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See Transforming Teaching and Learning Through Talk: The Oracy Imperative by Amy Gaunt and Alice Stott for techniques that teach both active listening and expression.

Find out more at Oracy Cambridge.

This site has game recommendations from a middle school science teacher.

BreakoutEDU is a kit that allows a teacher to review or teach content while re-creating an escape room in the classroom.

other STF links

On CUEnet (Feature)

Math Centers: You Can Do It! (ETnet)

What About Parents Who Request an “Unnecessary” Evaluation? (LDnet)

Growing Lunch (LEADnet)

 

LEA is looking for writers

LEA is looking for writers in front-line ministries for articles in future ShapingtheFuture magazine pieces. If you would like to write, contact ed.grube@lea.org (do not reply to this publication) to express and discuss your interests.

 

MIddle School Educators network

Resilience Pedagogy: Can Grit Be Taught?

The term grit is a recent addition to the education vernacular. Angela Duckworth defines grit as the combination of skills allowing a student to be both passionate and persistent. While research indicates these skills are valuable goals, programs that purport to teach them have been less than successful. My graduate students report a significant increase in the incidence of student eye-roll when their schools adopt such programs.

Instead of encouraging students to perform characteristics, we should teach in a way that offers the opportunity to practice these skills. Instead of teaching grit, we cultivate it.Perhaps teaching persistence is not enough. I suspect the challenge is more in-depth than posters, platitudes, and simple lessons. I suggest we address this issue through pedagogy. Instead of encouraging students to perform characteristics, we should teach in a way that offers the opportunity to practice these skills. Instead of teaching grit, we cultivate it.

My research on resilience points to three categories to consider when designing a resilience cultivating classroom: self-regulation, healthy relationships, and problem-solving.

It is simple to see how skills in self-regulation promote the characteristics of resilience. Students need to use their emotions rather than fall victim to them when they face problems. The essential thing to remember is that students learn self-regulation from interaction with peers and adults. Furthermore, this interaction is most effective in the context of healthy relationships.

Let’s consider how this works. A student working alone may become frustrated with the work. If the student does not find a solution, the frustration might continue, might get worse, or cause the student to quit the activity. However, group work offers alternatives. Work partners might help to ease the frustration through encouragement, explanation of the problem, or practical suggestions on how to proceed. These responses teach the original student how to regulate frustration with a new perspective. When students frequently work together, their interactions build relationships that increase trust. This increase in trust will also promote self-regulation skills.

Confidence is not as much about knowing you can do something as it is about recognizing that potential problems are solvable with the help of others.These kinds of peer interactions cultivate confidence because confidence is not as much about knowing you can do something as it is about recognizing that potential problems are solvable with the help of others. When we provide learning situations that give the opportunity for group problem-solving, we have planted and nourished the seeds of resilience. Now a student can show grit because he can keep his emotions in check. He can regulate those emotions because he gets feedback from people he trusts. All of this learning is practiced best within the context of authentic problem-solving.

The challenge is that many teaching practices work contrary to collaboration. It is easiest to cover standards with individual learning, individual assessment, and deductive teaching where solutions are pre-determined. This kind of pedagogy may develop resilience in students who do well academically, but it can backfire for those who do not. If teachers cannot find ways to build resilience in all students, then the lack of self-regulation found in some students will eventually impact the learning of the entire class. It is well worth the effort to tweak pedagogy so that it employs practices that promote resilience. As I have witnessed at the university level, even your smart students will face adversity at some point in their lives. Cultivating resilience makes for a healthy learning environment.

In addition to those inspirational posters and writing assignments about an experience that required grit, let’s take a look at some teaching tools that offer students the opportunity to cultivate resilience.

Oracy has been a subject of research in the UK for close to 20 years. Oracy is similar to literacy and numeracy in that it is the specific teaching of discussion. It is taught from early childhood through high school and gives students the opportunity to discuss content-related topics using guidelines for listening, building on the views of others, summarizing, managing interactions, and self-regulating emotions. While it is likely you do not have time in your school day to add another subject, many tools of oracy can be taught and practiced in other subject areas. See Transforming Teaching and Learning Through Talk: The Oracy Imperative by Amy Gaunt and Alice Stott for techniques that teach both active listening and expression. Using these skills will build relationships, promote effective problem solving, and help students to dive deep into content. Find out more at Oracy Cambridge.

One way to include more discussion in your teaching is to put students in pairs to compare answers on a previously completed assignment. When the students discover a discrepancy, they are tasked with explaining their answer to each other to find the correct way to solve the problem. Once taught, this reaching of consensus not only promotes discussion and problem-solving, but it helps anxious children to relax about getting correct answers. The added benefit is that the child who made the mistake experiences re-teaching from a classmate at the point at which he or she discovers the error. In terms of cognition, this is a solid practice.

Students are often geared toward competition, but cooperation is essential, too. Cooperative board games make use of both. In this type of game, the students are not playing against one another. Instead, they form a single team and play against the game. Research shows these games build cognitive skills such as critical thinking, collaborative reasoning, and looking for supportive evidence. Because the students work together, they also become aware of each other’s skills, and this promotes trust. This site has game recommendations from a middle school science teacher.

I see students who were reticent to share in class discussion take on leadership roles. BreakoutEDU is a kit that allows a teacher to review or teach content while re-creating an escape room in the classroom. Instead of breaking out of a room, this kit enables students to break into several boxes by deciphering codes. The kit can be a bit expensive but is useful for any subject matter and all grade levels. Many teachers have posted tested games on the website so you can start with a pre-made game and work your way into creating your own games specific to your students and your subject matter. I use my kit when I teach graduate students. I love watching the class work together to decipher the codes. Each time I use it, I see students who were reticent to share in class discussion take on leadership roles. I really believe it levels the playing field in many ways.

I am working on a BreakoutEDU game based on the APA style manual so we can experience the game as a teaching tool and cover needed content. In this way, we will play a game on a topic all of my students need and that most will avoid. It will become an activity that not only teaches content but also gets them out of their seats, discussing options, assisting each other, and building relationships they will appreciate as their degree program progresses. In other words, we will be cultivating resilience and collaboration.

Teaching the skills of self-regulation, relationships, and problem-solving are not as simple as the introduction of new learning tools. These skills must be patiently taught. As students learn to work collaboratively, God not only cultivates resilience but as they uphold each other He will develop fellowship through their shared faith. We know that the best tool for cultivating resilience is the Gospel.

Kim Marxhausen, Ph.D., considers herself an itinerant professor spending her days teaching, writing, and presenting with the goal to cultivate resilience. Her book, Weary Joy: God’s Blessing for Caregivers, will be available soon from CPH.

Photos © iStock/FatCamera, Dolgachov, DGL Images