Thursday, April 21, 2016

Encouraging the struggle

After I saw a BreakoutEdu at an edcamp, I knew that I wanted to share this with my teachers and get them using it with their students as a new way to engage, collaborate, and problem solve. I knew that some Amazon gift cards would be coming my way so I have all of the items in my shopping cart, ready for purchase. When I began to describe with one of my teachers, she thought that it seems interesting, but wanted to see it in person before she made a monetary commitment.

Then, when she attended the ICE conference, she wandered by the room that was doing a breakout and the facilitator asked if she wanted to come in. She was hooked! She immediately went out and purchased the materials and started to peruse the posted breakouts for her classroom. She immediately took it to the next level by designing her own. She created the theme, the puzzles to solve, and the method to which she was going to have her students participate. She reviewed the puzzles and before she ran with it, she took a very important step. She wanted to test her prototype.

She asked me to come in, as someone familiar with a breakout, and look at the puzzles to see if the clues where clear enough, the instructions were precise, and to discuss the flow of the instruction. We had a great discussion what the puzzles were aiming at, what schema was needed to approach the problems, and what additional resources should be made available. After our discussion, she went back to her lab to make some changes to her puzzles and clues.

After this last iteration, she brought in some other colleagues to run through the breakout as novices. By sharing this with others, excitement was generated and one of the colleagues asked if they could borrow her materials. She was ready to have the students breakout, but the learning was not done.

This teacher ran the breakout with her senior level class first and watched them enjoy and work collaboratively to achieve the solutions. She was surprised at some of the teams that formed because they were not students who typically interacted with one another and some students who usually took a more passive role in the class because active in sharing their knowledge and experiences to reach the solution. She was excited to see the new learning groups that formed organically and collaborative processes that came into play.

In her own reflection of the breakout, she realized that she was very quick to jump in and help the students when they reached a road block. She said that based on this experience, she might need to look at how much struggle she allows for her students before providing a hint and a next step in a solution. She said the look of excitement on students faces was invigorating because they were excited to look up information about the clues and to arrive at conclusions based on their observations.

How often, as teachers, do we need to take a step back and let the students struggle and persevere in their problem solving before stepping in to help? As an administrator, I know that it is valuable in the post conference to let the teacher work their way through a reflection of their lesson before I provide a commentary.

I am proud that this teacher took a risk in developing her own breakout for her first go at it with kids. I am proud of her reflection and growth in the process of its development. Way to go Jackie! (@mathedjax)