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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Perseverance: How to Get the Tough Going

Perseverance: How to Get the Tough Going

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In any Blended Learning classroom, there needs to be instruction on how to handle receiving instruction through video. It’s not enough to instruct in content; students must have foundational skills supporting their use of the technologies. As in any classroom, students need to learn skills that are vital to their success, and handling their self-driven learning is unique to a Blended Learning classroom. These non-cognitive skills include, but aren’t limited to setting goals, managing time, asking questions, collaborating with others, persevering when the going gets tough, curiosity, and motivating one’s self to pursue and acquire new knowledge.

Students must be equipped with the knowledge that they will be facing these new challenges as Blended Learning is implemented into the classroom. This can be done through a variety of methods, but the skills must be intentionally pre-taught and not stumbled upon. In a brick and mortar classroom, teachers are with students during most of the day, through both instruction and practice times. This constant contact allows for students to rely upon the classroom teacher for reinforcement and motivation throughout the lesson. In Blended Learning classrooms, students receive their instruction, and possibly some practice, away from the teacher, thus forcing students to shift reliance to his or her self.

Let’s look at perseverance - the ability to stick with a task in the face of obstacles.

When the game of school shifts for students from seat time to mastery, the expectation and competition becomes much steeper. Students face such challenges and, often times, struggle to make it through to the end. Traditionally, classroom teachers push students through their challenges toward success. With the best of intentions, they scaffold the challenges out, in order for students to achieve success. This is not a phenomenon reserved for those who struggle the most - or is it the just teachers who do this. Gifted learners also struggle with struggling. A recent conversation with GT coach, Tiffany McCall focused on the need to let highly able students “sit in” their struggle. When we don’t rush to rescue, we send the message that we believe in the student. I trust you to succeed - and there’s something to learn from your struggle. Listen to Angela Duckworth describe her theory of grit and it’s impact on learning.

Angela Lee Duckworth: The key to success? Grit.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

In the BL classroom, students must develop their own methods in order to become successful in the face of adversity. Without the crutches found through the scaffolding that lacks challenge and an adult who will coerce any child to success, students will either fail or get going. A successful classroom does not accept or allow failure, so students are forced to get going.

Teachers can start with the end in mind (If I had a dollar for every time…) by giving work purpose. The beginning of a perseverant student comes through knowing why the required work needs to be done. Students with goals and benchmarks to master have their next steps in mind as they work through problems that present various challenges. This goal can be as simple as ‘once you master addition, you can begin multiplication’. Steps such as this are effective with the hungry for knowledge learner. My in-coming third graders are seemingly over eager to learn multiplication, so revealing that as a reward for pushing through mastery of addition is effective. For students who are less eager for education, the teacher must find something that will motivate the student. This can be difficult because students are so incredibly different in what will motivate them. Though not to far off from a traditional classroom, purpose must be clear and present for students acquiring perseverance with online learning.

Celebrating grit and perseverance will increase the likelihood of it spreading through a classroom. When learners know the desired behavior, they’ll strive to replicate it. We propose two possibilities for celebrating perseverance.

One is to find examples in our reading. There are numerous examples of perseverance in literature. The hungry caterpillar, Pete the Cat, Percy Jackson, and even goofy Greg - our favorite wimpy kid show perseverance. It’s also evident in the sports world. The July 21, 2014 issue of ESPN, The Magazine features athlete after athlete sharing their stories of perseverance. Larry Fitzgerald, wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals says, “That’s what gets you up in the morning. That’s what lets you sleep good at night - knowing you worked your tail off that day.”

The other is help students recognize perseverance and grit in themselves and each other. Giving students the opportunity to see their classmates work through a challenge is extremely effective in producing an intrinsic motivation to do the same. An example of such is having an honorary sandpaper with a tough grit. When students see their peers accomplish something that required hard work, dedication, and grit, they pass the sandpaper. The goal of passing the grit is to show kids that no matter the challenge, everyone can demonstrate and practice perseverance and grit. Once a student receives and eventually passes on the sandpaper, their desire to earn the highly coveted acknowledgement again increases their grit and perseverance in future endeavors. As this permeates the classroom, the climate of pushing through challenges quickly becomes established.

"The difference between the successful and the unsuccessful is not the absence of obstacles, but the presence of perseverance."
-Chris Widener

Sharon Wright and Gerrek Zwickle


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