30 AUG

​Dealing with Stuckness and Getting Unstuck

Collegians, Junior School, Parents & Carers, Senior School, Student Wellbeing

Being stuck is a natural part of learning, we all get stuck. Being able to get ourselves unstuck is as much about how we react emotionally as it is about having the practical strategies to work out how to overcome it. Being able to manage an effective way out of being stuck is a critical part of persevering.

James Nottingham introduced the idea of the Learning Pit as a way to explain that struggling is part of learning and that if we are to understand something we need to struggle with it first.

The explicit message is that students need to expect being stuck during any learning. The implicit message is that being stuck is a good thing – something you want to see. Using this technique regularly with your child means children come to accept being stuck as a natural part of learning. It begins to build their curiosity about why and possible patterns to stuckness.

Parents and teachers can build positive associations with being stuck by using growth mindset language with children:

  • Being stuck is a good place to be.
  • Getting stuck means your brain is working hard on something new.
  • When you learn new things your brain gets bigger.
  • If you don’t get stuck you’re probably not learning anything new
  • Getting stuck is good for you.
  • It’s not too hard, it’s just a bit tricky right now.
  • When you say you can’t do this, just add ‘yet’
  • Being stuck means you are about to discover something new

Parents and teachers need to encourage children to become more interested in difficulty and develop strategies to deal with stuckness. Use phrases like:

  • Have a go yourself. I think you can do this.
  • Who could you ask for help?
  • Well done for sticking at it by yourself.
  • What have you already tried? What else might work?
  • When you got stuck before what did you do? And then what did you do? Did that help you get unstuck?
  • What usually helps you get unstuck?
  • What’s your favourite way of getting unstuck?
  • What's your best way of getting unstuck?

The ability to cope with and overcome difficulty and challenge is a key aspect to becoming a successful learner. By celebrating the moment of being stuck, children and adults are reminded that being stuck is not a place of shame, rather that it is part of the learning journey.

Written by Mrs Therese Connor, Director of Teaching and Learning

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