Wednesday, April 10, 2013

L&B NYC: Paul Tough

L&B 2013 NYC Paul Tough - Beyond Smart: How Grit, Curiosity, and Character Help Students Succeed and Thrive The cognitive hypothesis - the idea we're all working around with that IQ is really what matters for success. But new research shows that things like grit, conscientiousness, self-control, etc. matter at least as much. Non-cognitive functions. Nadine Burke Harris - stress ( What was really making her young patients sick was the stress, violence, noise and chaos that surrounded them every day. She often felt like a battlefield surgeon rather than a family physician. Adults who experienced significant amounts of trauma have cancer, emphysema, suicide, etc., rates that are twice as high as their counterparts. The stress response system is, in some ways, like a muscle. It needs regular use to develop properly, but this use should be mild and occasional. But if you experience severe and/or lasting trauma, it disables that response and causes severe and lasting problems. There is an antidote to toxic stress: parents. Children who form secure attachment with their parents have a kind of insulation against toxic stress. Seriously significant in study of rats who engage in "licking and grooming" behavior - smarter, braver, etc. Human equivalent holding and singing and talking and soothing. There is a strong connection between infant brain chemistry and adult cognition and behavior. If we want to intervene in character development, there are two key periods: infancy and adolescence. Adolescence because they are able to engage in metacognition for the first time. Try to take advantage of that natural tendency to help them change their thinking and their behavior and their character. Study of KIPP schools and Riverdale school - polar opposites. Both groups of students were doing great on paper, achieving, but seemed to lack that deep inner grit and resilience that we need to succeed and thrive. Worked with psychologists from UPenn and came up with a list of seven key characteristics: Optimism Zest Curiosity Self-control Gratitude Social Intelligence Grit - perseverance in pursuit of a passion. There's a 12-question grit test on her website ( This test is highly predictive of future success. Character report card ( used for teachers to evaluate these characteristics in their students. The message of the report card is that the students can improve and change - use it as a tool to create a growth mindset. Not at all punitive. Not waiting to change and improve character because a student has done something bad. It's all about creating a positive climate and creating great future citizens. But calling it a "report card" may be problematic. It's really a point of discussion. Students are often unable to work on these things because they are protected from everything. Character strengths like grit and self-control are born out of failure, and in today's society no one really fails at anything. We often confuse stress with challenge. Students may be working unbelievably hard (stress) but are not particularly challenged, interested, motivated and therefore are not developing great characteristics.  Failure is not a guarantee of resilience. In many cases it just wears them down. There's an adversity gap in this country. Some kids have too much and actually need some protection. Others, particularly affluent students, have almost none. In trying to protect our kids too much we may be doing more harm than good. In a study correlating experiences with adversity with mental health and happiness, those who had experienced no adversity (or very little) were no happier than the ones who had experienced a ton. Those who had experienced SOME (3 or 4 items on their checklist out of 12) were happiest and healthiest. Must help students learn to manage failure. When you play chess, you lose a lot and you make a lot of mistakes. Faced with this in middle school, there are two temptations: 1. chess is stupid anyway haha, 2. wallow in your failure. By focusing on metacognition, you can guide students between these temptations. Help them figure out what they did wrong, why they did it, build the knowledge and confidence needed to improve. For infants, we must provide "licking and grooming," but at some point we must transition, pull back, and let children solve their own problems, stand on their own, and learn how to fail. We don't need to manufacture adversity for our kids; they face it all the time in school, sports, with siblings, and in social situations. What really makes a difference is how we react to it, how we talk about it, and how we model failure. For kids in high-poverty areas, the answer is not to let them fail more. We've been letting them fail too much for too long. It's hard to believe that kids who have been exposed to toxic stress and have altered brain chemistry because of it could ever succeed, but some do. Seems rare and random. But for the first time we're starting to understand the science behind it - how the environment can cause such massive biological and social problems and how interventions can lead to success. In all of these stories, there is help - someone who reaches out and supports and helps, family member, teacher, coach, neighbor, friend. And this help focuses on development of character, not IQ. We can do it individually and we can do it systematically by appealing to administration and building it into our school and social structures. Tail-end of Dennis Charney, M.D. - Resilience: The Science of Mastering life's Greatest Challenges Resilience is about as genetic as anxiety and depression! But it's not destiny, just a vulnerability. His model of resilience:

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