This was the question asked by Brad Stulberb in a very interesting article that uses sport as it's focus though can be applied to other areas of life and society including education. The article references a case study in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, which looks at 'Super Champions' or world class athletes and 'Almost Champions' athletes who had performed well at youth level, but were now performing in lower leagues now they are adults.
Reading this article brings me back to Carol Dweck's work on Mindset, particularly where Brad Stulberg states 'super champions were characterized by an almost fanatical reaction to challenge.” They viewed challenges in a positive light — as opportunities to grow...' and later Stulberg highlights a difference between Super and Almost Champions in their goal focus; self improvement, comparing themselves to prior versions of themselves for our Super Champions, where our Almost Champions had a focus upon external benchmarks like rankings and comparisons to rivals, which affects motivation during dips in form.
A closing statement of the article, referencing previous research, that talented athletes (for this you could also read learners/educators/business leaders) can often benefit from a variety of challenges, which then builds resilience and mental toughness and aides to develop performance to a top level.
I have just returned from a MS Girls Soccer team building weekend, which was fantastic. These are 15 of the most active female students from our Middle School. The weekend in Curtea De Arges, a picturesque area of Muntenia, Romania, consisted of three 2 and a half hour training sessions and a hike and even with this select group of competitive athletes I had a conversation about the amount of screen time that students had/wanted. The photo below was taken on a boat ride just before our hike.
I shared an article on 10th September on this very subject. Yet it is becoming more apparent, that active play is not happening as frequently in the face of a competition with ipads and other technologies competing for the attention of students in the 21st Century.
A challenge for parents and teachers alike is to encourage students to go outside and away from these screens. The benefits can be wider reaching than just the obvious physical and health benefits. A 2009 study in the Journal of School Health, found that the more physical activity that children undertake, the more likely they are to succeed in academic tests. Another study, this time led by the University of Essex highlights that just five minutes of 'green exercise' can have rapid improvements in mental well being and self esteem.
Patrick Lencioni, also the author of '5 Dysfunctions of a Team', believes he knows. Whilst he uses a fictitious case study of a business to highlight the 3 key traits of the ideal team player, he applies his theory in a variety of situations which can be as applicable for myself, as a member of the American International School of Bucharest community, as it could be to helping students understand how to cooperate together effectively.
The ability to work together as part of a team is a necessary skill, which can be applied to almost all aspects of our daily lives. Lencioni highlights three character traits that form the ideal team player; Humility, Hunger & Smarts. Whilst this may seem three obvious and straight forward traits, as we look at how they interact they can become more complex. Lencioni is ready to highlight that ideal, does not mean perfect. Everyone has the ability to improve in one or more trait.
Lencioni believes that humility is 'the single, greatest and most indispensable attribute of being a team player. Humble members of the team emphasize the team over themselves, share credit of any successes and define success collectively instead of focusing upon their contribution. They lack excessive ego, or concerns about how others perceive them.
"Humility isn't thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less" C.S. Lewis
Hungry members of a team are self motivated, conscientious and will look to take on more responsibility within the team, but in a humble manner.
Lencioni describes this as being 'people smart', to demonstrate good inter personal skills, including listening, asking questions and engaging within the group dynamics with an understanding of how words and actions can impact upon others.
The book is clearly aimed at adults, and it gives practical advice on how to work with people who want to develop in one or more of these areas. Individually these three traits are obvious and Lencioni agrees, however he believes with just the absence of one it can make teamwork significantly more difficult. A focus for the AISB PE department is working on sportsmanship displayed by our students, and throughout the book I was thinking how this could be applied to benefit our students.
PE provides various opportunities to specifically look, try and reflect upon teamwork with our students and this is the main focus of our Adventure Challenge unit. In October we will be starting this unit with our Grade 3 students, and I plan to use these three traits as a central theme of the unit and the basis of students self and peer reflection. I will post an update of how this looks when the unit is underway.
Do you agree with the emphasis placed upon these traits? Would you add or take away any? How would you use this to help develop teamwork skills among your students?
Finland, and its highly regarded education system, is now recommending that its children participate in physical activity for 3 hours per day, reports the BBC. The Finnish Minister of Education believes their is a correlation between their highly regarded and successful education system and how active their students are.
The benefits of outdoor play go beyond physical development. Their is much research to suggest that outdoor play supports children's problem solving skills and nurtures their creativity, whilst also increasing a child's attention span. Having children play outside together, in unstructured play aides the development of social and behavioural skills, as was discussed in my September 7th blog post.
