Recently, I was privileged to speak to the faculty and administration at Darlington School, an incredible private school in north Georgia full of caring educators. One hot button issue that day concerned perseverance in students. Kevin Ivester, a math teacher at Darlington, blogged about the need for tenacity and good attitudes, based on discoveries made in Singapore students. Yesterday, I shared some of the research on how Singapore students are far more persistent in problem-solving than U.S. students.
Let’s face it. We live in a world of speed and convenience. Everything today seems fast, and we demand service and solutions at a quicker rate than ever. We love ATM’s, high-speed internet access, fast food, instant messaging, and microwave ovens. When we send photos to friends, we even call it, “Instagram.” Unfortunately, this world of speed and convenience has diminished perseverance and work ethic in our kids. If you’ll recall yesterday’s research, when students were asked to work on a difficult math problem—one that couldn’t be solved quickly and easily—they lasted 34 seconds. At that point, students gave up, saying, “This is too hard.”
So What Do We Do?
Based on experiments done with Singapore students, let me suggest some practical steps that educators and parents can take right here at home:
1. Talk about the power of attitude and persistence.
Singapore teachers repeatedly talk to their students from a young age about attitude and persistence. They underscore how valuable this trait is for success in life.
2. Turn the problem into a picture or a puzzle.
Singapore teaching methods include “model drawing.” Students turn math problems into a picture. The graphic helps them by engaging both hemispheres of the brain.
3. Start with smaller problems they can solve and put wins under their belts.
This is key in education and athletics worldwide. Always begin with challenges they can beat, to build confidence. It’s like weight lifting. Let them taste success so they can proceed to attain it on their own.
4. Share the “why” before the “what.”
We often fail to inspire students because we don’t share the relevance of a problem. Superb teachers reveal why a problem is important to understand before solving it.
5. When possible, place them in communities to work together.
Students learn best in communities, where they can solve problems in cooperation with peers. They often give up when they feel alone and inferior.
6. Make it a game or competition.
Singapore often takes advantage of the thrill that comes through turning problem-solving into a game. “Gamfication” in education will be normal within ten years.
7. Reward hard work and delayed gratification.
Remember, what gets rewarded gets repeated. Instead of rewarding mediocre effort, why not affirm hard work and actually reward completion in the end?
What would you add to this list? Have you succeeded in building perseverance in the students around you?