Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control?

Paul Tough in

25th September 2009

“Come on, Abigail.”

“No, wait!” Abigail said. “I’m not finished!” She was bent low over her clipboard, a stubby pencil in her hand, slowly scratching out the letters in the book’s title, one by one: T H E. . . .

“Abigail, we’re waiting!” Jocelyn said, staring forcefully at her classmate. Henry, sitting next to her, sighed dramatically.

“I’m going as fast as I can!” Abigail said, looking harried. She brushed a strand of hair out of her eyes and plowed ahead: V E R Y. . . .

The three children were seated at their classroom’s listening center, where their assignment was to leaf through a book together while listening on headphones to a CD with the voice of a teacher reading it aloud. The book in question was lying on the table in front of Jocelyn, and every few seconds, Abigail would jump up and lean over Jocelyn to peer at the cover, checking what came next in the title. Then she would dive back to the paper on her clipboard, and her pencil would carefully shape yet another letter: H U N. . .

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IOE – Social and emotional skills in childhood and their long-term effects on adult life

In this report we assess the evidence on the long-run associations between social and emotional skills in childhood and adult outcomes. We report findings from an extensive literature review, and from our own new research.
There are three key elements:
(i) A literature review of evidence relating to the relationship between social and emotional skills in childhood and adult outcomes;
(ii) New analysis of the British Cohort Study about these relationships across a wide range of outcomes, including a particular focus on the role of social and emotional skills in transmitting ‘top job’ status between parents and their children;
(iii) New, preliminary analysis of how the gaps in some of the skills assessed in (ii) are emerging in children in the UK born around the millennium.

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Featured book: 50 Quick and Easy Ways to Build Resilience through English Teaching

How can we help our students to be resilient? How can we cultivate a sense determination, of 41+Jn5eHTRLpersistence and of grit? How can we help our students to be the best they can be?

Every English teacher knows the subject can be challenging for learners. What we want is to help them embrace this challenge and to become better speakers, writers, readers and listeners as a result.

50 Quick and Easy Ways to Build Resilience through English Teaching presents time-pressed English teachers with a range of tried and tested classroom strategies you can employ to help your students develop resilience, grit and determination.

Each idea is simply presented, practical and easy to implement. Each one will help you to build the confidence and self-esteem of your students, turning them into resolute, committed learners who believe in themselves and their capacity to be successful.

For less than a cup of coffee you can have a suite of brilliant teaching techniques at your fingertips!

Brought to you by Mike Gershon and experienced English teacher Lizi Summers, 50 Quick and Easy Ways to Build Resilience through English Teaching is part of the bestselling ‘50 Quick Ways Series.’

Created with the aim of helping English teachers across the world teach brilliant lessons, the book sits alongside two further volumes: 50 Quick and Easy Ways to Outstanding English Teaching and 50 Quick and Brilliant Ideas for English Teaching.

More here

Resource: Grit: Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals

By: Angela L. Duckworth
Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania;
Christopher Peterson
Department of Psychology, University of Michigan
Michael D. Matthews
Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership, United States Military Academy, West Point
Dennis R. Kelly
Institutional Research and Analysis Branch, United States Military Academy, West Point

Acknowledgement: This research was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship and a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. For helpful comments on a draft of this article, we thank Sigal Barsade, Dianne Chambless, Martha Farah, Gary Latham, Paul Rozin, Richard Shell, Dean Simonton, and especially Martin Seligman. We are grateful to Robert Gallop and Paul McDermott for guidance on statistical analyses. Finally, we thankfully acknowledge the efforts of Paige Kimble, Edgar Knizhnik, Patty Newbold, Patrick Quinn, and Cybelle Weeks in data acquisition and management.

Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked. We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental resources…men the world over possess amounts of resource, which only exceptional individuals push to their extremes of use. ( William James, 1907, pp. 322–323)

In 1907, William James proposed “a program of study that might with proper care be made to cover the whole field of psychology” (p. 332). James encouraged psychologists to address two broad problems: First, what are the types of human abilities and, second, by what diverse means do individuals unleash these abilities?

In the century that has passed since James’s suggestion, psychological science has made impressive progress in answering the first of these two questions. In particular, we know a great deal about intelligence, or general mental ability, a construct for which formal study was initiated by a British contemporary of James, Sir Francis Galton. Notwithstanding vigorous debates over the dimensionality and origins of intelligence, we know more about IQ—how to measure it reliably and precisely and what outcomes it predicts—than any other stable individual difference. In contrast, we know comparatively little about why, as James put it, most individuals make use of only a small part of their resources, whereas a few exceptional individuals push themselves to their limits.

