Helping students embrace productive struggle

Students may not be too excited to embrace the idea of productive struggle. However, time spent in the struggle is important because it stimulates brain growth and helps to produce that growth mindset. Time spent in the productive struggle is also important because it gives students hope when they can recall those moments of struggle that resulted in success. These memories help to ease the tension and destroy the limitations that students may believe they have. As a leader, it’s important to place students in a position to develop hope. Students who are full of hope are more likely to take risks and bounce back after failure. Here are four tips you can use to encourage students to be comfortable with productive struggle

1. Focus them on the process and not the outcome

The question at the end of the day is: did you do it right? If you did it right, then the desired outcome should follow. Focus student attention on making sure that their effort is precise. This includes not taking shortcuts, following instructions completely and avoiding procrastination.

2. Self talk

Words have tremendous power. Students who don’t understand this principle often use their words as a reason for their lack of production or improvement. This is a learned behavior and it convinces the student that it’s possible that growth in a particular area is impossible. Equip students with power phrases they can use to defeat doubt and fill themselves with encouragement. Assisting students in this area will be an ongoing process because you are helping them break habits they have formed over time.

3. Have students journal about their learning

If students sense that they are growing and that the struggle has meaning, they will be more likely to engage in it longer. Give students 5 to 7 minutes at the beginning or end of each class to think about and write down what they have learned and mastered. You can also encourage them to think about how their prior learning help them move forward new learning.

4. Teach students to Identify when they need help and Seek it

For numerous reasons, some students have a hard time asking for help. This results in a silent struggle that leads to frustration. Students with high emotional intelligence are able to correctly identify where they need assistance while at the same time managing any negative emotions that may come as a result of being stuck. Help students deal with being stuck by helping them to focus their attention on what specifically has resulted in them being stuck in a struggle. Do this by teaching them how to simply reverse-engineer the process by retracing their steps and getting a better understanding of why they are in need of help.

How do you help students embrace the notion of a productive struggle? Leave a comment below.


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