Good morning, colleagues.
Thank you, Mike, for kicking off this week’s discussion and welcome to all the panelist. Today, on Day Two, we delve into the research on positive psychological frameworks with Dr. Beth Tuckwiller and doctoral student, Lindsey Anderson. We have several questions to get us going.
Questions for reflection
1. How would you define positive psychology? Do you think that the positive psychology notion of “thriving” provides a different nuance than the current practices/foci in transition practices and efforts? Why or why not?
2. Self-determination has been linked to improved outcomes (as measured by education researchers) and is a component of positive life outcomes (as measures by psychologists). How do you see the positive psychology constructs of mindset, grit and optimism overlapping with the construct of self-determination? How might an explicit focus on these three related constructs change how things “get done” in adult ed?
If you haven't had a chance to look through Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century, today would be a good day to do that.
And, as always, we are interested in what you -- our colleagues -- think and experience as you teach students and develop programs. What role does positive psychology (and its constructs) play in your work with adult learners?
Postsecondary Completion Moderator
Disabilities in Adult Education Moderator
Good morning all! I am excited to think about the intersection of positive psychology frameworks and transition to adulthood today. Just to give a bit of context as you reflect on these ideas, here is some broad info about positive psychology and the overlap with disability studies:
Positive psychology is a recently emerging branch of psychology which aims to engage the “scientific study of what goes right in life, from birth to death and all the stops in between…and that takes seriously those things in life that make life most worth living” (Peterson, 2006, p. 4). The Center for Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, headed up by Dr. Martin Seligman, defines positive psychology as “…the scientific study of strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive” (2007, p. 1). The field of positive psychology encompasses the study of personal emotions and traits linked to enhanced well-being and positive life outcomes, as well as investigation of the role of institutions (including schools) in helping individuals not just survive, but flourish (Center for Positive Psychology, 2007). This can naturally dovetail with transition efforts in that both fields seek to promote positive outcomes in arenas of life related to well-being and successful adult functioning.I really think this idea of THRIVING and/or FLUORISHING is an important thing for those of us in education to consider. Do we promote this now? Can we do it better? The translation and application of positive psychology findings to the field of special education has yet to be systematically explored and holds great promise to enhance transition efforts for students with disabilities.
It has only been very recently that positive psychology frameworks have been applied to the broad field of disability studies. December 2013 saw the first publication of an edited volume to marry these two topics: The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology and Disability (Wehmeyer, 2013). The editor of the volume frankly notes: “Put bluntly, across history, people with disabilities have not been viewed in the context of strengths and capacities…the literature in the field of disability has not been strengths-focused, and the literature in the field of positive psychology has not addressed disability” (Wehmeyer, 2013, p. 3). However, there is a growing interest among researchers in both of these fields to understand the construct of disability from a positive psychology framework and to consider the recognition and cultivation of positive characteristics and strengths in persons with disabilities. Similarly, an approach predicated on positive psychology constructs has the potential to enrich the 21st century field of special education transition into one that augments remediation of weaknesses with psychometrically sound approaches to cultivating positive psychological frameworks in individuals with disabilities.
One way that adult educators foster a strengths-based approach is through the questions they ask during the formal intake process for their adult education program or the way they get to know students in their classroom. I can't tell you how many times students would say in their intake meeting that they were trying school again because a coworker, friend, or family member commented on their strengths and encouraged them.
I'm wondering about that first meeting with a student and how programs and teachers shape that experience to reinforce a student's strengths. What do you do in your classroom? What does your program do during the intake process?
