The University of Chicago’s Consortium on School Research recently summarized three decades of research on how students learn into a three-minute video that stresses the importance of “noncognitive factors” for success in school and life.
“We know children spend over 16,000 hours in classrooms between kindergarten and high school graduation, and that teaching students to become learners requires more than improving test scores; it requires fostering the noncognitive factors that standardized tests don’t measure: the behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, and social-emotional skills that set students up for success in school and in life,” according to the Consortium.
“Research” shows those noncognitive factors—which are essentially character traits like perseverance, optimism, motivation, resilience—“matter a lot,” the video reports.
The Consortium sorts noncognitive factors that influence academic performance into five categories: mindsets, perseverance, behaviors, learning strategies, and social skills.
“Fostering noncognitive factors requires helping students develop positive mindsets—belief in their ability to learn, grow, and succeed. Those mindsets are closely linked to perseverance and academic behaviors, which have the most direct effect on academic performance,” the Consortium reports. “And even the most motivated student will do better if they have learning strategies for overcoming challenges and accomplishing goals, as well as the social skills to work well with peers and adults.”
Jeffrey Dill, Donchain Fellow for Character and Culture at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, and Dan Scoggin, co-founder of the Great Hearts Academies, weighed in on measuring noncognitive skills and character virtues in a column for The Hedgehog Review.
Dill and Scoggin noted that psychologist Angela Duckworth’s research shows “current measures for noncognitive outcomes are limited by self-reporting and reference bias,” and argued that attempting to measure character would also be “premature and counterproductive.”
So what can be done? First, we need to be sure that we’re not placing the responsibility solely on schools. Schools do not and cannot operate in isolation from other key institutions that affect the formation of the young (families, neighborhoods, after-school programs, athletics, civic and religious groups and so on). A child lives in a larger environment that—for better or worse—influences his or her moral development. We must give attention to the moral ecology which the young are nurtured and their moral identities formed.
The Consortium affirms its research shows students’ noncognitive skills “are not fixed traits” but rather “are shaped by the environments students are in every day, what they hear, see and feel from parents, teachers, schools and society.”
The Consortium offers a two-page summary about “The Role of Noncognitive Factors in Shaping School Performance,” while the 2012 literature review “Teaching Adolescents To Become Learners: The Role of Noncognitive Factors in Shaping School Performance” delves deeper into the issue.
For further reading on CultureFeed