- Persevering and how it develops. Unpick the meaning of perseverance, how it develops over time and use the Persevering grid to plot where your students are now.
- Taking Persevering into classroom culture. Think about how you might improve your classroom culture to better support Persevering.
- Teaching for learning; activities Look for ways of building Persevering into learning activities/tasks.
- Team reflection and planning. Share the impact of your experiments with colleagues and plan what you need to do next.
As you move through the sections use your own learning habits to help;
- your questioning skills to get below the surface of perseverance.
- your link making skills to connect the ideas described and the reality in your classroom.
- your goal creating skills to establish achievable goals for working with perseverance.
- try using speculative ‘could be’ type thinking throughout this session
- and being optimistic about what you and your students can achieve.
1.1 What is Perseverance?
“Attention can be broken when learning gets blocked, but good learners have learnt the knack of maintaining or quickly re-establishing their concentration when they get stuck or frustrated. The quality of stickability or perseverance is essential if you are going to get to the bottom of something that doesn’t turn out as quickly or easily as you had thought, or hoped.
If you get upset and start to think there is something wrong with you as soon as you get stuck, you are not going to be able to maintain engagement.
Instead, all your energy will go into trying to avoid the uncomfortable feeling, and this may mean drifting off into a daydream, creating a distraction, or blaming somebody else. A great deal of classroom misbehaviour starts this way. If pupils were better equipped to cope emotionally with the inevitable difficulty of learning, they would mess about less. There is a range of things that teachers can do to strengthen pupils’ stickability.
Perseverance is often undermined by two common and erroneous beliefs. The first is that learning ought to be easy. If learners think that they will either understand something straight away, or not at all, then there is simply no point in persisting and struggling. The second is that bright people pick things up easily, so if you have to try it means you’re not very bright. Clearly the idea that effort must be symptomatic of a lack of ability makes persevering an unpleasant experience. Good learners develop perseverance when their parents and teachers avoid conveying these messages, even unwittingly.”
Extract from Building Learning Power, by Guy Claxton
In a nutshell…
A mature learner understands that real learning requires effort and persistence, relishes opportunities to struggle with challenge, and believes that with effort they can become a more effective learner.
Perseverance is about;
Keeping going in the face of difficulties; channeling the energy of frustration productively; knowing what a slow and uncertain process learning often is.
1.2 How perseverance might build when we nurture it.
Being perseverant isn’t something that switches on on good days and off on bad days. Being a good perseverer grows and builds when it’s nurtured and supported. Furthermore, being perseverant involves gaining control of a range of linked skills and emotions. Take a look at how progression in Persevering might grow across six components.Cast your eye over the ‘big picture’ of growing perseverance below. Then move on to looking more closely at the columns (1.3) and the rows (1.4). [In the full version you can Download the grid as a pdf]
1.3 Unpick the columns; what contributes to a readiness to Persevere?
The grid columns are things that might combine to make up the skills and attitudes of a Perseverer.
Overview of the gridPersevering is about the way we stick at things even when they are difficult. It’s one of the most useful but neglected learning behaviours. What makes us able to persevere more and more usefully. We think several things come into play here. How you are willing and able to deal with being stuck, how you are able to manage distractions and manage the learning environment, how you relate to a challenge and whether you are influenced by goals whether they be your own or imposed by others. All these things contribute to being able to persevere. An lastly there’s your own little voice of self awareness; what you say to yourself and how this influences your beliefs and values. Take a closer look at what each column of the grid is about
- Column 1 is all about way how we react when we get stuck; the strategies we have for overcoming it; being brave about not knowing something; how we cope with making mistakes; how we benefit from feedback about mistakes or being stuck; how we come to love mistakes, become curious about them and learn from them. There’s a long and winding road buried in the statements in this column and the role of the teacher is to ensure pupils make a significant start on this journey.
- Column 2 is about how we manage our learning environment; the extent to which we can manage our own learning climate, ignore or manage distractions, regain focus if lost. Since much of pupils’ learning takes place in a classroom they need to be able to manage and take advantage of that environment. They learn to understand just what distracts them from learning and why distractions can be both a help and a hindrance. How they need to learn to overcome the hard slog of practice and use their environment to help. How the learning environment can include all sorts of negativity from others and how they might overcome these disruptive emotions. The learning environment itself has many facets that can trip up and stall learning.