Postsecondary Completion Moderator
Thanks for your comment, Cynthia. I think adult ed is definitely an environment where we see more attention to strengths than we typically see in K-12 settings. This is encouraging! However, I think what could still be developed to improve these approaches is the use of systematic methods to gather this information. I do believe those intakes interviews are a great place to start! But the use of a formal tool (e.g., the StrengthsFinder or another similar tool), and a debriefing session on the assessment results might help make the process of strengths identification more accurate. Sometimes we have talents we may not be aware of and that we might not report in an interview! Or sometimes it is the case that we possess an inherent talent (e.g., strategic thinking) but we have only put it to use in situations that make us think of it as a liability (e.g., if someone only applies their strength of strategic thinking in the playing of video games, they may just view all of that as a "waste of time" rather than as a something that can be developed into a strength). So I think the use of formal talent/strengths assessment tools can help. But another crucial part of this approach is developing the strength and putting it to use. Often we stop at the identification of a talent or strength and forget that through intentional practice and engagement of the talent, we may find that we can cultivate it into an exceptional strength. Helping adult learners figure out how to intentionally use and apply their strengths in school, work and leisure provides opportunities to grow and refine those strengths. Data from the field of positive psychology suggest that when we practice something that is already an inherent talent or strength, we can see impressive, exponential growth in our capacities and have a chance to cultivate that strength into an expertise. However, when we practice a weakness, growth is slower and rarely does that domain of weakness ever become an area of expertise (although of course never say never!). So all of that to say, that I think the systematic identification using a psychometrically sound tool as well planning intentional ways to put strengths to work and "practice" them can be that next level beyond those intake interviews.
We are considering mindset, grit, and perseverence are all within a learner's control. However, there is growing body of research that indicates that toxic amounts of stress in a childs life alter the brain development and adversely impact the ability to learn through adulthood.
Additionally, as we look at how to help our students achieve success, we also need to keep in mind the social justice issues. I would suggest reading Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Ineqality in America by Edardo Bonilla-Silva. https://anth1001.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/eduardo_bonilla-silva_racism_without_racists_color-
Yes, we can support the growth mindset, work collaboratively with the student to help them connect their strenghts to become a life long learner, but we also need to understand both institutional poverty and insitutional racism and the impact it has on students.
Thanks for your comment! The important social considerations you mention are certainly part of a broader national conversation around grit. It was really the publication of Paul Tough's book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character that seemed to elicit some very important conversation around this topic of poverty -- as well as a caution to not unintentionally suggest that children "just need to learn to be grittier and that will solve their problems!" People like Alex Kotlowitz (author of There are No Children Here) have challenged all of us to remember that while we are helping to equip individuals with beneficial mindsets, we must always be aware of and working to meaningfully address and improve the social/power structures which come to bear on developing children and the poverty in which an unconscionable number of children live. I share the following link as an example of some of the commentary that has gone on around this topic with specific excerpts of the dialogue between Tough and Kotlowitz on this topic! http://atthechalkface.com/2012/09/30/paul-tough-is-way-off-base-and-stop-saying-grit/
Dear Kathy and Beth:
Every time I sit with a tired adult learner, one who is working very long hours to get by or who has no job and no means of support -- but is trying to stay engaged in learning, I get worried and angry. The impact of poverty, stress, and institutional racism are palpable in education, especially in adult education where students are workers and parents, too, so I want to thank you for the resources that both of you suggest and have begun reading them
Thank you for that background information on positive psychology, Beth! The Wehmeyer quote that you shared ("Put bluntly, across history, people with disabilities have not been viewed in the context of strengths and capacities…the literature in the field of disability has not been strengths-focused, and the literature in the field of positive psychology has not addressed disability") really got me thinking about this idea of intersection. While Wehmeyer was speaking of the field of disabilities, I think that a similar statement might be made about the field of adult education. I know that in my setting even as we try to remain positive in our approach with students, among staff our discussions about students are often focused on what's wrong and many of our professional development activities are focused on learning how to help "fix" those things.
Through my conversations with adult learners, I've heard about the impact of this emphasis on what's wrong. I hear them tell stories of spending years feeling like they were "stupid" or "dumb" because everyone around them has always told them about everything that was wrong with them. They talk about how this has led to a position of feeling like they might as well give up once things get hard, along with an inability to identify the things that are "right" with them.
