Thought Leadership Series: King Understands the Benefit of Challenge

This is the next article in King's 'Thought Leadership Series', which focuses on educational trends, independent school culture, growth mindset, teen development, and many other topics related to teaching and learning. Look for the next entry in December:

Throughout its long history, King has carved out a unique approach to education. King understands that realizing one's personal best requires the ability to think for oneself. Guiding children toward a life of achievement means teaching them to manage doubt, navigate challenges, and build self-confidence. Therefore every aspect of the King experience serves as a pathway to achieving individual growth and preparing for a life of accomplishments.

"Across subjects, we respect our students as learners by asking them to stretch their capacity, by asking them to extend beyond the comfortable and known," said Chelsea Church, LS Director of Teaching and Learning.

Our approach is aligned with extensive research: studies show challenge plays a key role in optimizing personal growth. "Meaningful learning tasks need to challenge every student in some way. It is crucial that no student be able to coast to success time after time," Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford, wrote in her study "Even Geniuses Work Hard."

Dweck's findings were furthered by The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) in its twelve principles of child development and learning: "Development of learning advances when children are challenged."

For educators, this trend is not new. Almost a hundred years ago, psychologist and educational reformer John Dewey described failure as instructive, saying, "the person who really thinks, learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes."

Despite the research, some schools and parents attempt to mitigate failure by lessening the challenges or giving rewards to all. Faculty at Michigan State University contest the idea that failure is shameful, suggesting that educators "help children learn to deal with challenges and failures by encouraging them to adopt a growth mindset and teach them to see failures as opportunities to learn, grow, and do things differently next time."

At King, providing students with personal challenge is one of the core principles in our student-centered approach to teaching and learning. Teachers know each student well, allowing them to help students realize their individual potential as learners.

In Lower School for example, our teachers believe authentic learning is personal. As a result, teachers create and add challenges so tasks are a bit beyond what each child has already done allowing information to find a home in an individual student's mind – a Velcro point so to speak. King students develop and expand these "sticky points" by using multiple learning opportunities and challenges designed to maximize their individual potential.

King incorporates this approach to challenging all of its students in the Lower, Middle and Upper Schools. From the Lower School readers and writers' workshops that incorporate high interest materials aligned with students' personal goals to the School's math curriculum that builds on concepts using real world situations, and the robust STEM programs which teach students interdisciplinary problem solving skills, King students conquer challenges and expand their personal potential. Kindergarten teacher Julia Rachinsky-Wood concludes, "expanding upon prior challenges helps each student understand and integrate the complex steps toward intellectual proficiency."

Visit our Lower School at our Open House on Sunday, Nov. 5 or attend a Coffee & Conversation on any Tuesday. Register for both here.