Teaching with the Next Generation
Science Standards

Posted by Francis Vigeant on Nov 16, 2016

Activities That Encourage Grit

Traditional model of goal-setting

A traditional model of goal-setting in which hatching duck eggs for "fun" is automatically integrated into the life science unit, which therefore has to be set in the spring, and is propped up by low-level activities such as worksheets, reading, and vocabulary. From there, many teachers steeped in the traditional model follow a trail from getting grades, teaching standards, covering the test, and passing tests, believing this means students ultimately being college and career ready. Unfortunately, statistics show that our students are not college and career ready.

If we're going to take the time to set up activities and expose children to them, we want those activities to encourage grit. While hatching and releasing ducks might be charming and fun, does this activity really help students develop grit? Probably not. Such an activity aligns better with a traditional model of instruction that relies on lower-order thinking activities.

Other competing low-level activities include worksheets, reading, vocabulary lists, et cetera. These activities typically fall in line with teaching to a test, a worldview in which "meeting standards” simply means creating a project around them. You can see from the image above that the traditional progression from activity to college and career readiness is predicated upon wishing to teach an activity because it is "fun" or because it has always been done that way.

Analyzing classroom goals

In this traditional model of achieving college and career readiness, there are lots of low-level goals, many of which do not relate to the mid- and top-level goals.

Unfortunately, that doesn't accomplish those higher-level thinking goals we care about, and hasn't panned out when it comes to actual student readiness in STEM fields. Remember, we encourage effort by letting go of low-level goals, adjusting mid-level goals, and focusing on top-level goals. Our top-level goal should be to challenge students and help them develop grit, not with worksheets and vocabulary, but with real opportunities to work in the roles of scientists and engineers so they can truly perform the expectations of the standards. That's not what is happening in the model illustrated above.

We need to shift our thinking. That means we need to put an end to lower-level tasks and begin challenging students to develop and use content as a way of developing the skills needed to succeed at a deeper level. We can do this by investing students in an experience, which allows them to perform the expectations of the standards in a context that's unfamiliar. Along the way, we must ensure that they are not only getting exposure to concepts and skills, but also truly developing interest and developing an "effort muscle." As educators, we help them do this by setting up appropriate challenges in the classroom and ensuring that we have tiered goals that help them meet those challenges.

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