Authentic Motivation and the Redo
How do your students respond to the opportunity to redo projects? I get mixed results between those that take advantage and those that never think about it again.
Iteration is a core principle that I’ve focused on for the Makers class, but that doesn’t mean I know how to inoculate students with that spirit. Since we’re rarely working on a fixed timeline there’s little “clock pressure,” something I always struggled with in my math classroom. Instead, there’s a pull towards unproductive failure, meaning that they lose momentum on their first pass, and then don’t have the energy/enthusiasm/idea-steam to push in a new direction.
Until this moment I hadn’t framed that as a “redo” problem, but it clearly is. Huh. It’s identical to the sputtering interest in post-grade revisions on an essay or math test. The lack of grades for Makers masked the symptoms.
Is this what invariably happens when the scaffold of adult mandate falls away. After all, there’s no explicit penalty for stopping at this point, all the negative consequences are missing things that could/might have happened. I could have gotten a better grade. I could have fixed the x-y-z calibration. I could have rebuilt the axel with more weight for a smoother turn.It might take some time, but students with a personal, authentic stake in any project will navigate that first redo and move towards iterative design. If they’ve just been gliding along because you asked nicely, the redos will never happen.
My (planned) attempt for the new Makers is to build a more explicitly cyclical progression of challenges and projects. By keeping the 7th graders in tandem for a while, I can steer them back into familiar but abandoned territory. We’ll be done with this carousel automata by Monday, but my plan is to have them work on another cam/linkage device by Valentine’s Day. I have angst over this teacher-y control in what I planned and still champion as a student-driven course, but that’s my skill set.
In another year, I hope to have built enough of this model to let me be a better “less helpful” guide for their exploration.