However, they also talk about their experiences in adult education as being places in which they realize that they can learn and that they can be successful. They talk about their growing self-esteem and share the strengths that they are finding within themselves. Many of these learners have been studying for multiple terms and are committed to reaching their educational goals. They speaking of working through challenges rather than giving up because they "know" they can do it. I find in them that intersection between grit, a growth mindset, and optimism.
This all is to say that we are clearly doing something "right" in our work. We are helping many of the learners that we work with develop the mindsets and dispositions that will support their success.
I'm curious to hear from you all to see if you are seeing similar transformation in your students? If so, what are some practices or frameworks that you are using to support these transformations?
This is such an interesting observation, Lindsey. A current research question of interest for me is how does mindset change over time (and also how does it change according to academic domain or other domains as well!)? I wonder if adult learners have the life experience and additional maturity to think about mindset in a different way, especially if they are exposed to explicit information about mindset and its relationship to performance in the adult education environment. Thanks for sharing those thoughts!
Have you read the book Mindset by Carol Dweck? http://mindsetonline.com/whatisit/about/index.html
I think this is what you are referring to and has a great connection to the conversation.
Yes! I agree. Mindset by Dweck is a great read. What I would really like to dive into further is understanding mindset in both a temporal context and a domain-specific one. Are there "sensitive" developmental periods at which mindset can be most effectively and efficiently addressed? Might there be a developmental trajectory of mindset over time well into adulthood? And how does someone's mindset change based on the domain in which they are applying it (e.g., math, music, writing?) I am excited to see the next waves of research which start to help us understand the nuances embedded in this broad and important construct.
Hello everyone, my name is Stel Gragoudas and I am a researcher focuses on self-determination and higher education. Tomorrow I will be posting some questions that will start us talking about the role of self-determination and adult learning. I look forward to a spirited discussion !
I believe Grit and self-determination go hand and hand. Self-determination skills such as goal setting, problem-solving and choice-making allows a person to work towards a goal until he or she reaches it , and that is Grit.
I see similar connections between grit and self-determination. In the "Promoting Grit" document, we can find a list of psychological resources that promote grit. These include:
- academic mindsets that, in part, include the beliefs, attitudes, dispositions, and perceptions learners have of themselves (reminds me of the knowing and valuing oneself portions of the self-determination framework that is presented in "Learning to Achieve)
- effortful control in completing the tasks necessary to meet long-term goals (reminds me of the planning and action portions of the self-determination framework)
- strategies and tactics to deal with challenges and setbacks (reminds me of planning, acting, and evaluating portions of the self-determination framework)
Hi, Lindsey -
Thanks for mentioning the article, Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century. Members who are interested in reading more from this report from the U.S. Department of Education can access it freely from the link in the document title.
Stelios, Lindsay, Beth, Cynthia and others,
I am interested in what you believe to be good (or ideally best) teaching practices for non-cognitive skills like grit and self-determination, and if you think the good/best practices are the same for adults without learning disabilities and those with learning disabilities. Also, do we have an accumulation of professional wisdom or hard evidence yet that what we think are best practices do actually work, that adults do learn grit and self determination from what happens in the classroom or program?
David J. Rosen
Thanks for your comment and great question, David. In terms of grit, I think even the leading researchers (e.g., Angela Duckworth) still aren't ready to claim any definitive evidence about most effective practices. Dr. Duckworth has stated in the past that she views the explicit teaching of "growth mindset" (e.g., Carol Dweck's work) as a potentially useful avenue for promoting grit. But the definition of grit as a construct may still require clarification (e..g, is it a trait, a disposition, a skill, a process??) and the related interventions may actually be pretty hard to measure --- especially because grit is, by definition, something that is displayed over a long period time. Duckworth has also referred to this difficulty in measuring grit in a short timeframe (e.g., the timeframes in which most ed and psych intervention studies occur). In fact in the Grit PDF referenced above, on page 34, the authors note:
"An important distinction for measurement purposes is whether perseverance is conceptualized as a disposition or set of processes. If conceptualized as a disposition, the measurement may target perseverance as a general or enduring tendency to persevere.... For example, Duckworth et al. (2007) ask individuals to report about their enduring dispositional tendencies around pursuing long-term goals and then examine relationships among self-reported perseverance, academic performance, and goal attainment. These types of measures can be used for research purposes to understand how these tendencies relate to performance or attainment, as well as to provide important information to students, teachers, and parents about students’ tendencies and preferences. If perseverance is conceptualized as a set of processes, its measurement may focus on the sequence of behaviors, emotions, physiological reactions, and/or thoughts that unfold over time during the process of learning."
