Minimum Viable Input

In software, there's a lot of discussion about the "minimum viable product" when you're designing something: what is the bare basic you can deliver to customers that will solve a problem? It helps define the focus and set development priorities for the first weeks.

I think there's a similar process in learning. I have to have a minimum viable input from students in order to teach effectively. I try to design lessons that are low barrier for entry, ones that allow students to engage with an idea without being bogged down in the details. It takes some amount of effort and the bar is just above what's comfortable.

I haven't been receiving that minimum input from students lately. And as a result, we're struggling. Hard.

There seems to be the expectation that if learning doesn't happen in class, I'll drop everything and teach it later. Some are learning the hard way that it doesn't work that way. When we're together, I want to engage together. I can be flexible, but it's a two way street.

I've had some discussions with students. The nice thing about standards based grading is that it's less of a numbers game (mathematically impossible to pass, etc.) It's harder - it's a learning game.

Learning must happen.

Learning an entire semester's worth of material in four weeks is hardly realistic, but I'll support the ones who give it a try.

I hope there's a larger takeaway, whatever the outcome.

3 thoughts on “Minimum Viable Input

  1. Andrew Swan says:

    I think I can understand your struggle, and certainly appreciate your honesty about it. One quick thought: Is the general culture of your school somehow related to this student attitude? I’ve had trouble with basic compliance and respect, but recently I see it as enabled behavior by weak administration. Kids don’t quiet down for the asst principal’s announcements, and there are no consequences… that makes my job much harder! Also I notice many colleagues have weak expectations for some academics, so students are shocked to experience *consequences*! from me… Keep fighting the good fight, Brian.

    • Brian Bennett says:

      It’s a little bit of a lot of things. First, it’s something I’ve been fighting all year. I force them to engage and really _show_ that they’re learning. It’s a complete shift in thinking that has taken a good portion of my students all year to begin to figure out in a meaningful way. Second, we’re in week three of five for state testing. My students are put through the ringer this year as Indiana tries to get it’s act together with assessments. It’s also difficult stuff…bonding is just hard because it’s so abstract. We’re making progress…it’s just difficult to strike an appropriate balance of approachability and instructional.

  2. Corbin Brown says:

    I’m feeling the same struggle right now. I tried standards based learning last marking period and really liked it but started to lose them in the same sense. The issue for me is more of the climate of the class my other hour same subject is polar opposite. Brian the last sentence of your response hits the nail on the head. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel and then time to recover and prep for the fall.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *