Carefully designed frustration

This last couple of months has been all about getting to really see progressive teaching techniques in action, especially in one of my math-education classes.  I’ve finally been getting firsthand experience of a lot of the buzzwords that have caught my attention lately – co-operative groupwork based in problem solving and discovery learning.  Also, a lot of fun and not a lot of listening to someone lecture.

A common thread that’s come up now and then during my education program is this whole idea of keeping students challenged enough that they’re actually thinking, but not so challenged that they hate you and the course.  Sounds awfully familiar if you’ve looked at game design.  The number of different catchphrases and terms I’ve heard to describe this concept is growing: flow, challenge, “don’t help them too much”, or zone of proximal development (I want to snark about that one, but do I blame Voygotsky or whoever translated his work from Russian?).

But I think my new personal favorite came from the prof of the above-mentioned math class:

Comfortably frustrated

Which, as he described it, is when you go “ARG! Okay let me try that again”, instead of “ARG! I HATE THIS I’M LEAVING!”  (paraphrased, but not by much)

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One thought on “Carefully designed frustration

  1. The Kaplans (check out themathcircle.org) talk about posing an “accessible mystery”. I like your prof’s comfortably frustrated, too. Their phrase refers more to the problem posed, his more to how it’s handled (the game design aspect).

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