The Goldilocks Principle Of Education

Do you buy into the ‘just right paradigm’?

The ‘Goldilocks principle’ states that teachers should focus on material that is not too easy or too hard, but ‘just right’.

The analogy is based on the story, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, in which Goldilocks tastes three different bowls of porridge and she finds that she prefers porridge which is neither too hot nor too cold but has just the right temperature.

Children prefer activities which are neither too simple nor too complex according to their current representation of the world. When the content becomes too hot, it means it’s too much and where children are trying hard to grasp the content. If the content is too cold then it doesn’t even scratch the surface of the learner.

But for teachers this fine-tuning is a tall task. In reality, just how hard is it to stretch children without stressing them? It’s all very well having “Big Bang Teaching” that appeals to all interests (Cohen, 2011) but we still have to get it right across a class.

Designing lessons which appropriately stresses children intellectually will help maintain their capacity and activities in class that are not ‘just right’ can be bad for pupil progress, development and well-being.

But how do you find the sweet spot?

My own view is that the Goldilocks Principle is just something we cannot realistically achieve across 30 learners. Getting it just right for everyone is just a pipe dream. Essentially what we are talking about here is the myth of differentiation within a whole class context.

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