Path of least resistance

A lot of what we talk about in education is designed around the path of least resistance. We design schedules, curriculum, buildings, etc in attempts to ensure these systems are easily navigable by teachers, parents & last, students.

A growing dialogue is to do more to ensure we are designing our systems with students in mind. Rather than making things easy for adults, we should be focusing on the needs of our students. Differentiation is a buzzword associated with these ideas & some are even saying we should be helping students to take control of their differentiation.

These ideas are hard to argue with as is the battle cry “student centered”. However, how messed up is it that we are trying to make things easier for students?* I get that we as educators care about our students & don’t want them to struggle, but “playing to their strengths” might just be undermining the growth we are hoping to encourage. I guess I’ve always been very happy when my students have left my class feeling challenged. I would have been disappointed in myself had they left feeling catered to.

*just so I’m clear, I’m all about removing pointless hoops & prejudicial hierarchies, but I am confident that in some situations we have done damage in the name of differentiation.

**What follows is more of a higher Ed issue: we cater to customers, not students. When students are seen as clients or customers, something has gone terribly wrong and our (teachers’) ability to push students to places they didn’t know they could go is undermined.

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4 Responses to Path of least resistance

  1. You’ve hit upon some topics that I struggle with regularly. How do we make our school more student-centered? I mean schedules, bells, class periods, seeing 130 students a day is all very efficient. But are we accommodating the adults or the students? And does it matter? I too worry about challenging my students not just with content but also helping them to grow. No I’m not going to move you away from so-and-so just because you can’t get along. Try working with everyone so that you learn how to work with different personality types. Especially the ones you don’t like! We learn and grow whe we are just out of our comfort zones. Not too far because then we get frustrated to the point of quitting. Yes, people do quit. It’s a fine we sometimes walk. That’s why it helps to keep each other in check and to reflect out in the open like this.


    • Forcing someone to sit next to a bully is hardly the sort of thing that was meant. Or is learning at your school all about putting up with tormentors?


      • Of course forcing someone to sit next to a bully isn’t what was meant so I expected no one to assume that I meant that. My bad. I am referring to helping kids learn to work with different types of people, not including bullies or tormentors of course. Asking kids to be out of their comfort zone for a while instead of always working with the same, close knit group of friends. Like in Rachel’s Challenge where kids are asked to eat lunch with someone they never eat lunch with to get to know that person.


  2. jerridkruse says:

    You’ve hit on such an important point at the end. That Zone of Proximal Development. We want to keep kids on the edge, without pushing them off! :)


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