True grit: Can you really teach resilience?

6th March 2014 at 15:00

Can you teach grit? Determination? The ability to pick yourself up and dust yourself down? In essence, can teachers teach resilience?

TES asks these questions in this week’s cover feature.

Certainly, it’s of the moment. Schools and educationists around the world are adopting any number of models and schemes of work as they attempt to inculcate in their students a never-say-die spirit that they believe will set them in good stead in the real world.

Leading the charge is Martin Seligman, the director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center. A psychologist, he argues that it is possible for children to learn the ability to have a positive mental attitude and to be resilient when faced with challenges.

Watch him explore his ideas here:


And, of course, schools in the UK are getting involved. It is perhaps unsurprising that at the forefront of this work is top independent school Wellington College, led by headteacher Anthony Seldon. If you want to explore this work, the good people of Wellington have been kind enough to share their programme of study with TES Connect.

But in truth, of course, the proof is in the pudding. One school that has adopted resilience lessons is Parmiter’s School in Hertfordshire. Assistant head Jan Stevens is a fan.

“Feedback from students and parents has been very positive and I knew we were doing the right thing when a sixth-form boy approached me the day after one of my taster sessions to thank me,” she explains in this week’s TES.

“Being a bit suspicious of this, I raised an eyebrow, and he said: 'Miss, you have no idea what is going on at home, but what you talked about in our session yesterday made real sense and made me want to get up and come in to school today.’”

Others, however, are deeply cynical. Celebrated educational thinker ED Hirsch recently remarked that “knowledge-based schooling is far more interesting to a child than how-to schooling, and far more effective”.

These comments will resonate with much of the ascendant educational orthodoxy in this country, where traditional, subject-based pedagogy is growing in influence.

But what do you think? Would you be happy to try and teach true grit? 

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