Why is Challenge important?


Learning the Right Way to Struggle (NYT article)


manyeducators and learning scientists say that now, as students look to rebuild academic confidence, is a crucial moment for teachers and parents to step back when learning gets hard and to be explicit that the challenge offers rewards.

Manu Kapur, an educational psychologist at ETH Zurich, has spent 17 years showing that students learn new concepts more fully, and retain the knowledge longer, when they engage in what he calls “productive failure” — grappling with a problem before getting instruction on exactly how to do it... Dr. Kapur found that students — in middle school, high school and college, from North America, Europe and Asia — performed better when they had to struggle first. Problem-solving practice before learning a concept was significantly more effective than the converse — learning the concept first and then practicing.

Dr. Kapur emphasized that productive failure works best when certain principles are followed: The problems must be devised to be intuitive, challenging but not impossible, and have multiple solutions; students should work in pairs or small groups; and the class should understand that getting a “right” answer isn’t the goal, and that deeper learning is. But using language like “the learning pit” or even “productive failure” can help as students work to rebuild their academic confidence. “Productive failure is especially important now because we need to re-norm failure as an opportunity to learn,” Dr. Kapur said.


My school has replaced challenge with the term "excellence" which does seem sensible. They've defined excellence as the quality of going above what's expected.