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edu180atl: nolan morris 10.5.11

            I learned that a students love a challenge. The challenge has to fall in a range between “harder than normal” and “too difficult for me.” This spread can be expanded by grouping students together, as the “challenge range” is slightly different for each student. A group of students can now explore a topic that may be daunting individually, and in doing so better realize their own capabilities.

            Students won’t take to just any challenge: it has to be legitimate and interesting. If the assignment is presented as just something to do, then many students will disengage. It must also genuinely relate to their experience. Finding and building an assignment that meets these requirements isn’t as easy as pulling one off the shelf or out of the textbook: it requires thoughtful planning and consideration of learners’ abilities.

            My students are finishing a unit on evolution today by completing an investigation into why we evolved different skin colors. The case study presents them with common misconceptions, uses scientific evidence to uncover truths, then asks them to truly state the cause of different skin colors. Their dedication to the task and supporting each other surprised me, and the students conquered a challenging assignment.

Nolan Morris (@MrNolanMorris) teaches high school Biology. Enjoys pushing things forward.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Lynnae #

    Hey, Nolan! Nice to read something from you and hear about your classes again.

    October 5, 2011
  2. Nolan:

    Thank you for sharing your perspective on how to challenge students appropriately so they stay connected to the learning experience. You raise a good point about setting the bar high enough but not too high. Then being able to differentiate so that all students can reach the bar and get over it. It may not take them the same amount of time. Students struggle with schooling because everyone has to complete the same tasks in the same amount of time. Where else in life do we do that and expect creative work? For creativity to emerge, the tasks need to be structured as you suggest.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Bob Ryshke
    Center for Teaching

    October 5, 2011
  3. bekah #

    Good ideas!

    October 9, 2011

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