Tuesday, May 10, 2016

I Feel Pretty Witty and Gritty

I had never heard of this woman until I subbed for a Career Class in which her TED talk was left as a lesson plan.  I won't bother with the details about how I feel TED talks are the most idiotic thing left for a lesson plan let alone for a classroom of kids, regardless of grade, but watching this made me laugh out loud.  Yes that is why kids are failing they just don't have a concept of "grit."

Now while Ms oh whoops Dr. Duckworth launches into the lecture she discusses her experience and course of study on the subject.  What she neglects to mention in citing her CV is that she was a Teacher for one year in a charter school and her study cohort was military students at West Point. Perhaps she can elucidate why the female students at West Point are being "investigated" for the photo they posted for being a political symbol? Was that not gritty enough for you?  I thought grit was on exhibition with the Sandusky scandal and the football culture that enabled that. There is some grit right there? Funny studying a cohort of highly aggressive selective military cadets is not akin to a study of a  group of frat brothers at a State university shows I have no higher/important degrees, therefore, I lack both intelligence and grit!

And what I also love is that in her CV is a litany of degrees beginning with Harvard and ending with a Ph.d for U of Penn. So who paid for all those degrees? Did she have grit while avoiding student debt load or thought "hey I can write a bullshit book about a pseudo scientific concept about psychology, like Malcom Gladwell and pay them all off!"  Well it seems to have worked as she is also a MacArthur "Genius" grant recipient.  Well that is some grit for you.

The Bullshit about Grit is well explained here.

And Ms. Duckworth is now backpeddaling.  Which is neither shocking nor surprising and will she be returning that grant then for false pretenses.  As Thomas Frank writes about in his book Listen Liberal, the Professional class with their Ivy League and post graduate higher degrees and citations, are by far more knowledgable about what the problems are with regards to the working class and if those nasty poors would only follow said advice - problem solved.  They have the meta data to back it up, how dare you question it.

  As John Oliver called it on Sunday, science is as good as the idiot pedaling it.  But then again people seem to swallow bullshit when they seem to think it is good for  them.  Now that would be a study. 

Don’t Grade Schools on Grit


Philadelphia — THE Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once observed, “Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.”
Evidence has now accumulated in support of King’s proposition: Attributes like self-control predict children’s success in school and beyond. Over the past few years, I’ve seen a groundswell of popular interest in character development.
As a social scientist researching the importance of character, I was heartened. It seemed that the narrow focus on standardized achievement test scores from the years I taught in public schools was giving way to a broader, more enlightened perspective.
These days, however, I worry I’ve contributed, inadvertently, to an idea I vigorously oppose: high-stakes character assessment. New federal legislation can be interpreted as encouraging states and schools to incorporate measures of character into their accountability systems. This year, nine California school districts will begin doing this.
Here’s how it all started. A decade ago, in my final year of graduate school, I met two educators, Dave Levin, of the KIPP charter school network, and Dominic Randolph, of Riverdale Country School. Though they served students at opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum, both understood the importance of character development. They came to me because they wanted to provide feedback to kids on character strengths. Feedback is fundamental, they reasoned, because it’s hard to improve what you can’t measure.
This wasn’t entirely a new idea. Students have long received grades for behavior-related categories like citizenship or conduct. But an omnibus rating implies that character is singular when, in fact, it is plural.
In data collected on thousands of students from district, charter and independent schools, I’ve identified three correlated but distinct clusters of character strengths. One includes strengths like grit, self-control and optimism. They help you achieve your goals. The second includes social intelligence and gratitude; these strengths help you relate to, and help, other people. The third includes curiosity, open-mindedness and zest for learning, which enable independent thinking.
Still, separating character into specific strengths doesn’t go far enough. As a teacher, I had a habit of entreating students to “use some self-control, please!” Such abstract exhortations rarely worked. My students didn’t know what, specifically, I wanted them to do.
In designing what we called a Character Growth Card — a simple questionnaire that generates numeric scores for character strengths in a given marking period — Mr. Levin, Mr. Randolph and I hoped to provide students with feedback that pinpointed specific behaviors.
For instance, the character strength of self-control is assessed by questions about whether students “came to class prepared” and “allowed others to speak without interrupting”; gratitude, by items like “did something nice for someone else as a way of saying thank you.” The frequency of these observed behaviors is estimated using a seven-point scale from “almost never” to “almost always.”
Most students and parents said this feedback was useful. But it was still falling short. Getting feedback is one thing, and listening to it is another.
To encourage self-reflection, we asked students to rate themselves. Thinking you’re “almost always” paying attention but seeing that your teachers say this happens only “sometimes” was often the wake-up call students needed.
This model still has many shortcomings. Some teachers say students would benefit from more frequent feedback. Others have suggested that scores should be replaced by written narratives. Most important, we’ve discovered that feedback is insufficient. If a student struggles with “demonstrating respect for the feelings of others,” for example, raising awareness of this problem isn’t enough. That student needs strategies for what to do differently. His teachers and parents also need guidance in how to help him.
Scientists and educators are working together to discover more effective ways of cultivating character. For example, research has shown that we can teach children the self-control strategy of setting goals and making plans, with measurable benefits for academic achievement. It’s also possible to help children manage their emotions and to develop a “growth mind-set” about learning (that is, believing that their abilities are malleable rather than fixed).
This is exciting progress. A 2011 meta-analysis of more than 200 school-based programs found that teaching social and emotional skills can improve behavior and raise academic achievement, strong evidence that school is an important arena for the development of character.
But we’re nowhere near ready — and perhaps never will be — to use feedback on character as a metric for judging the effectiveness of teachers and schools. We shouldn’t be rewarding or punishing schools for how students perform on these measures.
MY concerns stem from intimate acquaintance with the limitations of the measures themselves.
One problem is reference bias: A judgment about whether you “came to class prepared” depends on your frame of reference. If you consider being prepared arriving before the bell rings, with your notebook open, last night’s homework complete, and your full attention turned toward the day’s lesson, you might rate yourself lower than a less prepared student with more lax standards.
For instance, in a study of self-reported conscientiousness in 56 countries, it was the Japanese, Chinese and Korean respondents who rated themselves lowest. The authors of the study speculated that this reflected differences in cultural norms, rather than in actual behavior.
Comparisons between American schools often produce similarly paradoxical findings. In a study colleagues and I published last year, we found that eighth graders at high-performing charter schools gave themselves lower scores on conscientiousness, self-control and grit than their counterparts at district schools. This was perhaps because students at these charter schools held themselves to higher standards.

