(2012-11-15) Martin Duckworth Tough Kim Self Control

Jonathan Martin looks at research on Self Control/grit as a crucial trait for kids' success in life (Educating Kids). Having just finished PaulTough’s new book, How Children Succeed, I believe Angela Duckworth stands out significantly in that book (she’s the star); she offers a series of perceptive insights and the research evidence which underpin the book, as captured in its subtitle, Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character... We should be equally worried, about learning that is too easy for our students, learning that is about listening to the lecture, reading the book, and “cranking out” the paper, year after year (NPC), for at least 8 of them, and then coming out of college and realizing how much more is required of success... From her collaboration with the legendary positive psychology guru Martin Seligman, whose work has long been highly important to me, Duckworth, as Tough explains, has derived a list of 7 key traits of character in this context, and note the way this is understood as performance character, not Moral character: Grit, Self Control, zest, Social Intelligence, gratitude, Optimism, and curiosity.

But for Duckworth, the twin towers on this list are Self Control and Grit, and the discussion of their importance in Tough should be required reading.

Self-control (in Tough, self-control seems to be largely, if not entirely, equated with Self Discipline, and conscientiousness seems to be differentiated only slightly, as a critical subset of self-control, combining motivation and volition), the essential importance of which many of us remember from the famed research about the Marshmallow test (Self Control defined as being able to postpone gratification) administered to young preschoolers in the early seventies and which demonstrated life-long significance. This delayed gratification demonstrated with a marshmallow at an early age, you will recall, is a better predictor of gpa and career success than is IQ, and Tough’s book provides a useful recapitulation of that research.

Watch closely in the video atop Duckworth’s graphs about West Point first-years and the Spelling Bee contenders, and how she compares Self Control to Grit. In the work of evaluating our students and their potential success, Duckworth’s research findings are that self-control is a better predictor for school success (defined as GPA) than is either IQ or grit, but, she argues, grit is more meaningful for larger and longer-scale success... Click here to get your Duckworth grit score.

He's learning similar things from Paul Kim's MOOC class. "I would like to ask you to consider designing a learning environment that can trigger and help your students learn to better manage their own learning. I can never overemphasize the importance of this need for a learning environment design."... "SelfRegulation is not an academic subject in today’s schools. I believe it is as equally important as literacy or numeracy."

Jan'2014: or is Grit just a dog-whistle for people who want kids working hard at what they themselves value, which is, apparently, “white Middle Class conformity. “Grit,” school leader Dave Meister says, “is simply a term by which the privileged try distinguish their behavior from those they define as unworthy.”

  • note Duckworth's work with KIPP, which some see as compliance-driven.
  • note Duckworth connects Grit back to Francis Galton, founder of the EugenIcs concept.
  • Ira Socol provides lots of links to posts on the debate, and walks through Duckworth's Grit self-assessment questions to challenge them. Let's put this together - anything at all like ADHD (ADD) is very bad, those "Renaissance Man" types are bad, kids with high-level street survival skills are bad, but compliance with the expectations of "white" "western" society is very good. Leonardo Da Vinci, Paul Allen, Steve Wozniak, Bill Clinton, John F Kennedy are all in the problem mode. The winners on Duckworth's measuring stick? The guys who spend their lives hunting for Big Foot in all kinds of weather, the Unibomber, the person spending 30 years in the same job. If you read through Duckworth's "scale" you will see a pattern. Everything she sees as "good" is about Scarcity - scarcity of time, scarcity of resources, scarcity of attention, even scarcity of support - her "good" is relentlessly independent, single-focused, and committed to whatever is expected. Everything "bad" is about Abundance - many ideas, many projects, many interests, a belief that there is time to get things done... But what if the key to Resilience in school, in life, was abundance. What if "grit" was something which taught you the lessons of scarcity - of pure survival - but abundance offered you the "SlAck" you needed to get where you might want to go?
  • Why doesn't "life tough" translate into "school tough" for many people? (And does concentrating on Poverty just re-inforce hopelessness for teachers and students.)
    • one comment (Ira Socol): school rarely proves relevant, there is no possible transfer between the life these kids know and the school we typically offer
  • related: Amy Chua's new Triple Package book: 2011-02-01-ChuaTigerMother.

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