The latest buzz words in education: grit, perseverance, resilience, growth mindset. And, of course, descriptive formative feedback isn’t going away. Try searching any of those terms in youtube or google and you will get some great information. While it is good to know the research, and it is good to know what they mean, the question is, how might they change our teaching practice. How might these things interact? Can we create the climate in our classroom so that students develop grit and perseverance? Can we provide situations that help students develop a growth mindset?
Here are some of my musings, in no particular order:
10, 000 hours. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell looked at the same issue. Do geniuses and superstars have innate abilities or do they work at it? His conclusion was that although some people do appear to be born with certain talents, success is based on 10,000 hours of practice. (The book is very enjoyable and an easy read if you haven’t read it). I think this is the same idea as growth mindset. But do we as teachers really believe it? Do our students? Or do we tend to believe that either you have natural talent or you don’t? I visited a classroom the other day (at a different school) where the teacher had obviously read the book Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck. However, one of the charts her grade 3s had made was a list of things that her students couldn’t do…yet. (I can’t skateboard…yet/I can’t surf…yet). I thought it was a powerful message.
Goal setting. When you set short term or long term goals, you have a belief in a growth mindset. When you are successful, particularly at your long term goals, you have demonstrated grit. Is your classroom goal focussed? Do you have students revisit their goals on a regular basis? If I came in and asked your students what their current goal was in math or writing or science or track would they know? Do you share your goals with your students, and your setbacks?
Achieving goals is hard work. Once you have set goals with kids, do you talk about how hard it is going to be? Do we let kids in on the secret that along the way to success there may be setbacks? Because, if we don’t, they may think that all they need to do is set the goal and it will happen. That’s never happened with any of my goals.
Challenges. Carolyn’s grade seven class was examining the issue of the tar sands. When we chatted about a week ago she was despairing that her students knew nothing about the topic and they were having troubles reading the articles. But, she persevered and so did her students. Today they presented their various arguments for and against the tar sands development. She couldn’t get them to stop talking about the issues. They were keen and enthusiastic. Robyn was telling me about her students in math and how they were so focussed on solving problems that were really challenging. They had some choice of problem but all her groups were “right into it”. I think we develop perseverance and grit when we succeed at something that we originally found difficult. When we are faced with a challenge and are able to overcome it because we receive just the right amount of support, we have a sense of real accomplishment. And, we have learned that we are capable of great things when we apply effort. We are, then, more likely to try the next challenge. We will develop students with grit when we provide tasks which are challenging for them; when we design tasks that are at their proximal zone of development.
Feedback that helps with the challenge. The trick about effective feedback is finding the exact right words at the exact right time that helps a student to move forward with a challenge. We have to choose the type of help we give carefully. One trick is to ask the question or make an observation and then LEAVE. The message is that you trust the students to figure this out. It is a very powerful message.
Feedback that helps with the goal. How often does your feedback feed into the student’s goal? Because you are the teacher, you will have a perspective the student does not have, and, at times, will offer feedback that offers new directions. However, when students have real and tangible goals, and they are able to receive specific feedback about the goal that is meaningful to them, they may be more likely to apply that feedback. If that feedback helps them succeed because they have put forth effort, it develops a positive growth mindset. As they reach goals through perseverance and effort, they develop grit.