By Jan Bryan, EdD, Vice President, National Education Officer
Resiliency, grit, and growth mindset.
These three ideals are so ingrained in folklore and educational discourse that they seem almost commonplace. An overconfident hare and a humble tortoise remind us that slow and steady wins the race. A little blue engine called upon a growth mindset to deliver toys to children on the other side of the mountain (Piper, 1905). In Watch me rise: From the streets of despair to the halls of the ivy league (Luffborough, 2014), we learn that education holds the potential to overcome challenges related to homelessness, hunger, and a life outside of school that few of us can imagine. Indeed, there is plenty of available commentary related to resiliency.
Resiliency in the context of education is the heightened likelihood of success despite adversities related to environment and developed ways of thinking (Wang, Haertel, and Walberg, 1997). It can be nurtured through purposeful interactions between learner and teacher.
With that in mind, this blog post focuses on purposeful interaction to nurture resiliency in everyday classroom interactions.
We borrow this classroom interaction from the art community. If, as Eisner states, an empty mind sees nothing, then learning must begin with seeing something. Making learning targets explicit and visible to students is supported in the literature (Chappuis, 2014; Hattie, 2012; Stiggins, 2014; Wiliam, 2011). In doing so, teachers guide students to see the big picture—for example, writing to persuade—but then bring each lesson’s focus to a specific learning target such as understanding that evidence is based on fact. With this “evidence” target in mind, students review persuasive essays—both those that are well developed and those that miss the mark. They review, analyze, and separate the wheat from the chaff (distinguish persuasive arguments that are of high quality from those that are not). Students see the target and see what success—and failure—look like. Borrowing from Eisner, they are now equipped to “see” facts for what they are and “paint” their own persuasive argument. Without the visible learning targets and examples of success and missed opportunity, students approach the assignment with Eisner’s “empty mind.”
Prior to Hattie’s work on the 195 influences of learning, Wang et. al. (1997) identified 22 influences specifically related to building resiliency and to its positive impact on achievement. They found student and teacher interactions to be the third most potent of the 22 influences on student learning, having a stronger influence than either home life or peers. Further, Yeager and Dweck (2012) found a positive correlation between the belief that intellectual abilities and learning attributes can be taught. In other words, students make the connection between a response to adversity and meeting or exceeding their goals for learning.
If the evidence suggests both the power of resiliency and the fact that it can be developed, the next logical step is to identify what has proven effective in guiding learners to look at mistakes as an opportunity to learn. For this, we look to the power of formative assessment. It may seem counterintuitive to connect assessment and resiliency; however, when students and teachers continually review evidence of ongoing progress, they develop tortoise-like approaches to learning. Slow and steady amplifies the learning to the degree that, in many cases, it effectively doubled the speed at which students learn (Wiliam, 2011).
Making learning visible—as we did with the persuasive essay example—is a first step in building resiliency. The artistry of it is found in making the targets explicit and singularly focused. The science of it is found in the correlation between resiliency and achievement, furthered by ongoing formative assessment. Review students’ work on each target using self-reflection, peer review, or teacher/student conversations. Then, work on the next target. Slow and steady amplifies the learning.
An empty mind sees nothing. In the comments below, give us something to see. Please share your ideas about building resiliency. Are their specific quotes or practices you promote to build resiliency? Does formative assessment play a role in your classroom? If so, show us how. Let us see how you amplify learning.
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Chappuis, J. (2014). Seven strategies of assessment for learning. Pearson Higher Education.
Eisner, E. (2017). The enlightened eye: Qualitative inquiry and the enhancement of educational practice. Teachers College Press. New York, NY.
Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing the impact on learning. Routledge. New York, NY.
Luffborough, D. (2014). Watch me rise: Introduction by Doug Luffborough. Retrieved from: http://dougluffborough.squarespace.com/blog/2014/6/9/watch-me-rise-introduction-by-doug-luffborough.html.
Luffborough, D. (2014). Watch me rise: From the streets of despair to the halls of the ivy league. Writers of the Roundtable Press. Highland Park, IL.
Piper, W. (1905). The little engine that could. Platt and Monk. New York, NY.
Stiggins, R. (2014). Revolutionize assessment: Empower students, inspire learning. Corwin Press. Thousand Oaks, CA.
Wang, M., Haertel, G., & Walberg, H (1997). Fostering educational resilience in inner-city schools. Office of Educational Research and Improvement (ED). Washington, DC.
Wiliam, D. (2011). Embedded formative assessment. Solution Tree Press. Bloomington, IN.
Yeager, D. & Dweck, C. (2012). Mindsets that promote resilience: When students believe that personal characteristics can be developed. Taylor and Francis Online. Retrieved from: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00461520.2012.722805.
Jan Bryan has more than 20 years of classroom and university teaching experience. Her work at Renaissance focuses on formative assessment, exploring data in a growth mindset, and literacy development.