How do our students define success?

Today, as I visited a 3rd grade classroom, I asked students these questions:

Are you interested in this task? Why or why not?

How will this help you in life? How might you apply this learning in the future?

How will you know if you have been successful in this learning task?

The students provided valuable feedback and insights about their learning. The responses to the last question really made me wonder if we are clearly communicating our expectations to students. Most of the responses sounded something like this: “I will know I’m successful if…the teacher says I got it right.”

These 3rd grade students are working on a social studies project, in which they learn about a country and identify a problem the country is facing, related to the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development. In order to be successful in this presentation, they will need research skills, communication skills, critical thinking, and real world problem solving. But, they see success as being able to get the “right” answers.

Many teachers have shifted away from focusing solely on content, and we know how essential it is to develop 21st century skills. In addition, we plan ways for our students to Hands-Arrange-A-Success-Textdevelop grit and demonstrate a growth mindset – not just be able to come up with the right answers.

But do our students know that? 

In addition to sharing standards and learning objectives…are we also sharing the dispositions that we hope they will gain from a particular learning experience? How can we be more explicit about the skills they are developing?

Instead of defining success as mastering the content or meeting a standard, students should define success as being able to ask good questions, collaborate with peers, being creative, or reflecting on their learning.




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