Online Learning and the Productive Struggle
The concept of a productive struggle involves presenting work that is challenging yet has educational value that carries over into more than one content area. The main intention is to move students forward and encourage them to further explore the content. It also enables students to apply the skills acquired from the lesson to other areas relating to problem solving and creativity.
What does Science Say about Productive Struggle?
When incorporated in a constructive manner, the productive struggle truly contributes to both the student’s academic progress, as mentioned, and to his or her cognitive development. In other words, just the right amount of rigor engages multiple parts of the brain that contribute toward learning such as myelin, neurons, and synapses. The pathways between these parts can be compared to highways that are constructed by thoughts and actions related to creativity and innovation.
So, when a student is engaged in an online lesson that includes age-appropriate difficulty, the cognitive areas of the brain are even more triggered than they would be just by watching a video or listening to a lecture.
How to Gauge Rigor?
Nonetheless, educators still have to discern the degree of difficulty and how to deal with it, especially when including the struggle as a learning tool. At the same time, there are more obstacles than before due to limited access to technology or limited face-to-face time. Because of the current situation, teachers face an unprecedented challenge to maintain the comfort level with virtual classroom while incorporating lessons about the online platforms on top of addressing the required curriculum. And that describes a good day without glitches in connectivity.
This is where communication is vital. Teachers can reach out to families to find out what they need regarding connectivity and devices. Also, pre-tests can be useful to gauge students’ prior knowledge along with a comprehensive review. Ultimately, online learning possesses one similarity to in-person instruction, and that is the scenario when a student’s silence lets you know that he or she does not understand the lesson. If the webcam is turned off, then it is difficult to tell how well a student is grasping a new concept. However, communicating with that student and parents or guardians outside of the “Zoom meeting” via phone, instant message, or email will let you know to what extent this student needs some extra help.
How to Incorporate a Productive Struggle?
Finding the right level of challenge for a sizable number of students poses a challenge for the teacher, especially if the students are not interested in the content or the current lesson. And that is the reason a productive struggle needs to become a part of your instruction along with clearly defined objectives. When students know that the perplexing lesson has value, and that everything they learn relates to everyday life, it can encourage them to work through the challenge.
So, you can pose the question of “how can I possibly include the productive struggle as one of the qualities of my teaching online?” When you think about the opportunity for students to grow in resilience and knowledge, how can you afford to avoid it?