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Which one of these would challenge (has challenged) you the most?:
Each one will present a level of difficulty to which you'll compare your assumed level of skill. You'll also have a gut reaction to each one: Do I want to/need to do that? I can do that; I can't do that or I can't do that yet. Then, if you embark on the challenge, your levels of motivation, determination, focus and resilience will emerge.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (2002) tells us that when skill exceeds challenge we get bored but if the task is too hard for our current skill level then frustration sets in. When skill and challenge start to match up we are well on our way to the state he calls 'flow'. Flow has 8 more features on top of the challenge-skill balance. They include: having clear goals, immediate feedback and concentration on the task at hand. This idea developed out his research into happiness. Find out more:
Carol Dweck (2012) talks about self-belief and how the things we tell ourselves end up determining our eventual levels of success. With a fixed mindset we avoid failure, deny our mistakes and choose tasks with a high probability of success. We achieve less than we could - even if we achieve highly. On the other hand a growth mindset sees us learning from failure, exploiting our mistakes and attempting new and interesting problems with highly uncertain outcomes. In this case, we achieve more than we and others ever expected. Find out more:
Finally, Angela Lee Duckworth presents us with 'grit': the characteristics that predict success more accurately than intelligence. With focus, determination and resilience, gritty learners can outperform their smarter, less gritty peers. Find out more:
Challenge in learning means testing our abilities in a demanding, stimulating and supported environment so that we can grow and change. Getting the right level of challenge for one pupil is a challenge in itself, never-mind for 29 others. But it isn't impossible and can be made a whole lot easier when you involve them in the process.
We need to design opportunities for our pupils to struggle and to help them understand that struggle is a good thing, a sign that we are learning. We want them to aim towards greater levels of achievement and support them getting there by teaching them about how flow, mindset and grit work. Then they'll have a powerful set of learning characteristics that will set them up for the challenges of life, work and their ongoing learning. Then they'll know that failure is not a permanent state.
The challenge of the unknown future is so much more exciting than the stories of the accomplished past.
I like the challenge of trying different things and wondering whether it's going to work or whether I'm going to fall flat on my face.
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