Students are often told to push themselves to the limit in the math classroom. But is this persistence always the most productive way for students to learn? Professor Neil Heffernan who runs the ASSISTments project at WPI weighs in about how students can move past spinning their wheels and start mastering math content.
Although persistence is often effective at supporting student learning, it can also be counterproductive at times. If students are unprepared to take on a particular type of problem because they didn’t understand the prerequisite concepts, persistence isn’t helpful. It can even be harmful when routinely misapplied. We may make the same mistake over and over again until it becomes a habit. And students who continually find their efforts don’t lead to improvements may become less likely to persist over time.
Educators must be able to distinguish between moments of "productive persistence" and moments where students are simply spinning their wheels. Believe it or not, “wheel-spinning” is now a technical term and has become a topic of interest to researchers who study how children learn. According to researchers Joseph Beck and Yue Gong, wheel-spinning is generally defined as “students who do not succeed in mastering a skill in a timely manner.”
This five-year grant, led by TAF Co-Founder and Executive Director Cristina Heffernan, will be used to further develop ASSISTments’ innovative tutoring technology, which leverages teacher- and student-facing tools for core instruction. This project will focus on high-needs middle school math students and their teachers at more than 150 schools.Continue Reading
ASSISTments operates in part from the U.S. Department of Education’s Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Program grant. The first two years of this grant have been focused on what we have named as three key “scale-up” mechanisms, areas where we can further develop and improve to achieve greater reach and impact. Thus far, we’ve engaged hundreds of our teacher users, and learned valuable lessons about scaling sustainability. As we enter the third year of the grant, we wanted to share these lessons to support other nonprofits in the early and pivotal stages of growth.Continue Reading