How Kids Learn Resilience

By Paul Tough
October 12, 2016

In this article, author Paul Tough asserts that non-cognitive traits or skills like grit, self regulation, optimism, and resilience cannot be “taught” but are more effectively built through student-centered environments which include both a sense of belonging and academic challenges. The article reviews recent brain-based research which shows development of non-cognitive traits is influenced by several specific environmental forces. Stress early in life can have a high impact on students, particularly on their development of executive functions which influences these traits. Paul Tough suggests that while research shows the importance of helping students build these skills at school, they are not easily formed through the traditional mechanics of “teaching.”

Instead, being in an environment where one feels a sense of both belonging and competence seems to have an impact. The article notes that academic perseverance can be built from development of a mindset in which students feel they 1) belong to an academic community, 2) can improve ability with effort, 3) can succeed, and 4) do work that has value to them. The article provides two examples of this type of school-wide effort to build academic mindset: Turnaround for Children, a school-transformation nonprofit that works in high-poverty schools in New York City, Newark, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C; and EL Education, a national nonprofit working with Polaris Charter Academy on Chicago’s West Side. These examples will interest teachers and administrators who are considering how to structure their school environment to best help students build key non-cognitive traits.

Source Organization: The Atlantic

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