Archive for November 2, 2011

What if the Secret to Success Is Failure? How do we support failure, and rising above it?

Roger Schank has been saying for years that learning only occurs through failure.  Mazur’s results about physics demonstrations support Schank’s claim — you only learn from a physics demonstration if you first make a prediction, so that you can be proven wrong.  If we take that seriously, we see that an important goal for schooling is to provide many opportunities to fail, and to recover from that failure.  High-stakes testing, where you get one shot and the cost of failure is high, is the opposite of that.  We need to teach students to have “grit” (see below from NYTimes), to pick themselves up after failure and keep going.

She developed a test to measure grit, which she called the Grit Scale. It is a deceptively simple test, in that it requires you to rate yourself on just 12 questions, from “I finish whatever I begin” to “I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one.” It takes about three minutes to complete, and it relies entirely on self-report — and yet when Duckworth took it out into the field, she found it was remarkably predictive of success. At Penn, high grit ratings allowed students with relatively low college-board scores to nonetheless achieve high G.P.A.’s. Duckworth and her collaborators gave their grit test to more than 1,200 freshman cadets as they entered West Point and embarked on the grueling summer training course known as Beast Barracks. The military has developed its own complex evaluation, called the Whole Candidate Score, to judge incoming cadets and predict which of them will survive the demands of West Point; it includes academic grades, a gauge of physical fitness and a Leadership Potential Score. But at the end of Beast Barracks, the more accurate predictor of which cadets persisted and which ones dropped out turned out to be Duckworth’s 12-item grit questionnaire.

via What if the Secret to Success Is Failure? – NYTimes.com.

November 2, 2011 at 8:09 am 2 comments


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