I also worry that tying external rewards and punishments to character assessment will create incentives for cheating. Policy makers who assume that giving educators and students more reasons to care about character can be only a good thing should take heed of research suggesting that extrinsic motivation can, in fact, displace intrinsic motivation. While carrots and sticks can bring about short-term changes in behavior, they often undermine interest in and responsibility for the behavior itself.
A couple of weeks ago, a colleague told me that she’d heard from a teacher in one of the California school districts adopting the new character test. The teacher was unsettled that questionnaires her students filled out about their grit and growth mind-set would contribute to an evaluation of her school’s quality. I felt queasy. This was not at all my intent, and this is not at all a good idea.
Does character matter, and can character be developed? Science and experience unequivocally say yes. Can the practice of giving feedback to students on character be improved? Absolutely. Can scientists and educators work together to cultivate students’ character? Without question.
Should we turn measures of character intended for research and self-discovery into high-stakes metrics for accountability? In my view, no.

Don’t Believe the Hype About Grit, Pleads the Scientist Behind the Concept

NY Magazine

Recently, Angela Duckworth — the scientist behind the buzzy term grit — was planning her tour to promote her new book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, which was published last week. Someone floated an idea: Wouldn’t it make sense for Duckworth to visit the schools that had applied her grit curriculum? This sounds like a great publicity tie-in, until, that is, you consider the fact that there is no grit curriculum — at least, not one Duckworth has ever written.
It’s a decent example of the problem with grit, an exciting idea for which the enthusiasm has rapidly outpaced the science. The concept as it’s often understood holds that talent isn’t the only key to success; it may not even be the most important key to success. Hard work, determination, and perseverance are what truly counts.

These are alluring ideas, similar to the ones that helped propel Malcolm Gladwell’s so-called “10,000 hour rule” to mainstream popularity. And so it’s little wonder that grit has taken off. A 2007 academic paper lead-authored by Duckworth has been cited 1,157 times, according to Google Scholar, and Duckworth’s six-minute TED Talk from 2013 on the subject has been watched more than 8.4 million times. (Duckworth has said she was not thrilled with the title assigned to that talk: “The key to success? Grit.”) But the concept has perhaps especially resonated with educators across the country: Earlier this year, school districts in the San Francisco area announced plans to begin testing students on grit and other forms of emotional intelligence; other schools have instituted things like Grit Week, in which students set goals for their scores on upcoming standardized tests.
This is a problem. The existing research on grit is exciting, but it’s too new to apply to educational policy in any meaningful way. As a result, too many of the current applications are shallow interpretations that only sort of capture the vague gist of grit, no matter how well-intentioned the educators backing them happen to be.