- Self talk is what we say to ourselves as we learn. The statements capture what someone in each phase of the grid might be thinking. Students may use some of these phrases when talking with you, or in writing from time to time, but mostly self talk goes on inside their heads. We have shown a small flavour of self talk thoughts that teachers can encourage students to imitate. Some relate to standards, others to self monitoring, or flexibility. All such self talk is important in building a Persevering habit.
- Column 4 is about how we relate to challenge; are we more excited by the prospect of triumphing over challenge, or more afraid of failing when faced with difficulty ? Challenge needs to be included here with perseverance because there is little need to persevere with easy, familiar activities. Pupils need to be challenged even for us to discover how or whether or not they persevere at all. So the growth of ways to cope with challenge helps to cement perseverance too. Here they learn to enjoy a challenge and recognise the satisfaction of triumphing over difficulty. The phases include practical ideas like recognising risks, sorting out what the challenge is fundamentally about and using tools to plan and avoid obstacles.
- Column 5 is about having a goal can have an impact on our perseverance. Let’s face it, if you haven’t got a goal, or at least an interest in something, you are not likely to stick at it and channel your emotion positively to get it done. In the beginning pupils make have little sense of goals or purpose but this can be turned into being able to imagine what something might look like. Later pupils can be helped to understand what a ‘do-able’ goal is and how to turn goals set by the teacher into a goal which they want to achieve, to make it their goal. A wanted goal is something you put effort into. Later phases in this development include being able to put your goals into a wider context, to realise that being able to do X or Y isn’t just about the here and now but has wider implications for life. This will certainly come into play when choosing options. Do pupils go for something they like, enjoy and find easy or do they chose some options on the basis of their relevance to their future career? Its a hard and grown up sort of decision to make. This orientation to goals all turns on how we design our own goals and blend these with the goals of others, and pursuing them with tenacity and independence.
1.4 Unpick the rows; getting better at Persevering.Of course the development of Persevering does not grow neatly up each column or evenly across the phases in the grid. The five broad phases of dispositional growth (purple – orange) are affective ways in which people may be inclined to behave: we call this inclination ‘mindedness’.
Here is our interpretation of how Persevering might grow.
Meaning behind the phases
The phases are drawn from Bloom’s taxonomy of the affective domain.Phase ‘Receives’ (purple) is about doing something because you are told or expected to. Phase ‘Responds’ (blue) is about gaining interest and doing things more willingly. Phase ‘Values’ (green) is a key phase since the student now sees the value of behaving in this way. It’s a win for them; to behave like this is in their interest. It’s in this phase that the behaviour becomes more secure. Phase ‘Organises’ (yellow) is the phase in which the student capitalises on this ‘in their interest’ behaviour and gets themselves organised to use it positively. Phase ‘Embodies’ (orange), known as ‘characterised’ in the original taxonomy. In this phase the student has made this behaviour their own. It has become part of their character; they can’t not do it and they have become highly skilled in doing it.
We urge you to see this progression as long term. Some phases will take years for people to work through; some will never be worked through. None of the phases are inevitable. There is a lifetime of development captured here. Nevertheless the role of a teacher or parent should surely be to encourage and enable this journey.
Lacks: Minded to give up easily and be needy for supportIn this ‘Lacks’ (grey) phase, students are minded to give up easily. There are all sorts of reasons for this; they may just be constantly distracted from the activity in hand; they may just need constant support from an adult; they may not know which resource might help them or they simply done’t know what stuck means let alone how to get unstuck. Many pupils will need to be eased into learning how to learn in a classroom setting and how/ what perseverant learners behave/do.
Receives: Minded to seek to stay in their comfort zone.In the Receives (purple) phase, students have made a big leap from having a negative mindset to a neutral one. Here they are inclined to play it safe, staying within their own comfort zone to ensure success and avoid perceived failure. They still need adult support to maintain focus and optimism when tackling tasks they perceive as difficult, but beginning to show willing to take more responsibility.
Responds: Minded to be willing to believe that effort will pay off.
In the Responds (blue) phase students develop greater independence and are motivated by trying to reach achievable goals. They are realising that fear, the need for adult support and distraction can be overcome by having/using more coping strategies and practical ideas to get them unstuck.
Values: Minded to recognise the point of persevering in learningIn the Values ( green) phase the pupil has developed a strong belief that they can get better at learning. They become curious about mistakes and care about the goals they are trying to reach. They develop and use many practical strategies to assist them in dealing with challenge, being stuck and staying focused.
