George Lucas Educational Foundation

Example of Just Letting Students Try to Figure it Out

Example of Just Letting Students Try to Figure it Out

Related Tags: Project-Based Learning
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I hope I do not start a war with this one and I have seen things like this several times before. The link is to a video of students trying to run their mousetrap cars while the teacher is most likely grading them. Only one car moves a reasonable distance, most do not move it all. I saw a video of a model plane project in UK where not a single plane actually flew. Just have to question an assignment when almost everyone fails, shouldn't the students be given more coaching?

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Ms. Zack's picture
Ms. Zack
Math Teacher @ a Project Based Learning Charter High School Brighton, MI

My classroom was recently in a similar situation, where one group really excelled at our activity and the rest of the groups bombed it. I had given ample opportunity for students to research their designs and construct their bridges (Straw and toothpick bridges in a Project based on architecture design and the importance of using triangles to ensure strength and endurance). Groups who didn't succeed were frustrated. When I would approach these groups, I would ask what their strategy had been in their design process, if they felt they had adequately prepared themselves for it, and asked them to reflect on how to improve their design for the next time. It required no more direct instruction from me, than with any other group; however I had "coached" the kids into learning how to reflect and learn from failure. Their second bridges were much more successful in achieving their goal.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I think we need to help kids learn that its not only okay to fail, its expected. It's okay to make mistakes, but the reward is in learning why it didn;t work and revising it. I think this is why some of the scratch and computer programming stuff is useful- kids learn to write something, tweek it and work slowly towards a result rather than one epic win or fail opportunity. How can we make constructive failure small enough, and make it an opportunity for reflection that leads to success more frequently for our students?

Bill Kuhl's picture

I can see the value in having to struggle but I sure hope these students had a chance to try to fix their cars and try it again. When I was taking computer programming class in college I can remember one professor telling us that if you could not get the program working, write up what it is suppose to do and you will get partial credit. I realize there are time constraints but in the world of work, your computer program MUST work no partial credit is acceptable.

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