Thursday, February 12, 2015

Strategic Confusion

Have you ever had questions floating around in your head for a few days? As much as you try to find the answer to those questions, you just can not? You read, reflect and discuss the topic with others. Still, you can not find what you are looking for. The questions haunt you. They frustrate you. They challenge you...

As fate would have it, I stumbled across a post from @WHSRowe on twitter about Strategic Confusion. The title itself intrigued me. I was hoping this would provide me with the insight to begin answering my questions. As usual, through Rik's knowledge and transparency, I think I found the answers I was looking for...

I decided to try my own version of Strategic Confusion. I had just finished a unit on Scientific Notation with my 8th grade students. We learned how to divide and multiply numbers, write numbers in scientific notation and threw in some exponent work as well. Rik's post provided me the motivation to intentionally create a scenario for my students that forced them to take control of their own learning. How did I do this?

First, I asked them to bring their devices to class. Then, I provided them with some links through Google Classroom that would show them how to add and subtract numbers in scientific notation. These two topics had not been introduced yet. I informed them they would be required to provide me with a short write up describing the steps they took to learn this activity. In addition, they must provide me with 5 problems they create and solve to demonstrate their understanding.

What did I observe? I noticed a group of students that immediately began viewing videos on their devices. Others began looking through the notes I also provided through Google Classroom. They immediately began taking control of their learning. They immediately used the resources their own way to guide their learning. I was able to move around the room guiding students as they needed it.

I need to do more of this intentional strategic confusion to help my students learn how to work through situations when they face a difficult task. I need to explain to them times when I had to do the same thing. This is such a critical step to being a lifelong learner. If I am not preparing my students for a lifetime a learning, what is it I am really doing?

I think I found a new addition to my class routine. I love that the students can use their devices to view videos in groups to guide their learning. This would give them an opportunity to hear a different voice explain the topic. I love finding new ways to tweak our culture of learning to increase student learning and engagement.

But most of all, stretching myself to try this activity helped me begin to answer the question that was rattling around in my head mentioned at the beginning of this post: How do I get my students more comfortable learning challenging topics they initially struggle with?

What tips can you share that I can add to my list?

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