Course Rigor Scale

Example of a course rigor scale that schools can use to help students select an appropriate course load.

A Season of Growth Mindset

While upside down in what must have been her hundredth attempt to stand on her hands for more than a few seconds, our first grader said, “You know, my teacher told me that every time we try to learn something, a new pathway grows in our brain.” How appropriate for a season of growth! As an educator, I could not be happier that the students of Room 114 have now become proponents of what scholar Carol Dweck identifies as a growth mindset.

Helping Students Learn to Engage

What’s the most important determinant of students’ growth in college? According to Nancy Sommers, a researcher at Harvard, it’s not feedback or carefully designed assignments or skill acquisition, though these are central. These aspects of learning, Sommers finds, are overshadowed by another, less obvious but more important: students’ attitude. Specifically, a shift in attitude, away from evaluative and instrumental views of education (e.g, “I complete school work to get a grade, or because I need a degree to get a job,”) and toward a sense of purpose and connection.

Helicopter Teaching and the Challenge of Mythrules

In an era of hyper-focus on students’ academic performance, is it possible that schoolwork is actually too easy? I recognize that this might seem a strange question, given how much we hear of stressed-out students, slogging through hours of homework and blizzards of standardized tests. If anything, school is too hard, right?

Why Cheat? More Importantly, Why Not?

Reports of academic dishonesty – within prestigious universities, on high school exit exams, by authors of bestselling books – have been widespread this fall. In the wake of cheating, academic communities rush to bolster or clarify disciplinary procedures. New or repeated sessions about proper citation techniques are added to the curriculum. Teachers ask students to leave backpacks at the door and phones on the front desk. Then we all pause and ask, “Why?” The answers may vary slightly each time, but they usually include some variation of the following: “I just didn’t have time to really ‘do’ the work.” “Because I could – it is so easy.” “I don’t care about the material – it’s totally irrelevant to my life.” “The teacher doesn’t even care or check.” And most often: “Because I can’t mess up.” In our current high stakes system where every test or assignment seems to be a critical step on the pathway to adult …