April 14, 2014 | 5
For academic achievement, ability is not enough. What’s also needed are mindsets and strategies for overcoming obstacles, staying on task, and learning and growing over the long-term. According to Gregory Walton and colleagues, academic tenacity is not about being smart, but learning smart.
Academically tenacious students:
- Feel as though they belong in school, academically and socially.
- See the relevance of education for achieving their personal future goals.
- Value effort.
- Seek challenging tasks that will help them learn rather than stick with easy tasks that offer no opportunity for growth.
- View setbacks as an opportunity for learning rather than an indication of their low innate ability or worth.
- Have a number of self-regulation strategies at their disposal to remain motivated and avoid distractions over the short and long haul.
- Believe in their ability to learn and perform.
- Enter the classroom with the goal of mastering the material, not outcompeting other students.
- Have a sense of purpose, and feel that their learning will contribute value to the world beyond themselves.
- Have positive, supportive relationships with teachers and peers.
“A well-timed, well-targeted psychological intervention can improve students’ relationships, experiences, and performance at a critical stage and thus improve their trajectory through their school careers.” — David Yeager, Gregory Walton, and Geoffrey Cohen
The good news about academic tenacity is that it can be developed, and a number of interventions exist. While these interventions are not magic, it’s promising that such brief adjustments in the classroom can produce such long-lasting effects. As Walton and colleagues point out, psychological interventions can “trigger enduring changes in the way students perceive their ongoing school experience.” What’s more, these interventions can work in tandem with other reforms aimed more at curriculum and instruction. Indeed, academic tenacity interventions are most effective when they utilize the student’s abilities and the classroom resources for growth.
Here’s a list of some empirically valid interventions to increase academic tenacity:
Lisa Blackwell, Kali Trzesniewski, & Carol Dweck: Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention
Catherine Good, Joshua Aronson, and Michael Inzlicht: Improving adolescents’ standardized test performance: An intervention to reduce the effects of stereotype threat
Gregory Walton & Geoffrey Cohen: A question of belonging: race, social fit, and achievement
Gregory Walton & Geoffrey Cohen: A brief social-belonging intervention improves academic and health outcomes among minority students
Geoffrey Cohen & Julio Garcia: Identity, belonging, and achievement: A model, interventions, implications
Geoffrey Cohen, Julio Garcia, Nancy Apfel, & Allison Master: Reducing the racial achievement gap: a social-psychological intervention
Geoffrey Cohen, Julio Garcia, Valeria Purdie-Vaughns, Nancy Apfel, & Patricia Brzustoski: Recursive processes in self-affirmation: intervening to close the minority achievement gap
Daphna Oyserman, Kathy Terry, and Deborah Bybee: A possible selves intervention to enhance school involvement.
Daphna Oyserman, Deborah Bybee, & Kathy Terry: Possible selves and academic outcomes: How and when possible selves impel action
Dominque Morisano, Jacob Hirsh, Jordan Peterson, Robert Pihl, & Bruce Shore: Setting, elaborating, and reflecting on personal goals improves academic performance
Angela Duckworth, Heidi Grant, Benjamin Loew, Gabriele Oettingen, & Peter Gollwitzer: Self-regulation strategies improve self-discipline in adolescents: Benefits of mental contrasting and implementation intentions
Elizabeth Villares, Matthew Lemberger, Greg Brigman, and Linda Webb: Student success skills: An evidence-based school counseling program grounded in humanistic theory.
Greg Brigman & Linda Webb: Student success skills: Impacting achievement through large and small group work
Matthew Lemberger and Elysia Clemens: Connectedness and self-regulation as constructs of the student success skills program in inner-city african american elementary school students.
This is just a sampling of successful interventions designed to improve academic tenacity, but they illustrate the potential for change among students. Sometimes all it takes is sending the message that all students belong and are capable of great accomplishments with the proper mindset, effort, and strategies for success.
© 2014 Scott Barry Kaufman, All Rights Reserved.
For more on interventions to boost academic tenacity, as well ways to integrate these interventions with ongoing curricula, see: Academic Tenacity: Mindsets and Skills that Promote Long-Term Learning.
image credit: istockphoto
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