Mind Shift: What’s the ‘Sweet Spot’ of Difficulty For Learning?

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doing-homework360Story: Annie Murphy Paul

Photo: Marco Nedermeijer

In an NPR story earlier this week, Tovia Smith reported on the growing number of schools that are trying to instill “grit”— perseverance in the face of adversity — in their students. Smith focused on one such school:

“Tom Hoerr leads the New City School, a private elementary school in St. Louis, Mo., that has been working on grit. ‘One of the sayings that you hear around here a great deal is, “If our kids have graduated from here with nothing but success, then we have failed them, because they haven’t learned how to respond to frustration and failure,”‘ says Hoerr.

After years of focusing on the theory known as ‘multiple intelligences’ and trying to teach kids in their own style, Hoerr says he’s now pulling kids out of their comfort zones intentionally.

‘The message is that life isn’t always easy,’ Hoerr says. His goal is to make sure ‘that no matter how talented [students are], they hit the wall, so they can learn to pick themselves up, hit the wall again and pick themselves up again, and ultimately persevere and succeed.’

It is a major adjustment for everyone.”

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