Learning Focus

December 2020 | Focus: The Productive Struggle

The Productive Struggle

We have all been there. It can be very frustrating when we are working through a complex situation, issue, or problem and the answer is not obvious to us right away. However, we also know how rewarding it feels when we work through that tough situation and come up with a great solution. Learning is not only about getting the answer correct, it is about the process of building skills, knowledge, and awareness as we work through the lesson. Children learn by wresting with a new skill and becoming better at it through sustained practice.


Think of it this way. Very few people get on a bike the first time and simply ride. We use training wheels, or have someone hold the seat and coach us along the way. Yes, we may fall a few times, but with perseverance and practice we eventually go gliding down the street. School is no different. Like riding that bike, learning at school is full of productive struggle. Productive struggle comes from developing strong habits of mind, such as persistence, thinking flexibly, gathering data, and taking responsible risks.


You can help your child understand that productive struggle in necessary for learning and for establishing a growth mindset. At the outset of learning something new, not knowing the answer immediately should be expected. When your child is struggling with a new concept, the key is to encourage him to persevere and not get discouraged if his initial strategies don’t work. The best way to help your child is to ask him what he knows and how he knows it. From there, just like riding that bike, it becomes about trying different strategies until one works.


This month's Learning Focus is on the power of the productive struggle and how to support your child when the going gets tough!

What is the difference between a Fixed Mindset and a Growth Mindset?

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Growth Mindset Books to Share with Kids

Parents, here is a list of amazing books related to growth mindsets for any age:


  • Bubble Gum Brain by Julia Cook
  • Thanks for the Feedback, I Think by Julia Cook
  • I Knew You Could: A Book for All Stops in Your Life by Craig Dorfman
  • Making a Splash – Growth Mindset for Kids by Carol Reiley
  • Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It By JoAnn Deak
  • A Walk in the Rain with a Brain by Edward Hallowell
  • My Day Is Ruined! A Story Teaching Flexible Thinking by Bryan Smith
  • Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn for Kids by John C. Maxwell
  • When Pigs Fly by Valerie Coulman
  • Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty

A Final Word from some Friends...

Sesame Street do Growth Mindset