In this American RadioWorks podcast, psychology professor Dan Willingham explains the learning "sweet spot."
We all thrive and learn most efficiently when we're presented with the right amount of challenge -- just beyond the point where a task would be too easy and bore us, and just short of the point where it would be too hard and frustrate us. Other scientists might call this the "zone of proximal development," but I think calling it the "sweet spot" makes it a little easier to understand.
Ensuring every student is working in his or her "sweet spot" all the time is, of course, one of the fundamental challenges of education. This is the heart of differentiation. In a classroom full of students with divergent needs and at different levels, how do you meet every child where he/she is and give him/her just the right amount of challenge to push him/her forward?
Interestingly, Dr. Willingham says he more frequently gets questions from educators asking how to appropriately challenge high achieving students, rather than low achieving students.
What are your strategies for ensuring every child is hitting the sweet spot for learning?