June 2, 2022
Tasks by definition are related to work and are often set, but opportunities have a sense of potential benefit and might present themselves or be discovered. Often students are set tasks that don’t inspire them. What happens if we flip our point of view and think about a task as an opportunity for success, gaining something that can help us?
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude”
– Maya Angelou
It is telling that the word ‘gain’ means both to ‘obtain or secure (something wanted or desirable)’ and ‘an increase in wealth or resources’. Personal gain is an often vilified term; we tend to think about gaining something or helping ourselves at the expense of someone or something (a zero-sum game). However, do the subjects of gain have to be mutually exclusive? In helping ourselves, can we create opportunities to help others and what might this look like in our students’ experience? Can we develop strategies and understanding that help us, and by extension others, such as making us more collaborative? Within our competitive and grade-orientated scenarios, can identifying and understanding what we can gain beyond assessment make learning and living more purposeful? Doing so exposes ethical dilemmas about intention, means, and ends.
We know that our students can face a multitude of emotions, impacted by what’s going on at home, with family, friends, or even during their last conversation. Just getting through the day can be a challenge, let alone shifting their perspective about what they might get out of today’s lesson.
We developed the Zig-Zag Thinking Deviceⓒ to give students a different and hopefully easier way to think about their learning and relieve some of the pressure required in deep thinking and metacognition. It can offer a framework and be a starting point to create a new understanding. As all the points can be connected, students can address a question or a combination of questions in any order. Teachers can also use it as a pre and post-skills test: What can I/did I gain from…this activity to help me…?
Using the Zig-Zag Thinking Deviceⓒ in conjunction with KWL—What I Know, What I Want…