The Gradual Release of Responsibility Model: A Brief Overview

The core idea behind the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model (GRR) is that responsibility for learning is relinquished to students in smaller increments over a period of time. The process of GRR usually begins with teacher modelling sessions (“I do, you watch”), followed by a joint effort between teachers and their students (“We do together”). Then, the teacher allows students to attempt the learning task at hand, working in pairs or small groups (“You do it together”), until they are eventually able to perform the task independently, or with very minimal support (“You do alone”).
As discussed in a recent course lecture, there are several key concepts associated with the GRR model. The first of these is called the zone of proximal development, or the area that exists between tasks that students cannot do, and tasks that they can already perform on their own. In other words, tasks in the zone of proximal development are those tasks that students will be able to perform if they receive guidance from a more knowledgeable other (an individual with a bank of prior knowledge or experience about the activity in question).

In my opinion, the GRR model is a fantastic way to approach teaching, and it can be effective with students of any age level. I’ve seen it used to help Kindergarteners develop fundamental social and academic skills, and I’ve felt its effects first-hand as a student in Teachers College. My instructors have used GRR theory in several different classes, and it always makes me feel more confident in my individual abilities when I leave to complete an assignment on my own. I’ve even used it with my own placement students, and so far, my most successful lessons have been those which make the most use of the model. I’ll be posting some more about this topic under “Classroom Resources” soon, so stay tuned!

Collaborative Problem Solving in a Nutshell

The general principle of Dr. Ross Greene’s Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) theory is simple, but very powerful: “kids do well if they can.” In other words, all children are eager to learn and capable of academic greatness, assuming that there are appropriate resources and support systems available. In many cases, at-risk students, or children of promise, do not have these supports in place. This means that in order to arrive at a solution, teachers must be able to identify their own role in the problem, and work with the student(s) in question to change any negative behaviour that is being exhibited.

Dr. Greene also sees the root of most challenging behaviours at school as a set of what he calls “lagging skills” in problem solving, frustration tolerance, flexibility, and adaptability. One of the central strategies he suggests is the use of discussions/conferences with students in order for both parties to voice their concerns and brainstorm potential solutions. As I mentioned in a previous reflective post, my own experiences with CPS theory have so far been very successful, and I believe wholeheartedly in its merits as a teaching practice. While I could usually sense when it would be beneficial to try my hand at CPS, and when I shouldn’t intervene, there were a handful of instances when I found it challenging to gauge which strategy would be more effective. I know that as a new teacher, this skill will become more and more intuitive over the course of my career, and I am definitely going to continue applying Dr. Greene’s theory to my own teaching.

Carol Dweck and Mindset Theory

Out of all of the theoretical perspectives we have covered in my At-Risk concentration courses, my favourite has to be Resilience and Mindset Theory. The term “resilience” is the ability to adapt to challenging circumstances in one’s life, and referring to one’s self as an individual who is capable of overcoming adversity. Supporters of resilience theory have stated that resilient individuals are a product of a complex relationship between nature (i.e., traits that are inherited at birth) and nurture ( the environment one lives in as well as the availability of certain resources and supports). It is important to note, however, that resilience  must be built up over long periods of time. If at-risk students are able to find and maintain a resilient attitude towards life, they are more likely to overcome their unique risk factors more successfully. Resilient individuals can also be referred to as having “grit,” or a drive and ability to persevere despite the challenges presented to them.

Carol Dweck’s mindset theory goes hand-in-hand with resilience. A “mindset” is a cognitive network of beliefs that is formed primarily by one’s views regarding three different subjects:
1) Implicit theories of Intelligence: Is intelligence a fixed trait that we are born with, or can it grow with time and effort?
2) Effort vs. Ability: Is performance determined by how hard one works, or how “good” one is at a certain task?
3) Learning vs. Performance Goals: Is success during a task more important (e.g., a high grade), or is the learning process?

