Shifts, Grit, and Adaptive Expertise

In recent years, I have noticed a trend in my research pursuits that when I am captivated by a topic, idea, or concept, I pursue the study of it with great vigor.  Ultimately, as those who read my blog might notice, I also end up writing about my synthesis of the ideas and how they apply in my world, either personally or professionally.  This process is one that I enjoy tremendously as it makes me feel alive, growing, and eternally learning, thus enriching my life, while also setting a good example for my children, my colleagues, and those to whom I am entrusted as en locos parentis.

In the course of these journeys, it always serendipitously excites me that I find a circumference of sorts in that literature on one idea references another that I then pursue to better understand the initial idea.  This cycle continues during my odyssey, and oftentimes I find myself revisiting ideas from over the years, finding connections to long-cherished philosophies, and seeing references to people who I have previously studied.  Invariably of late, I find that the journey takes me back to the initial idea of study.  This is a very exciting process.

In the past month or so, I have been exploring Angela Duckworth’s work on Grit.  I have also been “turned on” to Giyoo Hatano’s Adaptive Expertise.  I recall a time last year, during my weekly session with the 6th grade and 7th grade respectively, these two ideas were married together by the Jose Esteves’ updated version of Shift Happens 2013.  I shared with each group the Esteves video, and asked them to think about how it is relevant to their world. Then I showed the Duckworth TedTalk to which I have referred in previous posts (The Gritty Jester).  The responses were very astute.  Nearly every student across the two grade levels was fascinated by the data about the world.  They are adolescents, so the blinders blocking out the world around them are to be expected.  But many of the students also noticed that they will need grit to succeed, lead, and contribute in the world they will inherit.

Aside from the staggering numbers about the world and technology, a few savvy kids noticed the following key pieces of information as having tremendous relevance to the Duckworth video:

  • Today’s learner will have 10-14 jobs by age 38
  • Top 10 jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004
    • Jobs that don’t exist
    • Technology that doesn’t exist
    • To solve problems that don’t exist
    • New information every 2 years making half of what freshman learn obsolete by junior year.

Those students who pointed these three particular notes out of the Esteves video commented that grit will be integral to their ability to resolve through the shifts to lead and contribute in their world.

That weekend, I reflected on the process, while also continuing to read on some new topics. One topic rounded the idea out for me.  Hatano’s Adaptive Expertise states that we must “go beyond procedural efficiency…to invent new procedures derived from our expert knowledge”  because adaptive experts “1) comprehend why those procedures they know work; 2) modify those procedures flexibly when needed; and 3) invent new procedures when none of the known procedures are effective” (Hatano).

By looking at the coming shifts, we need to teach our students to be gritty in developing an adaptive expertise as they will need these two traits to excel in the rapidly changing world of their future.

As Duckworth states, we really don’t know how to teach and train grit, but we are exploring it- just like the answer to how to develop adaptive expertise is constantly being explored.

As educators, we need to be creative in our process- for instance, we need to ask ourselves as we design curriculum and instruction: Will this process and content help develop grit and adaptive expertise in our students? If so how? If not, how can we add these two components?

I recall a time when a 7 teacher asked me about how to help the reflective process outlined in our science curriculum be less “boring and repetitive” (kids’ words).  I suggested that rather than have the kids determine how to make the circuit work and then watch them sit and think, I encouraged him to instruct them to discover three ways that don’t work first, explain why they don’t work, then present a way the circuit will work (perhaps to find multiple ways it could work).  Grit and Adaptive Expertise. We can add these to the ever-growing list of integral 21st Century Skills.

Esteves, Jose.  “Shift Happens: 2013”

Duckworth, Angela. “Grit”

Hatano, Giyoo. “Adaptive Expertise”


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