Organises: Minded to learn how to persevere more productively.In the Organises (yellow) phase the pupil organises themselves to get the job/task problem done. Risk taking is underpinned by sound strategies. Failures are analysed for greater understanding. They have accepted responsibility for their behaviour. Persevering
2.1 Teachers as habit formers.As teachers we are in the habit-forming business. Those habits that we model in front of young people influence the ways in which they perform and behave. Therefore, we need to be sure to foster productive learning habits. If, for example, we offer constructive feedback but fail to require students to act on it, we are not building their inclination to further improve on previous attempts. In such ways do good teachers, albeit inadvertently, stifle the very behaviours they are seeking to promote.
Activity 2: How well does my classroom climate encourage Persevering?Here is a selection of features which begin to shape the emotional climate of the classroom for the encouragement of Persevering. Look through them carefully and consider whether you already use these features or whether any appeal to you to try. Activity-2-Classroom-Observation-Perserverance.pdf
- Looked at your students through the lens of the Persevering learning grid
- Gained a sense of what becoming better at Persevering looks like
- Considered how you might shift the culture of the classroom to nurture Persevering
Moving from Grey → Purple (Recieves)
Recieves: Minded to seek to stay in their comfort zoneIn this phase pupils have made a big leap from having a negative mindset to a neutral one. Here they are inclined to play it safe, staying within their own comfort zone to ensure success and avoid perceived failure. They still need adult support to maintain focus and optimism when tackling tasks they perceive as difficult, but beginning to show willing to take more responsibility.
Behaviours to secure, Moving from Grey to PurplePerseverance can be promoted both by how you structure the learning environment and how you help pupils to think of themselves as learners.
Your role as a teacher in this phase is to:
- Introduce the concept of Perseverance in order to avoid pupils being dependent on adults and begin to understand that being ‘stuck’ is a good place for a learner to be;
- Introduce the concept of Managing Distractions in order to help pupils to focus their efforts on learning;
- Introduce the concept of comfort zones in order to help pupils begin to understand what they find challenging and how they might view failure and mistakes more positively.
Introducing the concept of Perseverance.
Adopt a character (ages 4-10)
Sing a song (ages 4-10)
Learn to sing ‘Incy Wincy Spider’ and talk about how spiders persevere with their web building and thread climbing.
Show an animation (ages 4-10)
1 minute animation to illustrate an aspect of perseverance.Use it to talk about trying other ways to achieve what you want to do. Make your own class animations for different aspects of perseverance.
Capture perseverant behaviour (ages 4-10)
Building a learning culture.
A short explanation of a teacher enquiry into low levels of perseverance and concentration.
Annamaria Scaccia’s class at Tremorfa Nursery School in Cardiff
She carried out a teacher enquiry on a group of four-year-old boys who showed low levels of perseverance and concentration. She simply took digital photos of them, and the rest of the group, on the occasions when they were visibly persisting and focusing on what they were doing, and displayed them on the Learning Wall. This simple manoeuvre turned out to have the desired effect: the boys wanted to have their photos on the board, so they tried harder to stay on task. Sometimes when they consider themselves to be working really hard at something they will ask to have their photo taken.
One boy was heard to say, ‘Quick Mrs Heathfield, ask Miss Scaccia to take a photo’. Unprompted, the boys use the Learning Wall as a constant source of reminders. Annamaria wrote, ‘The wall wasn’t initially intended to be used for reference; this is something the boys have decided for themselves.
They look at the wall to remind them of the times when they were working hard… The photographs displayed give them ideas of things to do when they don’t know what to do, which consequently is expanding their learning capacity.’
Extract from The Learning Powered School. Guy Claxton, Maryl Chambers, Graham Powell and Bill Lucas
Read a story (ages 4-10)
A ready made story – where Jay learns that everyone can find learning difficult. Provides an opportunity to think about the feelings that often go with learning or doing something new.
- Questions to explore
- the story itself
- the ideas of stickability
Link perseverance to life in general (ages 8-12)
A range of short ideas to help pupils link perseverance to the world in general.
Use as a start-up activity for introducing perseverance.
Have a discussion (ages 8-12)
A range of short ideas to help pupils understand perseverance.NB. Where we have used the word ‘Resilience’ – please now read ‘Perseverance’
Try a quick activity (ages 8-12)
NB. Please read Perseverance for Resilience.
A 5 minute activity to introduce pupils to broad ideas of perseverance
This resource consists of
Perseverance Thermometer (ages 9-13)
Develop a greater awareness of pupils’ tendency to persevere and extent the language of perseverance
Introducing the concept of getting unstuck.