According to Dweck, one’s answers  will determine the type of mindset that he or she has. Those with a fixed mindset tend to view intelligence as an unchangeable trait, value talent over effort, and focus primarily on performance instead of on learning goals. Individuals with a growth mindset hold exactly the opposite views. They believe that one’s intelligence level can be developed over time, that performance is determined primarily by effort, and that learning new lessons and skills are more important than achieving a successful outcome. As someone who was very blessed to have had strong adult role models (who helped me to become incredibly resilient) growing up, I am passionate about providing then same type of support to my own students, and to help them begin to form growth mindsets. Below I have linked the video of Carol Dweck’s TED talk, as well as a presentation about “grit,” which was shown in my Teaching At-Risk course (and which I found VERY intriguing!):



What is Self-Regulated Learning?

As a whole, Self-Regulated Learning (SRL) Theory is a process of strategic student engagement. This requires a few key components:  (1) interpreting/making sense of learning tasks, (2) setting goals and choosing appropriate strategies to meet them, and (3) keeping tack of one’s progress, and adjusting behaviour as necessary.

Self-regulated learning is not always an innate skill, meaning that it is up to teachers to model the skills that are required in order to gradually help their students to develop them on their own. This idea was also illustrated by one of our course’s  guest speakers, Kindergarten teacher Katlynne Gow, who sees self-regulation as a spectrum of behaviour. This spectrum begins with students who are unable to participate in classroom activities altogether. Eventually, children learn to regulate their behaviour, and later their own learning, until they finally are able to participate in the learning process in a much more active way. Personally, I am very intrigued by the hallmarks of SRL Theory, and I am excited to help my own students both to find this capacity, and to apply it to their own lives both inside and outside of school.


A Summary of Self-Determination Theory

In my Understanding At-Risk Children course, the very first theory that we examined was something called Self-Determination Theory (SDT), which states that as human beings, we are each born with a strong desire to develop as individuals and to find happiness. In order to do so, supporters of SDT argue that we must ensure that we have met three basic needs. First, we each have a need for autonomy, meaning that we all want to feel as though we are the ones controlling our own behaviour and actions. There is also a need for competence, or for feeling as though we are successful at interacting with others, and with the world around us. Finally, all individuals must satisfy a need for relatedness, or for feelings of emotional connectedness to other people.

Closely related to SDT is the idea of motivation, which exists on a spectrum and can take on many forms. The first of these is called amotivation, which simply means that someone is not motivated to perform a task whatsoever. External motivation is an extrinsic drive to complete an activity, and it is fuelled primarily by a system of rewards and punishment. In the classroom, this can be seen in the traditional dishing out of candy, high grades, or detention as motivators, and it is arguably one of the least effective forms of motivation in the long run. One step higher is what’s referred to as introjected motivation, which occurs as a result of guilt, or pressure from an outside source. For example, many students pursue  academic goals as a result of family, peer, or larger societal pressure, rather than out of their own desires.

When an individual is motivated by a personal system of reward and punishment, or by a feeling of self-satisfaction after completing tasks, this is called identified motivation. While it is still not the highest level of motivation one can experience, it is definitely more effective than extrinsic motivators, because its source comes from within. Next, an even more self-determined form of motivation is called integrated motivation. This happens when one experiences decision-based pressure and a strong desire to find balance, and a good  example would be a student’s attempt to balance his or her academics with extra-curricular activities, in order to become a more well-rounded person.

Finally, intrinsic motivation is the most effective form of long-term motivation, primarily because it is entirely self-inititated. Rather than external factors, this motivation comes from high levels of interest, an innate desire to succeed, and it is driven by personal pressure and non-materialistic rewards. For example, a student who is intrinsically motivated to study for a test will do so not merely for a high grade, but for the feeling of pride and accomplishment that comes from improving his or her knowledge and understanding of the topic at hand. While intrinsic motivation is definitely not something that teachers can expect to help their students find overnight, it is a form of motivation that I personally feel we should be aiming to build up in them over the course of the school year. When students are intrinsically motivated to accomplish their goals, they will continue to thrive long after they have left our classroom.