True grit: why our kids must learn resilience

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True grit: why our kids must learn resilience


Tuesday 30 August 2016

by Dr Ali Black

In life and learning we experience ongoing measurement and assessment. My son is in his final year of school and everything is focused on the OP score.

We have to remember that this score isn’t the “be all and end all” as there are many pathways into life-long learning. My son is capable and growing into a wonderful young man, and his OP ranking will be a very small aspect of his life and what defines him as a person and a leader. As his parents we need to remember that – and perhaps lighten up on our nagging about his study.

Recently I put in a promotion application; again it was all about metrics and measures, and quantifiable outputs. Yet, there is so much about my work and my contribution that do not fit these narrow measures. And I think of NAPLAN and the impact this narrow testing has on school rankings and the curriculum our children experience, with some parents becoming unnecessarily anxious and buying those “get better NAPLAN scores” books from the local newsagency.

Perhaps a rethink is required across schooling, workplaces and homes about how we measure success. What about the value we add to our communities; those qualitative, human-being enriching things we do? What about the success of people beating the odds; students from other countries who start school with little English and get to university; people who rise to meet the challenges in front of them?

It is not about getting in the top 5% of something, it about doing our personal best; it is about building positive relationships; it is about persevering and personal progress made. Research is increasingly highlighting that crucial indicators of success are linked to resilience and to personal dispositions such as empathy, curiosity, persistence, self-control and interpersonal skills.

We must take care to not overlook what is actually important to a functioning society – such as our care for one another, our teamwork skills, our ability to creatively solve problems, our sense of optimism, our desire to improve our lives and the lives of others, and belief in our overall potential.

Paul Tough, the author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, and Angela Duckworth, the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance agree that “grit” – that blend of passion and persistence that causes us to keep going and is linked to devoting ourselves to endeavours that give us joy and purpose, and to creating environments that support our development as human beings – is “the” stamina factor that changes our lives for the better.

Aligned with ideas about building grit in kids is the idea of “growth mindset” and the views they adopt for themselves. This is an idea developed at Stanford University by Carol Dweck, and it is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed. Learning changes with effort and motivation. Dr Dweck’s research has shown that when kids read and learn about the brain and how it changes and grows in response to challenge, they’re much more likely to persevere when they fail because they don’t believe that failure is a permanent condition.

Read more about this important research in her book MindSet: The New Psychology of Success – HowWe Can Learn to Fulfil Our Potential.

This article was originally published by The Sunshine Coast Daily on Monday 29 August.

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