As teachers, we sometimes have moments when we are confident the students are leaving the classroom prepared to tackle the homework, yet the work they bring back is inadequate. Where did our lesson go wrong or does the trouble lie within the students?
An explanation may be in the way we think about how students learn. Neural networks, which go hand-in-hand with learning new concepts, are built not in a linear fashion, but more like Russian nesting dolls. Children make connections with simpler skills and concepts and build outward to learn more complex skills and concepts.
Regression, often thought of as a negative step, is a natural stage in this skill-building process. Children must master the simpler skills first, and sometimes that requires them to go backwards and practice more.
Teachers help students build new connections when they scaffold instruction, providing children different levels of support until they are able to direct their own learning. But often students regress at different stages as the scaffolding is taken away.
To further explore these ideas, visit unit 5, “Building New Neural Networks,” of Neuroscience and the Classroom. For example, in the section 6 video, Scaffolding: Johanna and Her Mother with Commentary, hear Professor Kurt Fischer explain how scaffolding occurs between mother and baby, and how scaffolding benefits students in the classroom.