So much of success in life boils down to persistence. While “natural ability” is often touted as a gift that must be nurtured, students who have learned the art of persistence are able to work through challenges, deal with failure and achieve their goals. But how can you help a child develop persistence?
Like a sprinter who has not trained to run a marathon, learners can’t keep learning in the long-term if they haven’t developed the stamina they need to cope with challenges and failures. Teaching persistence depends on developing a student’s stamina. However, to develop stamina and persistence, they need to have the right learning environment.
Teach positive self-talk
Some learners don’t know how to motivate themselves through positive self-talk. Their standard internal monologue when faced with a learning challenge may be “I can’t do this,” or “I’m too stupid to learn this.” Teach them there are better ways to use self-talk. Give them specific wording: “I can do this if I keep at it,” or “If I’m stuck, I’ll ask for help.”
It’s amazing how learners can blossom when the people they look up to express confidence in their ability to achieve their goals. So have high, but reasonable, expectations for your student – and make sure they have access to resources to help them, and that they know how to use these tools.
Help learners develop a growth mindset
Learners need to know that can get better at their chosen task if they put in effort. Rather than a you’ve-got-it-or-you-don’t mentality, help them to see their challenge as a skill that can be mastered. Encourage them to have this mindset by connecting the effort they put in with the progress they make. Say things like, “Your extra reading practice is working – you’re reading new words much more easily now.”
Push a bit but not too much
Sometimes all that is needed is a bit of encouragement to overcome a hurdle. Reminding your learner how good they will feel when they finish their homework, for example, can be all they need. At the same time, it’s important for them to know they can take a break when they need it – but it’s important they learn to come back after the break to complete the work. This way they learn they can do more with persistence.
Talk up persistence
Sometimes, as teachers or parents, we don’t want to talk about the challenges we faced and overcame; perhaps we feel it’s awkward or discouraging. Yet, relating a story about something you personally found difficult – and yet kept at until you finished it – is a great way to teach your learners that we all feel like giving up sometimes. Without lecturing your learners, you’re teaching them how to overcome the negative feelings that can stop them facing challenges.
Technology can be used to great advantage for learners. Often, technology is more engaging and interactive, keeping students motivated. However, with any software or learning technology, make sure it’s proven and backed by research.
The brain is like a muscle
You may think neuroscience isn’t the kind of subject that will motivate your learner, but it might. Teach them about brain plasticity – the idea that the brain changes in response to how it’s used – to help them understand focussed, sustained effort will pay off.
Persistence won’t be learned in one session. All of the above suggestions need to be repeated to truly sink in. However, over time, your learner will increase their stamina, improve their persistence and increase their motivation for learning.
This is based on a blog post by Norene Wiesen from Scientific Learning’s “The Science of Learning” blog. Read it here.