All that to say -- while I think the concept of grit is an important target for further investigation, I am not sure that we are even sure how to measure it yet, which will obviously limit the degree to which we will be able to make evidence-based decisions about most effective practices to teach it. However, I agree with Duckworth that growth mindset is an overlapping and related construct and there IS evidence that is can be taught (and rather quickly as well!) in high school students with a brief online intervention (see Paunesku et al., 2015), so I think this is encouraging! I do not have any readily available studies at my fingertips that reference adult learners though...and it's another important questions researchers need to thoroughly investigate. However, I want to reference some additional information in the Grit PDF that may give some clues as to ways to start to think about teaching grit; these strategies are worth further exploration! From page 80 in the Grit PDF:
"Educators and administrators interested in promoting grit, tenacity, and perseverance should draw on key research-based best practices, for example,
(1) provide students with opportunities to take on higher-order or long-term goals that are “worthy” to the student—goals that are “optimally challenging” and aligned with the students’ own interests, and
(2) provide a rigorous and supportive environment for accomplishing their goals. Students should be supported in the psychological resources that will help them succeed—academic mindsets, effortful control, and strategies and tactics. Rigorous and supportive learning environments instill, for example, high expectations, a growth mindset, expectations for challenge and early failure, cycles of constructive feedback and iteration, and a sense of belonging; and support for strategies to plan, monitor, and stay on track. Supports also should include the necessary tangible resources (i.e., materials, people, time). Educators should be aware of potential risks or costs of pushing students in ways inappropriate for their needs."
Thus, to this end, I am wondering a couple of things:
- How can we respond to this call to provide an "opportunity to take on worthy goals" in an adult ed environment ? ,and
- How can we help adult learners anticipate challenges and early setbacks and monitor their own growth, progress and grit toward a challenging goal?
From my experiences in working with under-resourced, at-risk or students of poverty students, it goes back to the old saying “if you believe that something is import for students, then teach, model and practice it.” I believe that Grit and Perseverance are interdependent and as we know such skills are malleable and situational. So to me it made sense if these were skills that add value to academic success, I had a responsibility to help foster such skills. Also with the struggling students, I have found that “mindset comes before mastery of content.” There is a lot of truth to “if there is a will, there is a way.”
If a growth mindset can be fostered then students are more open and receptive to other non-cognitive skills and strategies. These concepts and strategies can be incorporated into the teaching methods of any content area. Teaching students the value of Grit, Perseverance, Effort and similar such skills benefits all students yet the biggest payoff is for the struggling students. The students who need it the most. I also feel that teaching such skills is best accomplished then it is done intentionally and made relevant to the individual’s goals and frame of reference. The under-resourced student is going to have to work harder to experience success, so by adopting a different mindset, increasing Grit and Perseverance, is a critical factor in increasing their mastery of content (odds of success).
Hello Philip, and others,
Thanks. I am eager to hear more about how you -- and others here -- think adult education teachers and programs, some of whose learners may have disabilities, can teach grit/perseverance. If helping students to have a growth mindset is the first step, or an essential ingredient, what are some specific strategies that a teacher might use to help learners achieve that? How do teachers effectively teach and model a growth mindset, or other elements of grit/perseverance? How do they help students to practice these skills? Can you -- or others here -- suggest articles, books, or videos that specifically address these questions? Are there courses or workshops specifically for teachers of adults that address how to teach these skills?