In a review of Duckworth’s book published by the magazine Quillette (and shared widely on social media over the weekend by educators and psychologists alike), writer Parker Brown references research published earlier this year that seems to poke a few holes in the theory of grit:
More importantly, they found that what Duckworth and colleagues defined as grit is hardly distinguishable from conscientiousness, one of the classic Big Five traits in psychology. The study, which included a representative sample of U.K. students, measured grit against conscientiousness. Grit, researchers discovered, accounts for only an additional 0.5% of variation in test scores when compared with conscientiousness. IQ, on the other hand, accounts for nearly 40%, according to Plomin.
Here’s the thing: Duckworth completely, totally, absolutely agrees with this critique. She would also like to add: It’s missing half the picture.
Grit, as Duckworth has defined it in her research, is a combination of perseverance and passion — it’s just that the former tends to get all the attention, while the latter is overlooked. “I think the misunderstanding — or, at least, one of them — is that it’s only the perseverance part that matters,” Duckworth told Science of Us. “But I think that the passion piece is at least as important. I mean, if you are really, really tenacious and dogged about a goal that’s not meaningful to you, and not interesting to you — then that’s just drudgery. It’s not just determination — it’s having a direction that you care about.”
It’s a strange thing, Duckworth said, to have played a significant part in the creation of an idea, only to have that idea run away from you and create a life of its own.

In the case of grit, the enthusiasm for the work-ethic piece of the puzzle has outpaced the evidence, and schools across the country are trying to apply a concept that still hasn’t had all the kinks quite worked out yet. Back to the test score example highlighted by Quillette: That research equated conscientiousness with grit, and so the finding that conscientiousness didn’t predict higher scores — but IQ did — led to the conclusion that grit doesn’t live up to the hype. But this interpretation, Duckworth argues, leaves out the equally important other half of grit: passion.

“That report was about, ‘Well, maybe grit’s not that important,’” Duckworth said. “And my thought when I read that was — how many kids who are 16 years old are passionate about their standardized reading and math scores for school?”
Really, the sound of the word grit itself is not helping matters, Duckworth pointed out. The word sounds like sweatiness, or dirtiness; it brings to mind the unpleasantness of effort. You grit your teeth — or, for another example, think of the single-minded toughness embodied by the heroes in True Grit. Grit sounds serious; it does not, on the other hand, sound like much fun.
As such, perseverance would seem to be the more difficult half of grit: How, for instance, do you get students to work harder on their schoolwork? And yet Duckworth’s work has found just the opposite: It tends to be the passion part of grit that people need more help with. “I find that people’s passion scores are lower than their perseverance scores,” Duckworth said. She’s not yet sure exactly why this is, but she has a theory. “One possibility is that people can learn to work hard and be resilient, but to find something that would make you say, ‘This is so interesting to me — I’m so committed to it that I’m going to stick with it over years’ — that kind of passion may, in some ways, be harder to come by.”
Recently, Duckworth heard about the school that was instituting a Grit Week in order to boost its students standardized testing scores, a goal she 100 percent would not have picked, for one simple reason: Who ever heard of a teenager being passionate about standardized tests? “The focus on just thinking about standardized test scores as being synonymous with achievement for teenagers is ridiculous, right?” she said. “There are so many things that kids care about, where they excel, where they try hard, where they learn important life lessons, that are not picked up by test scores.
“I mean, most kids, at that age, honestly, are finding their passions in things outside of school — being on the football team, or dancing ballet, or playing piano, or being in the school play. For some kids, it’s getting a job, and finding that they really love selling things,” she continued. “For that school … I encouraged them to listen to me when I said, ‘You know, I don’t really think that’s a great focus for Grit Week. Why don’t we have a different focus, which is to talk about how to help them find goals that they do find meaningful?’”
The consequences of hasty applications of grit in an educational context are not yet clear, but Duckworth can imagine them. To be sure, it’s not that she faults these educators — in many ways, she says, these are the best in the field, the ones who are most excited about trying innovative new ways of helping their students succeed. But by placing too much emphasis on grit, the danger is “that grit becomes a scapegoat — another reason to blame kids for not doing well, or to say that we don’t have a responsibility as a society to help them.”

 She worries that some interpretations of her work might make a student’s failure seem like his problem, as if he just didn’t work hard enough. “I think to separate and pit against each other character strengths on the one hand — like grit — and situational opportunities on the other is a false dichotomy,” she said. “Kids need to develop character, and they need our support in doing so.”
Currently, Duckworth is engaging in the somewhat meta challenge of applying a little grit to uncover the best potential ways to apply the existing grit research. Her Character Lab, at the University of Pennsylvania, is in the process of recruiting two dozen teachers, who will work together with scientists to come up with ways of translating the evidence into worksheets or curricula that would make sense for use in a classroom.

 One worry she has is that the initial enthusiasm over the idea may have led to some misapplications of grit in the classroom — things that inevitably will not work, and may in turn lead to grit being dismissed someday very soon as yet another passing fad. “I don’t want to dampen the enthusiasm,” she said. “But at the same time, I don’t want us to get ahead of ourselves.”

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