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We know the power of assorted forces, factors, attitudes, and understandings that support and drive learning. Our work becomes immeasurably daunting without them. We use these powerful features to stimulate interest, focus attention, instill hope for success, and sustain effort whenever we encounter difficult learning.


Among the most common of these learning forces are a growth mindset, grit, curiosity, and passion. A growth mindset emboldens students to keep trying, employ multiple strategies, and adjust their efforts to achieve important learning goals. Grit sustains learners when they struggle or feel stuck. Curiosity powerfully drives new learning. Passion for a topic, skill, or other endeavor creates focus and commitment often more compelling than compliance to adults’ expectations and demands. These four forces, employed in progression, launch potent synergy for powerful learning.


A growth mindset leads students to understand that learning and becoming proficient in an area of interest or passion is possible, despite temporary setbacks. A growth mindset helps students see that success can be within reach if they employ smart effort, tap effective strategies, and engage the resources available to them. An initial attempt that fails is nothing more than feedback regarding where more learning is needed.


When learning is challenged, setbacks, missteps, and mistakes lurk. Despite high level interest and commitment, we need grit to persist and ultimately succeed. Learners need to remind themselves that successful learning can begin when they feel stuck. Grit carries learning through extremely difficult learning challenges. Angela Duckworth and other researchers observed that grit, so powerful, is more predicative of success over a lifetime than intellectual ability.


Curiosity opens our minds to possibilities for exploration, questions to be answered, and mysteries to be solved. We can think of curiosity as a mental radar constantly exploring occurrences around the learner and what can be learned. A recent study reported in Pediatric Research found that learners from high poverty families who remain curious show academic gains at a level equal to their more economically advantaged classmates. Curiosity propels us to new interests and emerging passions that can drive learning to amazing levels.


When we tap into the intense interests or passions students bring to their learning, we unleash what can be a nearly unstoppable force. Intrinsically driven learning can be nurtured, harnessed, and sustained without artificial rewards, prodding, or threat of negative consequences. However, learning driven by passion does not always come easy. Developing new skills, learning new content, and building new habits often require multiple attempts before attaining success. Learners need to understand that unsuccessful initial attempts invite us to adjust and try again.


As noted earlier, these four forces—growth mindset, curiosity, grit, and passion—especially when harnessed as a progression, work to create nearly unstoppable learning power. Though effective on their own, when we want to create a powerful learning encounter, together they can be the fuel we need.


Thought for the Week

Simply pulling a strategy “off the shelf” or defaulting to the most recently read article or staff development session topic may not generate the results we seek.

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