Some teachers who have heard about noncognitive skills such as grit/perseverance agree that they are important, even essential, for their adult students to learn, but they may not be able to teach these skills without training, practice, coaching/mentoring and supervision. Any suggestions that you -- or others here -- might have for them? Thanks.
David J. Rosen
Hi David -- There are curricula out there that address how to teach growth mindset (e.g., Brainology), and Carol Dweck's book Mindset is a great read for anyone interested in this topic who wants to get ideas about how to address it. I wonder if the explicit teaching of growth mindset to adults in an adult ed environment would be fundamentally different than how it is addressed in high school and other settings...I think your suggestion that schools consider professional development to help teacher think about how to teach this is a good one.
The curriculum that Beth recommended would be great because everything is mapped out and usually they have assessments you can use to measure where they started at, what areas are the highest priority and post-assessments to measure their growth. In addition to specific curricula, there are instructional practices that research has associated with non-cognitive skill development. The following practices can be used in formal and informal education settings.
Praise effort, not ability
Tell youth how skills can be used in and outside of the educational context
Normalize difficulty and de-personalize challenges
Tell youth the skills that they will learn
Provide projects are age-appropriate but challenge youth to use new skills and knowledge
Provide projects that are active, hands-on and require cognitive engagement
Have youth monitor their own progress and solicit their feedback on their experiences
Break complex, multi-step tasks and projects into more manageable chunks
Also there is a lot of good YouTube resources for faculty or those geared toward the students that are very informational and can get someone started in the right direction.
What I have noticed in reading the research on non-cognitive skill development models is that developing an academic mindset is the foundation upon which the other skills are built upon. Even the model presented in the Strategies to Build Non-Cognitive Skills by the National College Access network and in the U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology report on Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perseverance both seem to have an academic mindset as the linchpin for non-cognitive skill development and ultimately improved student success.
Beth also mentioned a study that that demonstrate the most at-risk students experience the most gain. She is correct again and that same result were repeated in Dr. Carol Dweck's work. I feel that great teaching is a both an Art and a Science. It makes sense to me that teaching Grit, Persistence, and/ Academic Mindset would be much the same because each student is different, with a different background and frame of reference. What also complicates this topic is the fact that many of the non-cognitive skills are situational. I can be very "Gritty or Persistent in one setting and fragile in another. That being said there are some solid general practices we can incorporate to better serve struggling students.
Thanks for these comments, Phil. I am so glad you brought up the complicating issue around the situational and contextual factors around the expression of mindset, grit and other noncognitive skills. I am certain that many of these skills are "academic-domain specific" or "environmentally specific", and this does complicate our understanding of how to measure them, track progress/growth, and how to address them/teach them meaningfully. Recently, a group of researchers (de Castella and colleagues) found that when children and adolescents are queried about mindset in general (e.g., do you think people can get smarter with experiences), they would indicate a certain set of beliefs about mindset (and often they would indicate a "growth mindset" about others). But when they were queried about their own mindset (e.g., do you think you can get smarter with experience), they were less likely to report a growth mindset. I think this is another critical thing we should think about when teaching mindset to youth -- it is important to address their specific beliefs about their own mindsets (and I also think their specific beliefs about their own mindset in various academic and other domains). I think especially in learners who have struggled and encountered academic difficulty and failure, we should pay particular attention to the possibility that they may have a growth mindset about others but not themselves. We should work hard to help address this!
Thanks Phil. This is very helpful in understanding what is needed to teach non-cognitive skills like grit, persistence and academic resilience. As I understand it, adult education teachers and programs that want to take seriously teaching these skills will need:
- A good curriculum with well thought-out activities and assessments; and
- Research-based instructional practices such as those you have described.
But Is that enough?