After recently reading this, it took me back to a section from Carol Dweck's book, Mindset (please see my first post). Both Dweck and Brooks highlight similar issues, '... they bathe one another in oceans of affirmations and praise, as if buttressing one another against some insecurity.' However in this opinion piece Brooks acknowledges more readily, the various other factors that are brought into play in our lives.
This article argues that today, many students are 'more accomplished than past generations, but more emotionally fragile' and references 'helicopter parents, who protect their children from setbacks and hardships. They supervise playground conflict so kids never learn how to handle disputes.
Good practise within PE promotes more than just student participation in sports, amongst other aspects there is a big focus upon children's social and emotional development. As a team, one of the big successes in PYP PE at AISB was the use of our conflict corner.
A PE teaching environment is a unique space within the school day where, for example, when running around two Grade 1 students may bump into each other, or in a Grade 4 class another student may believe a class mate is not playing fairly and these situations can cause conflict, which can lead to an ideal teaching situation.
We implemented the Conflict Corner midway through last year, after noticing as a team we were spending too much time dealing with minor squabbles between students. After initially creating the space and modelling the process, students began to take control of their own feelings and began to mediate issues together. Conflicts are a regular part of every day life, the Conflict Corner gives students productive ways to handle conflict within PE and hopefully they can take these skills into areas outside the gym where they have conflict.
Carol Dweck is a professor at Stanford University and a leading researcher in the fields of personality, social psychology and developmental psychology. In her 2006 book Mindset – How We Can Learn to Fulfil Our Potential, Dweck argues that there are two types of ‘mindsets’ that people have, a growth mindset or a fixed mindset and this impacts upon all areas of our lives.
A person with a fixed mindset believes that their qualities are carved in stone, placing emphasis on the outcome and being highly concerned with how they will be judged. If you’re not confident about, or think that you might actually fail, when others succeed you will disengage from the activity.
A growth mindset is a belief that your basic qualities are something that you can cultivate, allows you to value what you’re doing regardless of the outcome. The passion and drive and sticking to it, especially when it is not going as one would like are hall marks of a growth mindset.
These are two very black and white definitions and Dweck acknowledges that this is not always the case, mindsets can be transient depending on the person and situation and most positively, we are also able to change these traits. Throughout the book Dweck gives examples from research and the real world ranging from sport, business and leadership, relationships and parenting & education, to support her argument.
As a teacher I have heard the term ‘mindset’ being talked about for many years, but my main take away from this book, having now read it, is to be able to highlight a fixed or growth mindset, with characteristics of behaviour and see how I can foster a growth mindset through the feedback that I give to students.
At AISB we have just had our trials for our Vampire Academy, our Under 9 & 11 competitive Football (Soccer) teams. For both age groups we have 14 places, and about 30 students attended trials. If a students are not selected they’re still able to attend Football sessions through our after school activity program. When giving feedback to the students who were not selected I tried to use Dwecks growth mindset approach to give feedback on process and growth, though receiving comments from one person, in relation to one activity, is not going to change a persons mindset, so it is something I’ll be implementing in my classes.
One of the most startling exerts from this book is in reference to how a fixed mindset can effect effort, or as Dweck rather plainly puts it ‘… effort is only for people with deficiencies’ (the definition of effort from someone with a fixed mindset) and looking around the Elementary gym you can see varying levels of effort, as you would in any classroom, however our students grow up with more sport on TV watching global superstars like Ronaldo, Messi or Bolt in the Olympics and they see the end product, but not the process.
Prior to reading this book I read Bounce: The Myth of Talent, which referenced Dweck and her research, which emphasised 10,000 hour rule of purposeful practise, as opposed to ‘God given’ or inherent talent. In both books they talk about Michael Jordan, who was cut from High School Basketball, wasn’t recruited by the college he wanted to play for and wasn’t drafted by the first two NBA teams that could’ve chosen him, how could this be the case for the most talented Basketball player of all time, and Jordan is not the only one, Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods, Mia Hamm, Babe Ruth and Wilma Rudolph to name but a few. We do not see or hear of the struggles, as much as we hear about the talent of a player, which simplifies something down to ‘you’ve either got it or you haven’t’ mentality.
The biggest challenge will be creating an environment whereby students feel comfortable to make mistakes and see it as part of their learning process, to not give up and to want to endlessly feed their curiosity and drive.
Dwecks book was an interesting read and I do believe that there is worth in the mindset theory, I feel though throughout her book she over simplifies situations and justifies results purely to fixed or a growth mindset, the world we live in is not that black and white. Teaching involves many variables, but having an appreciation and understanding of mindset theory is one more tool, in my teacher tool box.