Less (Teaching) Is More (Learning)

Stop Giving Them The Answer: Let Them Figure It Out Themselves!

Related Questions/Issues

  • I'm not comfortable with XYZ, how could I teach my kids to use it?
  • How do I help my students become more independent, they're always up asking for help?
  • How do I help my students become better problem-solvers with the tools they are using?
  • My students hate failure. OR My students avoid failure.
  • My students tell me they just want the answer, or that I'm the teacher and I should tell them what to do and know the answers.
  • "Just tell me what I have to do to get an A" - How do I help my students reach, think & question beyond the grade (and direct instruction)?

Methods to Consider

  • Pick tools that have a low floor, but wide walls. That way, students can easily learn the tools and still have a wide variety of ways to use them. If the tools also have a moderately high ceiling or can be combined with other tools, even more worlds are opened for the students.
  • Steer clear of too many direct instruction lessons. When giving direct instruction, don't teach 1 step at a time. Go through the whole process. You'll be amazed at how much a pair of kids can remember. Plus, as they get used to this technique they'll remember more and more.
    • Give a kid a fish vs. Teach a kid to fish
    • Have the kids start in pairs, the natural conversation will help them problem-solve. It pushes them to have an external version of the internal dialogue expert problem-solvers engage in.
    • This also makes it 'safer' for many to take risks with their thinking, connections and ideas -- both internally and those they share with the class
  • Show them how to get started, but let them explore the tool for awhile before they use it to complete a project. Let each pair of students come up and show 1 "cool" thing they figured out.
    • This often results in a wider variety of approaches, strategies & applications -- as Lee Lefever would say "Yay!"
  • Give students mini challenges or sets of challenges to see if they can figure out how to do something that is close to their ZPD given time to explore and problem-solve with a peer or peers.
  • Get them helping each other. Use "Three before me." Then, start pointing out who might be the best classmates to ask. Consider creating a class list of "experts." Start with students who have demonstrated a skill to the class during sharing, one who used that technique in a project, or seed the list by teaching a student or two a new skill.
    • Some teachers use a tally chart to track when students reach 'tech-spert' level with each of the individual tools. Students could use the chart to figure out who might help them.
  • Don't answer their questions UNLESS they can explain two things they tried to solve their problem. Then, ratchet it up by asking them what they learned about it from a printed or built in help guide, FAQ page, screencast, or other source that they have to use.
  • Let them fail. Let them struggle. But then help them analyze their difficulties and processes. Sometimes let them take the problem home and sleep on it. You'll be amazed at the problems solved or alternative solutions that arise.
    • Remind teachers to consider the benefits of the struggle once the student(s) find a solution -- students 'plus' their self-confidence in ways we (teachers, parents, peers..) could never do
  • Model changing 1 variable at a time when troubleshooting, then encourage them to try the same technique.
  • Teach students a generic set of tools/processes and then use them in a variety of contexts with the goal of students eventually choosing to use them in novel contexts where they fit, or better yet modify them to fit.
  • Model failure. Model trying new things. Model reflection/metacognition.
  • Try a Gradual Release of Responsibility model
  • Does Japan spend more time on problem-solving while the US spends more time solving math problems?
  • Teach the students to ask their own questions
  • Give the students enough time to reflect on their process and product
  • Try using an Inquiry Approach, Problem-based Learning, or Challenge based learning
  • Too many problems is a problem. Less is more. Scaffold your projects to build on previous tech skills and only add a few new ones in
  • "A good box is like a lane marker on the highway - a constraint that liberates" (Dan & Chip Heath) Instead of trying to re-imagine learning "outside of the box", try redecorating the box you're in, or test-driving a new one. Structure doesn't have to hamper creativity - it can actually enable it. Providing learners a guardrail can serve to support and free them as they assume more control of their learning path, place, time and/or space.
  • Teach students to program using Scratch, Python, JavaScript, etc. Debugging is a normal, iterative part of the process.

Related Links:

Subject Author Replies Views Last Message
Additional Strategies... swilkie swilkie 7 104 Jul 15, 2015 by swilkie swilkie
Grouping Choices cfahey121 cfahey121 0 39 Jul 15, 2014 by cfahey121 cfahey121
The Process of Problem Solving stevejohns stevejohns 4 523 Aug 9, 2013 by angela.sciriha angela.sciriha
Survey Khixon73 Khixon73 0 93 Aug 9, 2013 by Khixon73 Khixon73
Gary Stager Quote BalancEdTech BalancEdTech 0 289 Feb 22, 2013 by BalancEdTech BalancEdTech