One of these was on the "Kitchen Table Math" blog entitled "The 80% Commandment". It discusses a quote from a 1999 book by Elaine McEwan-Adkins and Mary Damer called Managing Unmanageable Students: Practical Solutions for Administrators. The quote is this:
"The relationship between students’ accuracy with schoolwork and their subsequent behavior is described by the 80% Commandment: 'Thou shall not expect a student to do a learning task when he or she does not have the skills to complete the task with 80% success. Otherwise, that student will either act out or tune out.' Today’s frustrated students who lack basic skills most often respond by acting out."The author of the KTM post, Catherine Johnson, agrees wholeheartedly with McEwan-Adkins & Damer about the 80% Commandment and believes it's the reason why her students are struggling.
I tend to agree with this statement as it applies to a traditional classroom setting with 20-30+ students. But I wonder how applicable it is in a homeschool, where the child spends much of his/her time working one-on-one with the teacher.
I have definitely noticed that my DD will become frustrated if the task she's being asked to do is way over her head. At the same time, however, I want her to be challenged by her schoolwork and to stretch herself beyond her comfort level. That's the only way she'll grow in what she's capable of doing.
I'm not convinced that 80% is the optimal challenge level in a homeschool setting. If she's getting 4 out of 5 of them right all on her own, that seems to me like the task is too easy. I'd say that the challenge level I'm aiming for is more in the 1/2 to 2/3 range. Hard but not so difficult that she just gives up in frustration. Then I provide the "scaffolding" (to use the term associated with Vygotsky's work) that enables her to get to the point where she can complete the task herself with 80-90% accuracy. Once she can do that, I increase the challenge level again and the process repeats itself.
Because I'm only working with a single student, I'm able to do a lot more in the way of scaffolding than a traditional classroom teacher could. I can also devote as much time to a particular topic as she needs before we move on.
Last year we spent almost an entire month on one math topic that the curriculum we use is designed to cover in a few days (telling time to the nearest 5 minutes). She was having difficulty with the concept that each of the twelve numbers on the clock represents a different number (i.e. 5 representing 25 past the hour). That requires some pretty advanced thinking for a then-5 year old. But I kept working on it with her, and eventually the light bulb went on in her head.
I guess it's not so much the general principle of the 80% Commandment that I question, just the specific challenge level that was chosen. I'm curious to hear what other homeschoolers think- what do you consider as the optimal challenge level for your student? For those of you are homeschooling multiple children, do you find it varies from child to child?