“I want to challenge my students” is about the most common goal out there. Unfortunately, it’s not quite right.
All AboutComplexity Vs Skill
When a task’s complexity doesn’t correctly match a student’s skill, we end up with boredom or frustration. Often, for gifted students, a successfully differentiated task will simply increase complexity until it begins to challenge a kid’s skill.
When we create tasks designed to meet the needs of our most obviously talented students, we make it possible for other students to rise up as well. This, except using basketball as a metaphor.
How a small change, with very little effort on the teacher’s part, leads to a delightfully complex task that can suitably challenge students of all ability levels.
When you’re planning a task that for a wide range of students, the terms “floor” and “ceiling” are easy shortcuts to increase the range of success for all kids.
Adjusting a task’s complexity to match a student’s skill is key to success in the classroom, but how can you change the level of complexity?
Small groups can both add and reduce complexity to a task. I know that I always let my advanced students just “work on their own.” But think about the power of bringing your five top kids together (even for ten minutes a week) and pushing them a little.
Differentiation means being aware of both a student’s skill and the complexity of a task. And it’s easier to adjust a task in the short term than to change a student’s skill.
Differentiation is all about balancing the complexity of a task with the skill of the learner.
Too easy for your skills and the task is boring. Too much of a challenge, and it becomes stressful. Medium challenge, high skill? It’s a relaxing task. But when we match high skill and high challenge, we can activate “flow.”
We must be careful not to admonish our intuitive learners for being intuitive. As teachers of the gifted, we must set up learning environments that are best for our students. And if they’re doing it all in their heads (and getting it right!), then the environment needs to change.