“There are so many variables in what Duckworth calls the Non-Cognitive mosh-pit: how do you organize them into a comprehensible and clear framework?”
“I see the value of assessing non-cognitive qualities, and grit/perseverance in particular, but the real important thing is to teach and cultivate it: how is the best way to do that?”
In the past few months, because of my work with the SSATB Think Tank on the Future of Admissions Assessment, both of the above questions have arisen multiple times during my presenting, discussing, and consulting about NonCognitive assessment.
For both, I’ve been working on developing better answers, and– wow– the University of Chicago CCSR report embedded atop is a tremendous asset and resource for answering and addressing both questions.
The report came to my attention by being discussed, and indeed, celebrated at not one but two conferences I attended back to back in April, the Deeper Learning Network Conference at High Tech High in San Diego and the National Partnership for Educational Access in Boston.
But as much as I had heard it praised, it nevertheless exceeded my expectations. This is a masterful overview and analysis of what matters among non-cogs in the service of supporting our students success to, through, and beyond secondary schooling.
Back to to the two top framing questions. First, how can we best organize logically and coherently the array of attributes and activities that are aswim in this conversation? In conversation recently with Angela Duckworth, she guided me toward what is a useful simplification, though really almost too much of an oversimplification, which is the same one used by the National Research Council in its highly valuable 2012 report, Education for Life and Work.
As stated, it is very simplified, but still useful: there are three domains, and we need to think about how we are recognizing, understanding, teaching and assessing each of them: Cognitive, Interpersonal, and Intrapersonal.
But, the Chicago Consortium on School Research report takes it a next level of complexity while retaining reasonable clarity and coherence. As the graphic below (labeled 2.1) from the report shows, and it is a graphic worth studying closely, five non-cog elements play together and converge to generate improved academic performance:
- academic behaviors (like attending class and doing homework);
- academic mindsets such as optimism, locus of control, and the Deck growth mindset;
- Academic Perseverance, which is roughly equal to Duckworth’s grit, though the Chicago authors see it as a subset or specific manifestation of a broader grit personality trait;
- Learning Strategies; and
- Social Skills.
Onto the second question: what do we know about the malleability of these factors, and what is the best approach to teaching the one most currently being talked about, grit or perseverance. The answer is in the graphic above, and I could just leave it at that, but at least for my own sake, let me spell it out. (more…)