Can you build character and resilience in students?
I go to bed earlier, even when I am tempted to stay up and watch a movie …
In October 2015, I blogged ‘How Can We Make Our Students Tougher?’; this post shares the results of our school-research.
The Tougher Minds Personal Change Management (PCM) programme, explicitly teaches self-control and resilience for improved academic and personal performance.
We were very excited to be the first state school in the country to be working with Tougher Minds. We wanted to support our pupils in developing their own habits of self-regulation; strong evidence shows that Tougher Minds and their programmes for students, dramatically improves all aspects of school work; including learning, homework, concentration, behaviour, exam performance and extra curricular sport.
Andrew Foster said: “We will be helping QK staff and pupils to understand neuroscience of learning, concentration, motivation and confidence. We have been in the school observing lessons and meeting with both teachers and pupils. We are confident we can all work together to achieve something very special.” (Source)
Can school pupils be taught how to improve their self-control?
This is the report on the Tougher Minds programme at our school during the Autumn Term 2015. The research has been kindly shared by Andrew Foster and Jon Finn and focuses on a two, year 7 tutor groups.
Background: There is compelling evidence showing a correlation between one’s ability to deploy self-control*, and their health, happiness, resilience, creativity and performance – core qualities that we value in the 21st century. Further, there is strong evidence that people can learn, and therefore be taught, how to improve their levels of self-control.
Current project aim: The aim of the project was to pilot the Tougher Minds performance psychology programme within the school, which was designed to increase participating pupils knowledge and understanding of self-control and help them to develop better self-control habits. The result would be young people who were empowered to take more control over their behaviour and learning at school and in their broader lives.
Method: A randomly assigned year 7 tutor group engaged in a seven-week intervention. teaching them how to improve self-control. A comparison year 7 group was also selected. This group did not receive the intervention, but data was collected about their behaviour, before and after the intervention, concurrently with the pupils who did receive the intervention.
Findings: Pupils who participated in the Tougher Minds programme developed a better understanding of self-control, and were better able to deploy sophisticated self-control strategies than pupils who not participate in the Tougher Minds programme. This evidence shows that school pupils can be explicitly taught how to improve their self-control.
* Self-control relates to the following understandings: having the self-control to resist temptation and not act impulsively; to think before we speak or act so we don’t do something that we will regret; wait before making up our minds so that we do not jump to a conclusion or pre-judge; discipline in perseverance; having the discipline to stay on a task and complete it; to resist temptations to quit because you are bored, you are frustrated, there are a lot more fun things to do; continuing to work even though the reward might be a long time in coming; not beating yourself up when you have messed up; recognising when you are not working as effectively as you can, and proactively regulating your behaviour (Diamond, 2014).
27 pupils were selected, made up of 14 boys and 13 girls aged 11 or 12. A comparison group was also selected. They did not receive the intervention but data was collected about their behaviour, before and after the intervention, concurrently with the other class. The programme took place over seven weeks and had two components:
- Daily planning and reflection in tutor periods using their bespoke Tougher Minds Performance Planner.
- Weekly sessions focused on pupils’ knowledge and skills to improve their ability to deploy self-control.
Pupils received a single 50 minute Tougher Minds lesson (seven in total) each week in small single-sex groups.
- Week 1. An introduction to your brain
- Week 2. How to boost motivation
- Week 3. Overview/Reflection
- Week 4. How to focus concentration
- Week 5. How to supercharge learning
- Week 6. How to take control of confidence
- Week 7. Overview/Reflection
The attendance rate for the ‘weekly session’ component of the programmes was 95%; 23 (of 27) pupils attended all seven sessions. Three pupils missed one session, one missed two sessions and one requested to take no further part in the programme after three sessions.
The group size varied throughout the programme, mainly in response to the requirements of the pupils and the content being covered. Where previously taught material was being reviewed, smaller group sizes created novelty and opportunities for more detailed dialogue. Pupils with particularly unhelpful learning habits were placed in smaller groups to give them and their classmates a better chance of learning efficiently and effectively.
(Data period: October-December 2015)
Pupil response was generally very positive. Pupils regularly commented on how much they enjoyed the lessons, how interesting they found the material and how useful they found the techniques that they learned. One pupil wrote an email requesting that other tutor groups be taught the Tougher Minds programme as well.
Here is a video-link to pupils and parents talking about the impact of the programme.
Based on this evidence, one group of pupils (participating in the Tougher Minds programme) developed a better understanding of self-control, and where better able to deploy sophisticated self-control strategies than the other pupils (the comparison group, who were not participating in the Tougher Minds programme). Therefore we would suggest that the participating-pupils are better able to regulate their own health, happiness, resilience, creativity and performance levels than comparative pupils.
This understanding indicates that [Quintin Kynaston] pupils are better able to develop and deploy self-control – leading to the type of behaviours that the school wants pupils to display – if they participate in the Tougher Minds programme, than if they do not. Therefore more [school] pupils could benefit from better self-control, and all of its associated benefits, if the Tougher Minds programme was scaled across the school.
A great deal was learned about the practical considerations required for operation of a Tougher Minds intervention within the school. There is good reason to think that an extended intervention, taking note of this experience and better integrated into the existing structures and systems that [the school] operates, would have an even greater positive impact on participating pupils. A programme for all Year 7 pupils might be the first logical step to growing Tougher Minds within Quintin Kynaston.
*This post is copyright of www.tougherminds.co.uk