How do Children Succeed?

A constant concern I have as an educator is the fact that I can usually predict what grade a student will earn at the end of the year after just a couple weeks. Namely, I can generally identify which students have the habits necessary to succeed as the school defines it.   However, this also means that I have done little to change the  trajectory of most of my students academic careers. 

This issue has bothered me for some time because I feel like if I haven’t significantly improved students ability to succeed I have done very little of importance. 

That is why I read How Children Succeed by Paul Tough with great interest. 

Although I was hoping for more practical and tangible suggestions of how to apply the ideas he uncovered during his research, Tough does provide a number of suggestions that couple be fruitful in my classroom. 

Below are notes I thought you might find interesting. 

HOW CHILDREN SUCCEED by Paul Tough

CH. 1 HOW TO FAIL (AND HOW NOT TO)

  • Human response system is affected by stressful, crisis situations especially in childhood
  • Allostatic Load: Cumulative effect of stressful situations on a human
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences: ACE Score can affect your health
    • Score of 4 (incidents) or higher meant 51% had behavioral problems
    • “The part of brain most affected by early stress is prefrontal cortex, which is critical in self-regulatory activities of all kinds, both emotional and cognitive.”
    • Students who grow up in stressful environments find it harder to concentrate, sit still, rebound from disappointing, follow directions
    • This strongly affects executive functioning of brain
  • Parenting & attachment theory: Parents who were most attentive to their kids in their earliest years produced children who were more independent
    • Students with strong attachments were more self-confident, curious and able to deal with setbacks
    • More reliable predictor of success than IQ
  • “…psychological and neurological pathways is that they can be quite effective, more so than cognitive interventions”

CH. 2 HOW TO BUILD CHARACTER

  • Students who succeeded in college weren’t necessarily the ones who did best in high school but who had other gifts/skills: optimism, resilience, social agility, could recover from bad grades and resolve to do better next time
  • Self Control tips only work when people know what they want in the end….children don’t know they should want to go to college
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: CBTS “involves using the conscious mind to recognize negative or self-destructive thoughts or interpretations and to talk yourself into a better perspective
  • Good Habits
    • Best time to transform pessimistic students is before puberty but late into childhood so that they are metacognitive
    • Intervention for helping students develop the willpower to follow through on goals: MENTAL CONTRASTING WITH IMPLEMENTATION INTENTIONS (DUCKWORTH)
      • People use 3 strategies when setting goals, first two don’t work well:
        • Optimists-favor indulging, imagining future they would like to achieve
        • Pessimists-favor dwelling, thinking about all the things that could go wrong
        • Neither of these two were effective
      • 3RD STRATEGY: MENTAL CONTRASTING
        • Concentrating on a positive outcome and simultaneously concentrating on the obstacles in the way”
        • Doing both at the same time “creates a strong association between future and reality that signals the need to overcome the obstacle in order to attain the desired future”
        • Next step is to create implementation intentions–specific plans in the form of if/then statements ex) “If I get distracted by TV after school, then I will wait to watch TV until after I finish my homework”
        • MCII has helped people eat more healthy, juniors prepare better for SAT and people reduce back pain
        • MCII amounts to setting rules for yourself, rules work because “you’re enlisting the prefrontal cortex as your partner against the more reflexive, appetite-drive parts of your brain”
        • Rules provide structure, preparing us for encounters with tempting stimuli and redirecting our attention elsewhere

CH. 3: HOW TO THINK

    • If you’re trying to change a student’s character a teacher cannot just convey information
      • Need to encourage rigorous self-analysis
    • Chess players are pessimistic about the merits of particular move….they question it a lot. However, they are optimistic about their overall ability

CH. 4 HOW TO SUCCEED

  • GPA was a better predictor of success in college than ACT/SAT (which predicted IQ better)

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jnGCc0PfU8WMlKTIw2BnUL1jrsnEjymFeMiQyXYgNeg/edit

What do you think of Tough’s ideas?
 

 

How do you think we  can develop the character traits in students that generally don’t find success in school?
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