More about Stretching to Learn . . .

December 15th, 2016

Through an organizational planning process, our leadership team identified “stretching to learn,” as our thematic goal for the year.  It is our belief that if we design our teaching and learning activities around that concept of stretching to learn and embracing productive struggle, our students will learn and grow at the highest possible levels.  This goal has been embraced by teachers, support staff, and students; and the fruits of this approach are showing up in great ways!

Stretching to learn, or productive struggle, goes beyond passive reading, listening or watching.  It builds useful lasting understanding and skills that engage learners in the “whys” and “hows” of life.  Students who are stretching to learn explain their ideas and question solutions that don’t make sense to them.  They take risks and willingly struggle with ideas and concepts that are unclear or incomplete.  They recognize that mistakes are a means to learning and not an end.

Twice a year, a team of administrators, instructional coaches and teachers conduct instructional rounds visits in each building.  We observe teachers and students during instruction and gather evidence of instructional practices that enhance learning.  Because we feel strongly in developing the mindset and skill of stretching to learn, we are making that the focus of this year’s visits. 

We have completed one visit at each building and it is clear that our students have embraced a mindset of stretching to learn and that our teachers and support staff are intentional about challenging students and requiring them to think (struggle).  The key, and one being managed exceptionally well, is keeping that struggle productive – providing the right questions or assistance to keep the student moving forward without robbing them of the opportunity to discover and learn for themselves.

This is summed up well by the words and actions of a student at the middle school during our last instructional rounds visit.  He had been working with a team of his peers to develop a shared Google document that they were going to collaboratively utilize outside of school to complete the class assignment.  The members of his team had differing opinions on how to best accomplish the task.  The teacher had provided enough information for the task to be completed, but had given the students enough responsibility that they were going to have to figure things out (productively struggle).  The student and his teammates persisted and made great progress.  As they were leaving the class, the student thanked the teacher and quipped, “Oh yeah!  We embrace the struggle so we can learn.”

That attitude will serve him well and I am grateful to our team of educators for making it a priority to instill it in all of our students.  We should all be wise enough to “embrace the struggle so we can learn!”



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