specific. It is the process we will be looking at. Five weeks is a very short amount of time.  In the process, I hope they will perhaps achieve some small victories if not in results perhaps in attitude towards failure.  

In a meta sense, I am testing out my own new strategy. I will be testing this framework over the course of 5 weeks. I will be questioning myself and reflecting on the process. It’s only 5 weeks of work, but I hope it will become a template I can scale out next school year. It is so important that we help students see that so much can be learned from failure and it is not the end of the process.

This could be an utter failure. But if it is, think how much I could learn from it!

I will be crafting the framework I hope to deploy over the next 3 weeks. I am optimistic at the possibilities that could results from this.

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