Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Student Buy-In In Practice Overview

Student buy-in is one of the issues that comes up frequently at workshops and in hallway conversations. Student buy-in isn't a simple thing. I've written about it previously on this blog, and I think this topic needs to be visited regularly.

Getting stuck is hard. Fruitful struggle and productive failure aren't usually taught and learned. Making mistakes has often been equated with failure (in the negative sense of the term). Students aren't usually encouraged to explore, experiment, and tinker.  Thus, the conundrum is that in order for learners to grow, they need to be challenged appropriately, which means being stuck on some ideas, yet being stuck is equated to being dumb.

Luckily today we have the advantages that can help change learning experiences into authentically positive ones.  Growth mindset work has zeroed in on beliefs that lead to becoming smarter. We know more about how to use active learning to open up learning spaces, and we have a growing collection of videos on productive failure that can direct students toward successful mathematical practices. Instructors can assign videos as homework with reflective writing prompts every week or so for the first part of the term.

Day 1 of a course is important. Linked below is one way to open a course, by starting with students' hobbies and how they got better at the hobby.

See also Dana Ernst's "Setting the Stage" opening.

Ongoing strategies for student buy-in are posted here. It's not enough to only do something on day 1, because it's a journey.

Nudging students to engage more is one way to address student buy-in. We all need a break sometimes, and we can all use a bit of support. One way to keep students going is to nudge them.

Attend to Math Anxiety, because knowing where students are coming from can help us be better teachers. Math anxiety is a thing, and most students have some level of anxiety. Ignoring it only limits student learning, so we might as well deal with it. Math anxiety is linked to (lack of) productive failure, and fixed mindsets. Here's a post on the iceberg diagram and math anxiety and how instructors can detect math anxiety and fixed mindsets from statements like, "I don't learn this way..."

Digging deeper, math anxiety is something you can read about from students directly. Here's a collection of math anxiety quotes to give you a sense what lies underneath. If you've never asked, try adding a math autobiography assignment at the start of the term. Let students share their experiences.

Sharpening your IBL skills is also important, because a well-taught class is part of the equation. Problems that are too hard or leaving students struggling for too long works against student buy-in.  Also making things too easy is also. The IBL Blog Playlist is collection of posts organize by topic. If you are new to IBL, we also have a video series to get you going.