Explore challenge and stuck (ages 4- 11)
A whole class activity set up to ‘explore the nature of challenge, the difficulties encountered and how they work to overcome them
Generating stuck prompts (ages 4- 18)
Every classroom needs them!
See also an extract from Learning to Learn – The Fourth Generation, by Guy Claxton
Stuck Posters.Work with pupils to find useful questions for them to ask themselves and helpful strategies which they might take when they are stuck. Ensure that there are plenty of options that come higher on the list than “Ask the teacher”. Create displays as reminders. Extract from Building Learning Power in Action, by Sarah Gornall, Maryl Chambers, Guy Claxton
The second example is the increasingly widespread use of what have come to be called ‘STUCK posters’. They come in various shapes and sizes, but essentially they are simply home-made lists of what students can try when they get stuck with their learning: ‘Read the question again’, ‘Split the question into smaller bits’, ‘Try sounding the word out letter by letter’, ‘Ask your neighbour’ — that kind of thing. If the teacher were simply to photocopy the list from a L2L manual and stick it on the wall, it would be a G3 move. But in a Fourth Generation classroom, the ideas are generated by the students themselves, and are the subject of continual debate and refinement.
“Instead of simply dishing out more good advice to students-as-consumers, classrooms are becoming places of day-by-day knowledge generation about learning”
Students are challenged to produce a continual stream of ever more sophisticated ideas about how they can boot-strap their own ability to be independent learners, and these are accumulated and displayed as ever-expanding public records of their achievement. To begin with, the teacher trains the students to make use of this information by greeting every request for prompting with; ‘Have you looked at the poster?’ After a while, looking at the poster becomes routine, and eventually, when the habit of self-unsticking becomes second nature, even the poster becomes redundant. It does not take long, in such a Fourth Generation L2L classroom, before ‘Ask the teacher’ becomes a last-ditch strategy, to be engaged only when all else has failed.
By contrast, when effort becomes seen as natural and interesting, the habit of perseverance expands, and a subtle but powerful shift in the classroom atmosphere begins to occur. It is in this kind of way that Fourth Generation L2L moves up a gear, from the technical to the cultural. In a sense the STUCK poster is a stand-alone technique, but it can be much more than that if the teacher wants it to be. It can be used as an effective, low-risk, low-investment lever for creating a shift in students’ sense of what is valued, what is normal, and what is the point of their learning — and thus in the quality of their engagement.
See also an extract from Learning to Learn – The Fourth Generation, by Guy Claxton
Introducing the concept of Managing Distractions
Read a story (ages 4-8)
Model distractions (ages 4-8)
A quick starter activity to illustrate the meaning of distraction.
Explore the effects of distractions on pupils
Lots of ways to deal with distraction (ages 4-8)
Read about another six ways in which you might introduce and extend thinking about distractions.
Nurture the capacity to manage distractions (ages 4-12)
Look at pages 12-13 in this book to find another five ideas about how you might develop and nurture pupils’ capacity to manage their distractions.
Extract from Building Learning Power in Action, by Sarah Gornall, Maryl Chambers, Guy Claxton
Link managing distractions to life in general (ages 8-12)
A range of short ideas to help pupils link managing distractions to the world more widely.
Use as a start-up activity for introducing distractions.
Build a distraction scale (ages 4-12)
Building a distraction scale with pupils.
Distraction Scale.Work with pupils to describe different degrees of the ability to manage distractions. A 3-star manager might “always keep focused on what s/he is learning” and “Support other learners by helping them to manage their distractions”. Use language appropriate for the age of the pupils. Comment on behaviour to recognise and value the management of distractions. Ask pupils to help each other with ideas about how to earn more stars as distraction managers.
From Building Learning Power in Action, by Sarah Gornall, Maryl Chambers, Guy Claxton
- Milton Keynes school captures children’s own assessment of managing distractions weekly
- They have developed a 5 point scale
- Each child sticks a personal logo, known only to them and the teacher, on the level of distraction they have achieved across the week.
- These assessments are recorded by school and
- Set against progress data
- Perhaps not surprisingly strong positive correlations being found…being able to manage distractions better positively correlate with increases in progress.
Try a quick activity (ages 8-16)
Two activities to introduce pupils to exploring what distractions are and the things that distract them.
Introducing the concept of Comfort Zones.
Explore comfort zones (ages 4-11)
- what would panic some would be comfortable for others
- the negative feelings of learning and overcoming them