Don't they also need to build a program culture that supports these practices, where every staff member and student is reinforcing the practice of the skills for all students, where the walls of the classes and other rooms have posters that reinforce them, where students have apps on their smartphones that support them in their practice of these noncognitive skills, where there are regular reward systems in place such as weekly class or program-wide meetings in which students' noncognitive skills progress is recognized by the whole program community? Don't teachers -- all program staff members -- need program-wide training in how to effectively teach, and help students practice, regognize and reward themselves for growth in non-cognitive skills? Wouldn't student peer-teaching and support also be important? Would these student leaders need some training, too?
What else is needed to be effective in teaching these skills?
Phil -- anyone here -- does what I have described -- a major, program-wide commitment to a culture of teaching noncognitive skills in adult basic education programs exist? Are there adult basic education programs that do this? If so, could we hear from teachers and other practitioners from these programs? Could we hear what they are doing, what appears to be working, how they have been trained, and what they would recommend to other programs that want to be effective in teaching these skills?
Some education and training programs for out-of-school youth, so called "opportunity youth" who have lacked opportunity and who have not yet "attached" to the workforce or to education, are doing this. For example, the YouthBuild model supports non-cognitive skills with its "Mental Toughness" curriculum and its emphasis on youth leadership. I am interested in learning about other models, especially those that you think are making a difference for adult learners.
Everyone who has been contributing, thanks for this terrific discussion. If I appear to be pushing hard for details and examples of how adult basic education programs are making this work, or could make this work, it's because I am convinced of the importance of these kinds of skills, that they are fully as important as academic basic skills, that they are the bedrock beneath what we have been calling foundational skills.
David J. Rosen
Hi David - Thanks for this comment. I do not have any knowledge of any exemplar adult ed model to share with you, although I sure wish I did, because I agree with you wholeheartedly that these skills are the bedrock! I just want to support what you are "pushing hard for" by just quickly sharing a broad precept from the field of positive psychology (and my own thinking/work regarding how we apply those frameworks around our work in disability studies). There is a portion of the positive psych research that, rather than adhering to a focus on the individuals -- (e.g., how do we build grit, or growth mindset, or resilience in the individual) -- instead focuses on "positive institutions", and investigates how institutions can promote environments and cultures where these positive traits can grow and flourish. It is an ecologically-based orientation that acknowledges that while individuals' noncognitive orientations/traits/skills are important, so are the environmental contexts in which they are able to be developed, practiced, expressed, reinforced, etc. I just wanted to support your push for also understanding how we can create positive cultures that would further support the development of these noncognitive skills/traits/behaviors/dispositions/processes.
I am very interested in addressing your questions about finding programs and models that work. I think that Beth is correct in saying that we don't have any definitive models that we can say are effective. While there are some commercially available curricula these days, they are directed primarily towards middle school students. One thing that I've found in my personal reading on the subject is that some people are finding that these interventions are more effective when they are tailored to the target audience, particularly when they can address some of the particular stereotypes that might be impacting the group. I'm currently working on better understanding how adult learners (particularly those with learning disabilities) think and understand intelligence, in part, so that we might be able to use that knowledge to better tailor grit-focused frameworks to adult learners.
That being said, other research has also shown that even short and relatively simple interventions can be effective in changing attitudes and dispositions related to grit at least in the short-term, so I don't think that we need to wait until the perfect model has been discovered. "The Mindset Kit" out of the PERTS at Stanford University is an online resource with information for educators and parents about developing mindsets that support grit. It is directed to the K-12 age group, but I think that some of it can be helpful.
Please forgive my delays in responding and some of my errors. I am trying to reply between working with student and staff at the school.
You are spot on about a system-wide approach. As with most change initiatives, they are most effective when there is a school-wide or organizational commitment. It is similar to great academic customer service. This can’t be done by just a few, it needs to be system-wide because all aspects and people who interact with students can be critical for student success. No matter how great a faculty member is in building a student up, if the system/school doesn’t also have that same mindset, it becomes two steps forward and one back.
A great resource that I would suggest for faculty and/or students is https://www.mindsetkit.org/ this is a great resource to get started with learning more about or teaching growth mindsets. With an academic mindset being the linchpin for the other academic resiliency/non-cognitive skills, it is a great place to start.
