There is a harmful perception among students that when a solution isn’t apparent or discernible in a quick time frame, that it is due to a lack of intelligence. This is an ideology that I am familiar with. Often a problem is presented and the smartest kid in the class shouts out the answer. The teacher then acknowledges the response without asking the other students or gauging for general understanding before moving on, and this can be discouraging to some. This encourages the mentality that, “if I am smart a solution will come easily”, which is absolutely not the case. As educators we need to explain to students that success doesn’t always come easily, rather it is often a difficult and tedious process. We need to teach the mentality that not all intellectual abilities are hardwired, and that learning takes effort to be meaningful and successful.
Some teachers want their students to learn their material as quickly and easily as possible. These teachers will sometimes unknowingly take shortcuts in their classroom to help students learn faster with the false insight that because the learning is “easier” that it is better. This can include allowing students to use calculators for problems they should be doing mentally, giving multiplication tables simply for the sake of computational speed, or giving students a mnemonic to remember a topic before learning enough about that topic. Somewhat recently, through studies and literature it has been revealed that creating desirable difficulties in the classroom leads to more effective learning. What desirable difficulties means, is that a teacher may incorporate things such as frequent quizzes that may have a couple of problems that haven’t been covered recently, or having students solve an answer before the solution is posed to them, as well as interleaving topics and problems so that students are frequently shifting gears. These strategies may seem counter productive because they aren’t as quick as having a student memorize an acronym, but when the learning is modeled in this way it is more meaningful and is also better for memory retention. Incorporating these learning difficulties into a classroom will help to transform the typical mindset from “intelligence being hardwired” to “learning takes effort”.
It is important to explain to students that just because something is difficult, (specifically learning) that it isn’t meaningless. Students need to gain the mindset that success derives from hard work, and difficult learning often can be beneficial if incorporated successfully. This is something we need to instill as teachers, rather than providing “easy” learning strategies because it allows students to move more quickly through material.