Persistence Tip 1. Define it to Find It!

7 aptitudes of innovators grit motivation persistence social and emotional learning
Teach Persistence

Dr. Jeanne L. Paynter

Recently I talked with an art teacher who lamented a student’s lack of persistence. She developed a unit on wire sculpture based on the work of a local street artist, REED bMore. He creates and hangs wire sculptures of pop characters above traffic lights “just to make people smile.” When the teacher gave her students pipe cleaners to create their wire art, a student made one bend, and said, “I’m done.”

What is persistence?  Persistence is referred to as task commitment, perseverance, hard work, effort, and “grit.” It’s a personal trait or psychosocial skill that also can be taught and developed. Learners persist when they focus effort and energy on a task, trying one more way to accomplish it when the previous way fails.

Persistence empowers us to test and verify, improve and refine. It is fueled by a “growth mindset,” or belief that achievement outcomes are not “fixed,” and that effort produces results. Many now believe that persistence is more crucial to success than talent.

So what’s the art teacher to do when her students show such a lack of it? I’m not about quick fixes or easy answers, but I do believe that the first step is to define persistence for students and then start talking about it in daily instruction.

To begin, provide students with the Teach to Develop Talent Student-Directed Goal (see Chapter 4 Teach the Aptitudes of Innovators) to define the attributes of persistence. Now, you can begin pointing out examples/nonexamples in characters from stories they are reading, scientists or historical figures they are studying, personalities they are following, or assignments they are tackling. 

Persistence is all around us when we know what to look for. Learners have to see it to believe that they can do it!


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