Tuesday, March 25, 2014

GRIT- why it is essential for kids to learn and how you can teach it

Angela Lee Duckworth uses "grit" to describe the quality that predicts success in school and life despite other differences, such as IQ.  In this TED talk she describes how grit is an important factor in why some kids struggle despite high IQ and other positive factors, and why others who are less talented reach high levels of success in the classroom and later in life.

Grit has become a buzzword in education and many schools are jumping on the bandwagon to teach it to their students.  But how do you teach it?  Can you teach it?  I would argue that you can teach it.  And that we MUST teach it for students and kids to be successful.  

Grit is about having a growth mindset.  Growth mindset is the belief that one's abilities can be developed over time with hard work.  A fixed mindset, conversely, is the belief that one's abilities are fixed and won't change over time.  For kids this translates into, "I can do this if I keep trying." vs. "I am just not good at this so I might as well give up."

The most important message my parents ever gave me as a child was, "You can do anything you decide to do."  As a little kid I just believed them.  Whenever I was successful at something, it was because I tried hard.  When I was unsuccessful it was only because I didn't try hard enough.  I still believe this today.  Unfortunately, not all parents give their children this message because they don't believe it themselves.

Which is why educators must teach students this important lesson- if you try hard enough, you will be successful.  Good teachers have a ton of grit.  If good teachers didn't have a growth mindset they wouldn't believe that all their students can achieve success or that they could develop the skills necessary to teach struggling students.  Good teachers are the perfect role models for teaching grit.

The big question is HOW to teach grit.  How can you teach a mindset?  Here are my recommendations of what I have found works in the classroom (but are perfectly applicable to parenting as well):

  1. Tell your students, "I know you can do this- keep trying!"
  2. Teach them that mistakes are how you learn.  
  3. Point out your own mistakes and tell them what you learned.  
  4. Tell them stories about how you struggled and were successful.  Be honest.
  5. Give your kids opportunities to try again and again. As long as they want to try, you will give them the chance to shine.
  6. Teach them about how the brain works.  Tell them how to grow their brain through practice, repetition, failing and trying again.
  7. Read books about characters and people who never give up despite the greatest odds.  
  8. Give your kids real time feedback on their work and teach them to correct mistakes.  Tell them what they do well and what is the one bit sized thing they could do to make it a little better.
  9. Celebrate growth over achievement.  It is not how high your score is, it is how much you improve.
  10. Encourage their passions.  Passion is what keeps us going when it get really tough.  Passion is what drives us when we want to quit.
Please share your ideas in the comments section below.  

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