"8 Teaching Habits that Block Productive Struggle in Math Students" was an excellent article that has me thinking about the ways that my good intentions can sometimes interfere with student learning, especially in math. As I read the article I was immediately struck by #1: Calling on Students Who Know the Right Answer. Boy, I do this all the time. Oh sure, I do a nice job of capitalizing on those teachable moments when a child shares a wrong answer and we work through it and this amazing learning happens because someone shared the wrong answer. But, what would be possible if I changed the question? What if, instead of asking, "who has an answer for me?" I asked, "is anyone willing to share what they're wondering or thinking about so far?" I think the rephrasing of the question would allow students to see that I'm inviting them into a conversation about math and their thinking versus putting pressure on them to have it all figured out.
In terms of student engagement, I really think that the other students in the room would be more inclined to listen to the conversation, to see where their thinking matches up or veers in another direction. If I followed up with, "and who can respond to what so and so has shared?" instead of responding to the student myself, I know richer conversations would be possible. I work hard to establish a culture in the classroom where mistake making is a welcome part of our learning but I know that this small shift in my practice could refocus my students on the thinking and the process versus the final product. This is an important shift that I will try to make this year. I really aspire to create a culture where students own the learning and where all the learners are deeply engaged in the process of learning. This seems like a step in the right direction.