• Teaching Tenacity and Mindset - September 21, 2015

    Posted by Dr. Jim Argent at 9/21/2015 8:00:00 AM

    Currently, the educational system values being able to perform well on tests. So many educational structures have been set towards raw intelligence and IQ. Schooling seems to value a specific type of student intelligence and how students perform on assessments. But what of other strengths and intelligences that are needed in order to be successful in life? A simple google search of multiple intelligences pulled 763,000 results. Most of this based on the famed work of Dr. Howard Gardner, who identified 7 types of intelligences: visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, and logical mathematical. Obviously, schools can be a better place if they honor all of these intelligences and assessed with all of these in mind. We would be able to determine if students really learned content based on their strengths. That would be a vast improvement over current assessments. However, I still don’t think it would be enough. Just having a strength in a type of intelligence is not enough! What if we really flipped the script and also valued tenacity and growth mindset?

     
    Tenacity is an amazing trait to have and develop as a human being. To be tenacious means that you won’t let up or give in. You are goal oriented and driven to succeed and NO one can tell you that you will fail. You are determined and persistent in the face of adversity and persevere towards success. This is way we are studying academic tenacity and a growth mindset at Knightdale High School of Collaborative Design.
     
    Think about that – think about all the great things that happen when you are tenacious. If we can teach students to have a growth mindset and be tenacious in their pursuance of academic goals, then the sky is the limit. I think back to one of my dorm mates my freshmen year in college. We all know this kind of guy – he was BRILLIANT. I mean he knew everything, got over a 1500 on his SAT, and could get good grades without even trying. We have all known that person! Problem was, he was lazy!!!! He dropped out of college after his freshmen year. I have no clue what became of him, but I am convinced that he would never reach his potential if he did not learn to work hard and become tenacious. (I truly hope he did, because he was a good guy!)
     
    So you may ask, how do you teach tenacity and growth mindset and what are you doing at KHSCD about it? One way we are doing this is providing professional development to our teachers on this concept. We are valuing the concept of failing forward and goal setting. We are discussing with students the importance of continuing to try and give great effort. Students are learning the value of effort in their work. We are also modeling this with all staff. We are supporting and nurturing the journey and expressing our appreciation for academic tenacity. We are also reviewing research on growth mindset and changing our practices to show and teach students this concept (here is a web-site that discusses Dr. Carol Dweck’s work if you are interested). Finally we are challenging all of our students to up their game, but we are also providing the environment and support.
     
    We understand that this will be difficult work. Especially for students that have not been that successful in the past. However, we understand the importance of tenacity and mindset to future success and to our Mission of Every Student, College Ready. SO next time you are working with your child, or see a school age student, congratulate them on their tenacity, value their effort, and praise the journey. If we get them to believe in these important concepts, then the grades and test scores will follow!
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