The Goldilocks “Just Right” Paradigm in Classrooms

goldilocks_frontIn the classic tale “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” Goldilocks searches for the “just right” porridge, chair, and bed. Upon finding that which was most satisfying, Goldilocks happily undertakes eating, sitting, and resting.

Within each of our students (and ourselves!) is a cognitive “just right” for undertaking learning tasks. If a task is too easy, boredom sets in. If a task is too difficult, avoidance takes place. So how do classroom teachers design tasks and environments that allow for those “just right” moments? In her book Engage the Brain: How to Design for Learning That Taps Into the Power of Emotion, author Allison Posey shares a three-component design model to activate the physiology necessary for learning (pp. 9-20):

  1. Offer a clear goal. Provide a statement related to what a student is to do or deliver as a result of undertaking the task. Include the skills and sub-skills to be demonstrated by the deliverable.
  2. Offer a relevant connection. Clearly identify why the task matters while making overt linkage to the greater purpose and meaningful connections for students.
  3. Offer choices. Provide at least two choices, so that students can process the task and choose the path that will allow that “just right” fit for them.

As you plan for next week, examine the tasks you want your students to accomplish. Are they clearly articulated? Do students really know what they are to do? Are the tasks relevant? Do students see how they connect to their own lives? Are there choices available? Can students pick a path that offers them a “just right” learning experience? If not, make some adjustments. You and your students will benefit greatly from your efforts!

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