Skip To Main Content

Custom Class: header-utility-outer

From the Principal's Desk: Desirable Difficulty

We live in a world full of material ease and instant gratification. Need a new butter dish? Amazon. Forgot to make dinner? DoorDash. Want an answer without having to actually talk to someone? Text. This present age can satisfy most of our day-to-day needs, wants, and desires on the spot.  


However, learning is not that easy, instant, or streamlined. The road to achieving the mastery of writing a persuasive essay might wind, requiring years of drafts, feedback, and edits. Understanding historical continuity and change over time might click in middle school for one student but not fully click for another until senior year. If my own experience of astronomy labs in college taught me anything, it is that you do not always get the data or clear images of God’s magnificent night sky that would make your lab writeup straightforward.


DSC02452 (1)

When Can Difficulty be Desirable?

Fortunately, “desirable difficulty” (Bjork, 1994) actually enhances learning that sticks with a student over time. Bjork and Bjork (2020) write, “Namely, that for difficulties to be desirable—that is, promote learning—they must present challenges to the learner but not be of such difficulty that the learner cannot eventually meet or overcome them.” In the initial research into desirable difficulty, Bjork (1994) states the fact that there is disagreement over the “optimal mixture” of manipulations to further student learning but then reveals that “one general characteristic of the mixture seems clear: It would introduce many more difficulties and challenges for the learner than are present in typical training.” Simply put, students learn best when appropriately challenged. The educational world just often errs on the side of not challenging students enough. At Mount Paran Christian School, we aim for the desirable difficulty.



Finding Appropriate Challenges in a Christ-Centered Space

What better place to appropriately challenge students than a Christ-centered environment where the teachers strive to know and love each student and effectively and responsively teach them? Educators at Mount Paran Christian School arrive at school each day with this goal. As we know and love our students, we learn what difficulties are desirable for one student but might not be desirable for another. The relational focus of our teaching fosters the student’s understanding that we present appropriate difficulties to him or her out of love and belief in their potential. A Christ-centered environment raises our level of relational, challenging education because all stakeholders know to “work heartily, as for the Lord” (Colossians 3:23) and to “Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14). This is how we provide academic excellence in a Christ-centered environment.



Steadfastness in Faith

Our focus on Christ and God’s Word also reminds us that the Bible promises its own version of desirable difficulty. The Bible does not promise us an easy, streamlined life. Rather, James 1:2-4 commands, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Notice that James writes “when you meet trials” not “if.”
Thankfully, this steadfastness through faith in Christ is what distinguishes schools like MPCS. Whether our students encounter planned desirable difficulty to increase their learning or the difficulty of life in a fallen world, we have, do, and always will point them to our Lord who uses every trial to sanctify us.



Author, Mr. Peter Hill is the Head of Middle School at MPCS. Before joining the MPCS family, he taught and coached in two northeast college preparatory schools, and he also directed the international program and led the instructional coaching program at his previous school. Mr. Hill earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from Dartmouth College and a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Boston College.

To learn more about challenging academics at Mount Paran Christian School  click here. 
References (Bjork 1994)

Bjork, R.A (1994). Memory and metamemory considerations in the training of human beings. In J. Metcalfe and A. Shimamura (Eds.), Metacognition: Knowing about Knowing (pp. 185-205). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. (Bjork and Bjork 2020)

Bjork, R.A., & Bjork, E. L. (2020). Desirable difficulties in theory and practice. Journal of Applied research in Memory and Cognition, 9 (4), 475-479.


Welcome to WingTips, a Mount Paran Christian School Blog. The MPCS Blog features many independent school contributors and thought-leaders.

Subscribe Here!

    Recent Posts

Learn More About MPCS

Recommended Series






Providing academic excellence in a Christ-centered environment, Mount Paran Christian School unites with home and church to prepare servant-leaders to honor God, love others, and walk in Truth.