In this article, we reiterate James’s second question in the following terms: Why do some individuals accomplish more than others of equal intelligence? In addition to cognitive ability, a list of attributes of high-achieving individuals would likely include creativity, vigor, emotional intelligence, charisma, self-confidence, emotional stability, physical attractiveness, and other positive qualities. A priori, some traits seem more crucial than others for particular vocations. Extraversion may be fundamental to a career in sales, for instance, but irrelevant to a career in creative writing. However, some traits might be essential to success no matter the domain. We suggest that one personal quality is shared by the most prominent leaders in every field: grit.

We define grit as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina. Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course.

Our hypothesis that grit is essential to high achievement evolved during interviews with professionals in investment banking, painting, journalism, academia, medicine, and law. Asked what quality distinguishes star performers in their respective fields, these individuals cited grit or a close synonym as often as talent. In fact, many were awed by the achievements of peers who did not at first seem as gifted as others but whose sustained commitment to their ambitions was exceptional. Likewise, many noted with surprise that prodigiously gifted peers did not end up in the upper echelons of their field.

Full resource here

The Three Dimensions of Student Achievement

This post is by Ron Berger, chief academic officer of Expeditionary Learning.

When a student is finished with school and moves into adult life, she will be judged not by her ability to perform on a test of basic skills, but by the quality of her work and character. This holds true regardless of what career or life role she chooses. Quality work and character are the keys to a successful life. So why are they not the primary focus of schools?

You may argue that schools do focus on these things. But consider this: to get passing grades, students must behave (at least much of the time) and turn in acceptable work (at least much of the time). This is a far cry from instilling in students an ethic of excellence for who they are and what they do. It is almost hard to imagine a lower bar.

Quality work and character have almost nothing to do with how students, teachers, and schools are judged in America. When is the last time you read a headline about a school being “high-achieving” that described the actual quality of work students produced or the quality of their actions? A “high-achieving” student or school means one thing today: good scores on basic skills tests in math and reading.

It’s not that basic skills in reading and math don’t matter. Of course they do. But success in this small realm is just a starting place. If students miss the opportunity to develop high standards for the complex skills they will need in life while they are still in school, how will they develop them?

Read the full article here…

I am an artist


For this research I chose to focus on the learning of my A level photography students in Years 12 and 13. I formulated my action research question as follows:

Stimulus: I’d like my A level photography students to be better able to generate their own
ideas and be more independent learners.
Hypotheisis: I suspect they haven’t yet made the leap from considering their work as belonging to school, in their role as students, rather than to themselves as artists.
Research: I’m interested in ideas like Mantle of the Expert, design thinking,
studio schools and ‘How to be an artist’ by Michael Atavar.


Consequently, my research question is:
If I encourage my Year 12 and 13 photography students to inhabit the role of
artist/photographer, with a practice of their own, will they become more
independent and resilient?

Jon Nicholls, Thomas Tallis School
Greenwich, London

Read the full report here:  ‘I am an artist’

Developing True Grit

Can you teach it? Should you teach it? Should it be part of the school curriculum? The ‘it’ in question is character, or grit, or resilience or all three and more, and it’s been a big talking point this week. Michael Gove believes his school reforms would help develop it; Tristram Hunt argues that it should be a taught part of the curriculum while an all Party Parliamentary Group is behind a Report published this week on future policy. It’s not a new issue of course but seems to have resurfaced as debate continues about whether the current curriculum reforms tilt learning too far away from what are often regarded as essential personal skills and politicians battle it out for the soul of education. So what is true grit and where’s it best developed?


What is meant by grit/resilience in an education setting?


It’s generally easier to recognise than define and most attempts at codification tend to reflect what comes under the heading of ‘soft skills.’ Click on preferred soft or personal skills on recruitment websites and you generally get a list that comprises the following: effective communication; problem solving; team player; flexibility; creative thinking; confidence; and being able to accept feedback and act on it.


These tally pretty closely with the seven acknowledged employability skills that the CBI has been promoting for some time although theirs include Business and Customer Awareness and Application of IT and of Numeracy along with self-management, team working and communications.


Similar lists can be found in most employer surveys and are pretty much staple diet in vocational programmes these days but the MPs’ Report this week, published with the think tank Centre Forum and the independent Character Counts centre, focuses more on the “personal resilience and emotive wellbeing” side of personal development. Their research suggests four key ‘character capabilities’ namely: application; self-direction; self-control; and empathy, with a strong nod towards a range of other characteristics such as self-efficacy and the ability to defer gratification, generally reflected in the terms ‘mental toughness’ and ‘grit.’


An interesting aspect of this is the development of wellbeing, the subject of recent Reports from both Young Minds and Barnardos and increasingly recognised in schools as an important contributor to learning success and component of personal or character development.


Read the full article from Pearson here

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