Tie And Jeans

Authentic Motivation and the Redo

Chuck Baker asked a great question in response to my post about modeling and my janky cardboard carousel.

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.


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3 thoughts on “Authentic Motivation and the Redo

  1. I’m assuming you conference with students after failed attempts, right? Just remembered that even more so than detailed feedback on a rubric, students have been more invested in revising when we talked about their work together and I could provide encouragement on things they DID do well.

    • tieandjeans on said:

      While I did my best to conference with students, that was an area where I recognize that I did not have the teacher/maker chops to do it RIGHT. IN a conference you want to sit with a kid, look at their work, prompt them to explain their work to you, and then try to meet their precise needs with the minimal amount of intervention. I haven’t been in a math classroom for a few years, but I still can take a good run on mathmistakes.org and feel like I could talk to those students in a productive way.

      In a maker class where students were working on radically different projects, I was never satisfied with how I debriefed kids or intervened to help. 90% of my efforts missed the mark, either on too vague (which leaves them sitting in a fog for 20 minutes trying to figure out wether you actually answered the question) or far far tool direct (which only reinforces the lesson that the way to solve the problem is to bug Mr Carle until he tells you).

      So, conferences. That is certainly the goal!

  2. Pingback: Meet Moira, the Lab’s 3D Printer « Wanderings in the Labyrinth

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