How to praise kids: It’s a hot topic for many parents and educators. A lot of the conversation around it has stemmed from studies by Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford who has been researching this specific topic for many years.
“My research shows that praise for intelligence or ability backfires,” said Dweck, who co-authored a seminal research paper on the effects of praise on motivation and performance. “What we’ve shown is that when you praise someone, say, ‘You’re smart at this,’ the next time they struggle, they think they’re not. It’s really about praising the process they engage in, not how smart they are or how good they are at it, but taking on difficulty, trying many different strategies, sticking to it and achieving over time.”
But what some might not know is that this paradox is strongest for girls.
Dweck’s research, which focuses on what makes people seek challenging tasks, persist through difficulty and do well over time, has shown that many girls believe their abilities are fixed, that individuals are born with gifts and can’t change. Her research finds that when girls think this way, they often give up, rather than persisting through difficulties. They don’t think they possess the ability to improve, and nowhere is the phenomenon stronger than in math. Continue reading
How can we best prepare children and adolescents to thrive in the 21st century? This question is at the heart of what every educator attempts to do on a daily basis. Apart from imparting content of knowledge and facts, however, it’s becoming clear that the “noncognitive competencies” known as grit, perseverance, and tenacity are just as important, if not more so, in preparing kids to be self-sufficient and successful.
To that end, the Department of Education’s Office of Technology has released a report called Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance —Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century, drafted by research firm SRI International, which addresses how educators can integrate these ideas into their teaching practice: Are these competencies malleable and teachable? How significant a role do they play in students’ success? What are the best learning environments to encourage and foster these attributes?
“The test score accountability movement and conventional educational approaches tend to focus on intellectual aspects of success, such as content knowledge. However, this is not sufficient,” the report states. “If students are to achieve their full potential, they must have opportunities to engage and develop a much richer set of skills.”
The entire report [PDF] is well worth the read. Here are a few noteworthy highlights excerpted from different parts of the report.
What Are Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance?
Grit, tenacity, and perseverance are multifaceted concepts encompassing goals, challenges, and ways of managing these. We integrate the big ideas from several related definitions in the literature to a broad, multifaceted definition of grit for the purpose of this report: “Perseverance to accomplish long-term or higher-order goals in the face of challenges and setbacks, engaging the student’s psychological resources, such as their academic mindsets, effortful control, and strategies and tactics.”
Sociocultural context plays an important role. It can be a significant determinant of what students value and want to accomplish, the types of challenges they face, and the resources they can access. It is well documented that students from high-poverty backgrounds are particularly likely to face great stress and limited social support for academic achievement— factors which can undermine perseverance toward a wide range of goals. Researchers and educators also highlight concerns about the challenges faced by students from other segments of the socioeconomic Continue reading
Free, unstructured playtime gives kids a chance to discover their interests and tap into their creativity. It’s a crucial element for building resilience in children, an attribute they’ll need in order to become happy, productive adults. That’s Kenneth Ginsburg’s thesis and the core of his book Building Resilience in Children and Teens.
Ginsburg, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who also works with homeless children, has spent a lot of time trying to help young people build tools they’ll need to succeed — even when trauma has marred early lives.
But the word “success” can be loaded, often carrying different connotations. To Ginsburg, a successful child is one who finds something he loves to do, is generous, empathetic and compassionate, committed to repairing the world, shows grit and the ability to collaborate, creativity and can take constructive criticism. These are what will serve young people as they move into the world on their own.
“Play is integral to being able to build resilience.”
“So many of the things that we care about are completely learned through the creative process,” Ginsberg said at an event hosted by the Bay Area Discovery Museum. When kids are allowed free time to play, they learn how to work in groups, negotiate, share, self-advocate, and make decisions.
Ginsburg cautions parents that putting too much pressure on children’s academics might have negative effects in the long term. The way he frames parents’ ultimate goals: Raise healthy, wise Continue reading
When it comes to high achievement, grit may be as essential as intelligence.
Before she was a psychology professor, Angela Duckworth taught math in middle school and high school. She spent a lot of time thinking about something that might seem obvious: The students who tried hardest did the best, and the students who didn’t try very hard didn’t do very well. Duckworth wanted to know: What is the role of effort in a person’s success?
Now Duckworth is an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and her research focuses on a personality trait she calls “grit.” She defines grit as “sticking with things over the very long term until you master them.” In a paper, she writes that “the gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina.”
Duckworth’s research suggests that when it comes to high achievement, grit may be as essential as intelligence. That’s a significant finding because for a long time, intelligence was considered the key to success.
“Which experiences do we give kids to get them in the direction of more grit and not less?”
Intelligence “is probably the best-measured trait that there is in all of human psychology,” says Duckworth. “We know how to measure intelligence in a matter of minutes.”
But intelligence leaves a lot unexplained. There are smart people who aren’t high achievers, and there are people who achieve a lot without having the highest test scores. In one study, Duckworth found that smarter students actually had less grit than their peers who scored lower on an intelligence test. This finding suggests that, among the study participants — all students at an Ivy League school — people who are not as bright as their peers “compensate by working harder and with more determination.” And their effort pays off: The grittiest students — not the smartest ones — had the highest GPAs.
THE GRIT TEST
Duckworth’s work is part of a growing area of psychology research focused on what are loosely called “noncognitive skills.” The goal is to identify and measure the various skills and traits other than intelligence that contribute to human development and success.
Duckworth has developed a test called the “Grit Scale.” You rate yourself on a series of 8 to 12 items. Two examples: “I have overcome setbacks to conquer an important challenge” and Continue reading