Brain research has shown that our brains are not only designed for information processing, but contains an affective network, which is comprised of many different parts, which work together to involve the emotional and motivational part of learning. The affective network influences how we perceive the outside world and impacts how we engage in learning. We often see the signs of a lack of engagement as behavior problems, off task behavior, a lack of motivation, an indifference to learning. Without engagement, learning often does not take place. A lack of engagement is often caused by a disconnect in significance.
When students have options for sustaining effort and persistence, they are able to take more ownership of their learning and connect with the goal of the lesson. This involves heightening the salience of both goals and objectives, varying the demands and resources to optimize challenge, and fostering collaboration. How would you describe your learning goals and objectives? Are students able to answer the essential questions and describe the big ideas?
When a learning goal or objective is salient, it stands out. When increasing the salience of goals and objectives, educators need to strategically guide students to the goal. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. It is important for students to see, hear, and interact with the goal. Do you write your learning goal or objective in a visible area of your classroom? Are students able to understand the language and wording of the goal? Do you you’re your goals and objectives aloud? Do you have a classroom goal reader?
One teacher created daily blog posts which contained the essential question of the day. Everyday a new student was assigned as a “guest blogger” to write the essential question, provide brief summary answering the question, and supplemental resources to help understand materials. Students need the right balance of challenge and rigor to persist in learning.
Lev Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development Theory has been applied to develop optimal learning experiences for students. Vygotsky stated that if a task is too easy, a student will not see any value in it and abandon learning all together. If a task is too difficult, a student may feel too overwhelmed and are more likely to give up; therefore, we should provide students the right balance of challenge and support, known as the “Zone of Proximal Development.”
If a task is too difficult, proper scaffolding or supports may need to be in place to help a student master a task or skill. As a student’s learning changes over time, so does the need for scaffolding. Providing students with the right balance of rigor and challenge requires keeping scaffolds in place until the student can successfully complete the task on their own. Scaffolds should be thoughtfully designed and included in the design of a lesson or curriculum to benefit all students, much like a ramp benefits those who are confined to a wheel chair, pushing a stroller, or just want to take a shortcut.