Why does it matter?
This survey question provides a measure of student-teacher relationships. Asking about approaches to help can also shed light on how teaching practices are developing students’ growth mindsets.
With no struggle comes no progress
Responsive Classroom leans on the words of Frederick Douglass, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress,” to capture the sometimes difficult balancing act of pushing students outside of their comfort zone while also challenging them with new learning. Here are some steps laid out by Responsive Classroom to help educators get this right more often:
Ensure work is appropriately challenging for all
Lev Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) (the difference between what a learner can do without help and what they can’t do) can help teachers design effective lessons and set appropriate goals for students. When students work within their “ZDP” they are drawing on what they already know how to do in order to advance their learning. This is the zone students’ should be in most of the time. The Responsive Classroom recommends Academic Choice as a good practice to help teachers structure the content in their lessons in a way that takes a class’s ranging ZDP zones into consideration. For example, Academic Choice shares information about when a teacher might want to pair a student with a partner, or offer choice when it comes to content.
In trying to make students feel supported, sometimes teachers interrupt a student in the middle of a fruitful session of students’ attempts at grit or perseverance. Appropriately challenging work should be challenging. In order to avoid intervening too early, try to create conditions where students can take ownership of their learning. Here are some guiding questions from the Responsive Classroom to break down what this looks like:
- To invite collaboration:
- “It seems like you could use some help. Would you like a thought partner, or continue to think it through on your own for a bit?”
- “You’ve tried so many ideas! Would you like to try one together?”
- To gain insight:
- “Which of these offered you a little challenge?”
- “Show me how you got started…,” “What did you try next?”, “Then what happened?”
- To extend thinking:
- “What could be some resources in our room that might help you answer that question?”
- “What are some other things you know about _____? How might those ideas apply to your work here?”
- “This is an interesting way of going about _____. What made you think to try it this way?”
Guided Reflection Prompts for Students
- Something that I discovered during my practice today was…
- I used to think _________, but now I know…
- As a result of my work today, my thinking has changed about ______ because…
- Something that felt tricky at first but got easier later on was…