Tag Archives: Robyn Jackson

productive struggle vs. thrashing blindly

The trick is to choose a goal just beyond your present abilities; to target the struggle. Thrashing blindly doesn’t help. Reaching does. (Coyle, 19 pag.)

What if we teach how to reach? How might we offer targeted struggle for every learner in our care?

SMP-1: Make Sense of Problems and Persevere #LL2LU

Investing time in teaching students how to learn is never wasted; in doing so, you deepen their understanding of the upcoming content and better equip them for future success. (Jackson, 19 pag.)

SMP-8: Look for and Express Regularity in Repeated Reasoning #LL2LU

If we are to harness the power of feedback to increase student learning, then we need to ensure that feedback causes a cognitive rather than an emotional reaction—in other words, feedback should cause thinking. It should be focused; it should relate to the learning goals that have been shared with the students; and it should be more work for the recipient than the donor. (Wiliam, 130 pag.)

Math Flexibility

When people believe their basic qualities can be developed, failures may still hurt, but failures don’t define them.   And if abilities can be expanded – if change and growth are possible – then there are still many paths to success.” (Dweck, 39 pag.)

What pathways to learning are illuminated in order to highlight learning = struggle + perseverance?


Coyle, Daniel (2009-04-16). The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. Random House, Inc. Kindle Edition.

Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: the New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House, 2006. 39. Print.

Jackson, Robyn R. (2010-07-27). How to Support Struggling Students (Mastering the Principles of Great Teaching series) (Pages 18-19). Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development. Kindle Edition.

Wiliam, Dylan (2011-05-01). Embedded Formative Assessment (Kindle Locations 2679-2681). Ingram Distribution. Kindle Edition.

Visual: SMP-8: look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning #LL2LU

Many students would struggle much less in school if, before we presented new material for them to learn, we took the time to help them acquire background knowledge and skills that will help them learn. (Jackson, 18 pag.)

We want every learner in our care to be able to say

I can look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.
(CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP8)

Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 5.15.38 PM

But…what if I can’t? What if I have no idea what to look for, notice, take note of, or attempt to generalize?

Investing time in teaching students how to learn is never wasted; in doing so, you deepen their understanding of the upcoming content and better equip them for future success. (Jackson, 19 pag.)

Are we teaching for a solution, or are we teaching strategy to express patterns? What if we facilitate experiences where both are considered essential to learn?

We want more students to experience the burst of energy that comes from asking questions that lead to making new connections, feel a greater sense of urgency to seek answers to questions on their own, and reap the satisfaction of actually understanding more deeply the subject matter as a result of the questions they asked.  (Rothstein and Santana, 151 pag.)

What if we collaboratively plan questions that guide learners to think, notice, and question for themselves?

What do you notice? What changes? What stays the same?

Indeed, sharing high-quality questions may be the most significant thing we can do to improve the quality of student learning. (Wiliam, 104 pag.)

How might we design for, expect, and offer feedback on procedural fluency and conceptual understanding?

Level 4
I can attend to precision as I construct a viable argument to express regularity in repeated reasoning.

Level 3
I can look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

Level 2
I can identify and describe patterns and regularities, and I can begin to develop generalizations.

Level 1
I can notice and note what changes and what stays the same when performing calculations or interacting with geometric figures.

If we are to harness the power of feedback to increase student learning, then we need to ensure that feedback causes a cognitive rather than an emotional reaction—in other words, feedback should cause thinking. It should be focused; it should relate to the learning goals that have been shared with the students; and it should be more work for the recipient than the donor. (Wiliam, 130 pag.)

[Cross posted on Easing the Hurry Syndrome]


Jackson, Robyn R. (2010-07-27). How to Support Struggling Students (Mastering the Principles of Great Teaching series) (Pages 18-19). Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development. Kindle Edition.

Rothstein, Dan, and Luz Santana. Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education, 2011. Print.

Wiliam, Dylan (2011-05-01). Embedded Formative Assessment (Kindle Locations 2679-2681). Ingram Distribution. Kindle Edition.

Productive struggle and essential feedback

How might we teach and learn more about perseverance? I wish we could rephrase the first Standard for Mathematical Practice to the following:

I can make sense of tasks and persevere in solving them.

Just the simple exchange from problems to tasks make this process standard a little more global for learners.  What if we encourage and expect productive struggle?

Some struggle in learning is good, but there is a key distinction to be made between productive struggle and destructive struggle.  Productive struggle allows students the space to grapple with information and come up with the solution for themselves. It develops resilience and persistence and helps students refine their own strategies for learning. In productive struggle, there is a light at the end of the tunnel; learning goals not only are clear but also seem achievable. Although students face difficulty, they grasp the point of the obstacles they face and believe that they will overcome these obstacles in the end.(Jackson and Lambert, 53 pag.)

How might we make a slight change during the learning process to challenge our learners, to promote productive struggle, to persevere, and to learn, through experience, critical reasoning?

But many people are petrified of bad ideas. Ideas that make us look stupid or waste time or money or create some sort of backlash. The problem is that you can’t have good ideas unless you’re willing to generate a lot of bad ones.  Painters, musicians, entrepreneurs, writers, chiropractors, accountants–we all fail far more than we succeed. (Godin, n. pag.)

What if we reframe “failure” as productive struggle and perseverance?

  • Level 4:
    I can find a second or third solution and describe how the pathways to these solutions relate.
  • Level 3:
    I can make sense of tasks and persevere in solving them.
  • Level 2:
    I can ask questions to clarify the problem, and I can keep working when things aren’t going well and try again.
  • Level 1:
    I can show at least one attempt to investigate or solve the task.

We cannot emphasize enough the power of feedback. Given the right kind of feedback, struggling students can gauge how they are doing and determine what they need to do to get to mastery. It can help students quickly correct their mistakes, select a more effective learning strategy, and experience success before frustration sets in. (Jackson and Lambert, 68 pag.)

How might we highlight many paths to success? What if we make paths to success visible enough for learners to try, risk, question, and learn?

When people believe their basic qualities can be developed, failures may still hurt, but failures don’t define them.   And if abilities can be expanded – if change and growth are possible – then there are still many paths to success.” (Dweck, 39 pag.)


Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: the New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House, 2006. 39. Print.

Godin, Seth. “Seth’s Blog: Fear of Bad Ideas.” Seth’s Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2015.

Jackson, Robyn R. (2010-07-27). How to Support Struggling Students (Mastering the Principles of Great Teaching series). Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development. Kindle Edition.