Teachers’ Conceptualization of Productive Struggle

Wallace Research Symposium on Talent Development

Campus/Building Maps

Teachers’ Conceptualization of Productive StruggleCatherine Little, Clarisa Rodrigues, & Jimmy Wilson

Tuesday, May 21, 2024, 8:00 – 9:00 am, Lawrence D. McHugh Hall, Room MCHU 205

Current emphases in education around productive struggle reflect efforts to bring a positive light to engaging with challenging and complex tasks. Classroom attention to productive struggle includes guiding students to analyze challenging situations, work through tasks, and evaluate their strategies. Teachers may facilitate productive responses, or they may inadvertently reduce the cognitive demand—and the benefits of struggle—in efforts to help. This study was part of a larger project supporting general education teachers at grades K-3 with professional learning around recognizing and responding to advanced academic potential, including supported implementation of differentiated learning tasks. We explored teacher conceptions of productive struggle based on their written reflections following implementation of these tasks. We examined how teachers described productive struggle, including types and sources of struggle and elements that made struggle productive. We also explored the ways teachers specifically noted sources and experiences of struggle for their advanced learners and for other learners in the classroom. Findings suggested that teachers focused much more on the struggle than the productive aspect in their descriptions of productive struggle, and that overall task complexity as well as expectation to generate multiple ideas were common sources of struggle for students.