Also there is a super simple graphic that may be of assistance. It illustrates what increases academic resiliency and what detracts from it. http://image.slidesharecdn.com/owd2010tempelaar-101112114457-phpapp01/95/owd2010-2-studentkenmerken-en-ictondersteunend-leren-leerstijlen-doelorientaties-en-academische-motivaties-dirk-tempelaar-21-728.jpg?cb=1289562421
David, thank you so much for your interest and commitment to enhancing student success for all.
David, i couldn't agree more. The Educational philosopher John Dewy said that schools need to teach decision-making and the best way to do that is to involve students in their learning process. Teachers need to structure their curriculum so students can not only ask questions but also seach for answers,,, by doing this they are solving problems and becoming self-determined
Hi Philip -- Your statement about the students who need it the most are the ones who benefit the most really resonated with me. In the Paunesku et al. study, they found the most robust effects of the intervention were for children who were most "at-risk" for academic difficulty. I agree that teaching this explicitly, especially for the most at-risk students, is important!
One way to encourage grit, and the growth mindset that may support it, that I have found works well with adult learners is to teach them about the brain and their ability to impact its development throughout life. I have used a short presentation where I teach learners some really basic information about how the brain works, really focusing on the idea of plasticity (the idea that the brain continues to grow and change throughout ones life). In this presentation, I also emphasize that the best way to make changes in the brain is through practice, making comparisons to the changes that muscles go through during physical exercise. Finally, I share information from research on the brain. One area of research that is great to share with adults is the research around London cab drivers. They have found that the demands of driving a London cab causes structural changes to the brain, particularly in the hippocampus after following drivers during the years that it takes for them to prepare to pass "The Knowledge" test required to become an official black cab driver. I find this to be especially powerful with adults because it is about adults and clearly demonstrates the power that they have to change their brain and improve their skills through study and practice. This study was picked up by the popular press so their are a number of news clips and accessible news stories that you can find with a quick search on the internet.
Another simple way to encourage perseverance and grit is to be mindful of the feedback that you are giving. Try to avoid feedback such as "that's great" or "you're a genius" or "some of us just struggle with math." These all imply that abilities are innate things that we might not have control over, which can lead to behaviors that don't support grit such as avoiding tasks that you know you won't be successful at. Instead, give specific feedback on what was done well and what can be improved. Encourage the use of strategies when things are difficult, rather than giving the answer. If you need a quick comment, a simple "I can tell that you put a lot of work into this" is better than just "good job."
Your comment about the short presentation on the brain reminded me that LINCS has Learning to Achieve (L2A) online courses in the LINCS Learning Portal. I've used portions of the Neuroscience course with adult learners interested in transitioning to health career programs at their local community college. We usually do the general overview and some of the drag and drop activities as a class. The entire list of L2A online courses is below. Just sign in with your community email and password to look at the courses in more detail. If it is your first time on the learning portal, you may notice a connecting process as the LINCS system connects to your community profile.
- Learning to Achieve: Accommodations (1-2 hours): Participants learn about testing and instructional accommodations appropriate for individuals with learning disabilities.
- Learning to Achieve: English Language Learners (1-2 hours): Participants learn about the challenges of learning English as a foreign language and the difficulties associated with testing for and diagnosing learning disabilities in English language learners (ELLs).
- Learning to Achieve: Neuroscience (1-2 hours): Participants learn about the underlying neurobiology of learning disabilities.
- Learning to Achieve: Professional’s Guide (1-2 hours): Participants review the popular research-based online publication, A Professional’s Guide to Educating Learning Disabilities.
Hello aim going back to my transition hat for a moment, for youth with disabilities it is not enough to teach them self-determination, we also have to put them in situations where they will use and practice these skills. Adult learning environments are perfect for this because if they need an accommodation they need to advocate for it and use self-determination! Here is a resource you may find interesting it explains self-determination and the research for people throughout the life-span http://www.ngsd.org/news/self-determination-across-life-span-issues-and-gaps