Problem-solving Paralysis | Action-Reaction

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Problem-solving Paralysis | Action-Reaction.

I know my students … dive right in and tinker. So why, when faced with a physics problem, do many students suddenly freeze-up if they can’t see the whole solution right from the outset? How do we show students it’s OK to dive right in, go down blind alleys, hit deadends, backtrack, and try again?

Ask a question in a Grade One class and almost every hand goes up. The kids have some of the whackiest ideas and they are keen to share them. But ask a question in a grade 12 class – even one they should all know – and you’ll only get a few offers.



It’s our fault. We did that. Somewhere along the way we convinced most of them that learning was unpleasant and that being right was the only thing that mattered. Kids are embarrassed to admit they like school. Teachers are embarrassed t admit they are looking forward to going back tot he classroom. What is wrong with us?!

Somewhere between Grade One and Grade 12 it is made very clear in school that being wrong is BAD. Sure, kids get “praise” for trying, but too often it comes across as “There there, it’s OK. We still love you even if you are dumb.” We equate being wrong with being stupid. I was pretty good in school (when I tried even a little), but it took me till I was well into my 30’s to finally realize that being wrong is NOT the same thing as being stupid.

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