George Lucas Educational Foundation

Teaching Resilience

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Resiliency: Capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture; tending to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change –Merriam-Webster Dictionary

In recent years resiliency and grit have become buzzwords in education. There has been a growing sense that character building is a critical part of education and supports classroom learning. The University of Chicago has positioned themselves as a leader in research for Resiliency, Grit Education. They have found that the most effective methods are those that are focused on the skill development coupled with supporting a growth mindset. As educators, it is critical for us to develop the tool box for students, because we know those tools lead to improved academic performance. (To learn more about the noncognitive factors involved use the following link for the paper published by the University of Chicago.

So, how does one teach the general ability of being able to recover from misfortune or change? As educators, we often are focused on a student’s ability to recover from a poor grade, but does this truly represent resiliency? There certainly is an aspect of resiliency in these moments, but how reasonable are our expectations for how a person responds to major disappointment.

When incorporating ways to develop student grit and resiliency, their ability to overcome disappointment or change, teachers look at the lower stakes moments that occur in classes. Some of these questions to consider are:

  • Do you celebrate failure in the class and encourage risk-taking: How do you respond when a student gives an incorrect answer or an interpretation that is off-base. These are small moments to encourage students to take risks
  • In what form is feedback delivered to students: Is feedback auxiliary to the class or is it a core component. How do you hold students responsible for using the feedback and promote growth in their work? How does constructive criticism flow in the class- teacher to student? student to student? student to teacher?
  • Do you model resiliency in class? How do you respond to adversity in the class? If a part of the lesson is not flowing as anticipated do you show frustration? If some piece of technology is failing, what is your response? Are you as aware of your body language as you are of the words you choose?
  • What is the role of revisions? Can students rewrite essays and papers? Do students receive an opportunity to run an experiment another time?  Can you promote opportunities to renew or revise that will help develop these habits of mind.
  • Are you explicitly developing the skill? Are you looking at teaching and assessing resilience in a traditional manner or are you considering this to be a skill that needs to be practiced honed?

Our students are growing up in a society where information is available at their finger tips in unprecedented ways. Considering how often an adult may get annoyed if the internet is running slow or if there is a bad cell phone reception, think about the kids that are growing up in this type of fast-paced era. It is our responsibility, more so than ever, to help provide the scaffolding for students to develop the ability to overcome adversity and be flexible when they face change. The research shows that this is a duel approach and the development of a growth mindset is critical to this work.

If you are interested in learning more about how children develop resiliency, I invite you to read the article How Kids Really Succeed from The Atlantic, a comprehensive look at the development of resiliency in children from infancy to teenage years .

In what areas of school do you think resiliency plays out most often?

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Comments (4) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

M Shafer's picture
M Shafer
Third grade teacher in the Midwest

Good questions! Thanks especially for sharing the article link. Great read.

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Design/Broadcast Media teacher

I have discovered that for some reason we are more willing to struggle and work through obstacles (or even failure) when we are using some kind of modern technology. I found this out myself when I started my own blog and when I taught myself to use iMovie. There just seems to be something about working in digital spaces that we see as more forgiving of our errors (the undo option certainly helps!). I see this in my students, too: when they are building digital portfolios or learning to code their own games, they are more willing to keep working in spite of confusion or failures. However, I think we teachers need to take an extra step to help our students recognize that they are building resilience through these activities. If we don't ask our students to reflect on and identify the skills they have used (and the obstacles they have overcome), I don't think they will understand that they are developing resilience and that it can transfer to other, not necessarily technological, activities. As a writing teacher, I know the value of writing to deepen thinking and learning, and I think it's a critical piece of teaching resilience. For instance, here is what one student wrote after she coded her own computer game:
"Let me tell you, that moment where I could just press the green flag and the game would start over on its own was probably one of the happiest moments of my life. I know, I know, pretty dramatic. But coding a game was one of the hardest and most stressful things that I've ever done. But even so, I wouldn't want to trade in this experience for anything. The fact that I, a person who isn't a professional programmer, was able to program my own game that people can play and enjoy, is amazing to me."

Joshua Neudel's picture

Thanks for your thoughts. I agree with you when it comes to adding intentionality to lessons when it comes to teaching resilience. Being explicit about the purpose, how it will help them build their skills and tool box, and the purpose of confusion and failure are some of the ways to teach students to develop the skill.

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