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I really enjoyed this WIRED article by Jonah Lehrer, (@jonahlehrer) “Which traits predict success” (The importance of grit). I have developed my own approach to gifted and talented education using similar principles but as with all great pieces of writing, this one provided a bit of a side-swipe on my thinking, which is always good.
Here’s my approach to how to foster gifts and talents in all our learners (rather than seeking to identify the gifted and talented learners) requires that we design opportunities where learning is underpinned by the concepts of:
1. Deliberate & mindful practise (see Anders-Ericsson’s work on this)
2. Positive “Growth Mindsets” (see the recent publication, “Mindsets: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol S Dweck)
3. Task Commitment (Joseph Renzulli) .
Jonah Lehrer’s article made me consider an additional angle on the whole discussion about what we are looking for when we are identifying the ‘gifts and talents’ in our learners.
What Jonah says about measuring talent and intelligence by exploring the degree to which somebody displays resilience, stickability (what he refers to as ‘grit’) is a refreshing way to consider how schools might provide for their most able students.
So often, we identify high ability and attainment first and then find ourselves looking for inventive ways to develop resilience, determination or ‘grit’ through the learning opportunities we provide. What if we flipped this model around and identified the ‘grit’ first and then, with the collaboration of the learners, designed activities that allowed them to really thrive? We would then have an approach that (a) provides opportunities for learners to demonstrate ‘grit’ (b) identifies it when it shows and (c) explicitly develops this ‘grit’ as a talent in its own right.
What would a cohort of learners who are identified as having the talent of ‘grit’, resilience and determination look, sound and be like in school?
Would a ‘grit’ talent pool include the same learners as a ‘high ability’ talent pool?
Could such an approach be used as an early intervention strategy. We spot the grit before the intellectual ability, celebrate this and then, through quality learning conversations, seek to apply the ‘grit’ talent to specific subject domains. What if they were yet to show high ability in a particular subject or domain area, but were picked up on the simple fact that they had stickability and determination to do their best. How would identifying such a cohort of learners inform the provision we then design for them?
A whole new cohort of young people may well be identified as ‘talented’ if we were to incorporate this in our definition of ‘gifted and talented’ in schools. Not only that, if we then design learning opportunities that explicitly seek to nurture resilience, tenacity and determination, then we can provide young people with the opportunity to deliberately and mindfully practise just the ‘talent’ of ‘grit’ that we are seeking to nurture.
As I said to Jonah when I wrote and thanked him for his insight, I LOVE the metaphorical connection that can be drawn between ‘grit’ and the way in which oysters make pearls…something we can easily latch on to. And Jonah very kindly said that he liked the metaphor too.
I’d be interested in your thoughts about this…