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Challenge students to achieve high standards in school

Updated: Dec 6, 2021

Challenge students to achieve high standards in school — a focus on risk-taking, learning from failure, and a grit

You've heard the phrases "no child left behind", " "inclusive environment", and others enough times. But what does it really mean? What is the school system doing to ensure that students can achieve high standards? For this post, let's focus on how you can challenge students to achieve high standards in school — a focus on risk taking, learning from failure, and grit.

Risk-taking, learning from mistakes and perseverance; these are three qualities that every student should develop to ensure that they are well-prepared for the world of tomorrow. In a society where competition and change are becoming increasingly important, developing the ability to adapt continuously through new ways of thinking and problem solving will prove invaluable.

The risk-taking paradox

There is a paradox at the heart of risk-taking that all educators face when we encourage our students to take risks. At some level, we want our students to develop the skills, knowledge, and resilience needed to thrive in an ever-changing world.

Sometimes this involves taking risks and learning from failure. But it also means being comfortable with uncertainty. The paradox here is that many of us feel most comfortable in situations where we can predict predictable outcomes and there are clear paths for how to get there.

Traditional education systems, which place a strong emphasis on grades, often reinforce this — those A's and B's — without necessarily encouraging creative thinking or the ability to learn from failure. So how can we encourage students to take risks?

How do you teach students to be risk-takers in school?

In order to set the stage for students to learn from failure, we must first teach them to take risks. Some of these risks will be small and may only slightly move them out of their comfort zone, while others will be much more substantial. Trying new things, even if they don't seem to be related to the task at hand, is a good first step toward encouraging risk-taking.

This philosophy, which seemingly has been co-opted by schools everywhere, is intended to allow students to learn in a highly individualized manner and is outlined in the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. Dweck explains that there are two different mindsets that people can have, "a fixed mindset" and "a growth mindset."

Students with a growth mindset believe that intelligence, talents, and abilities can be developed through hard work, dedication, and effort. They believe their abilities are things they can cultivate and improve on. Students with a fixed mindset view intelligence and abilities as traits that are relatively unchangeable.

In order to teach students to take risks and develop a growth mindset, we must first teach them how to fail safely. We must give them the room to make mistakes so they can learn what doesn't work.

Student engagement is best accomplished when they can try new ideas and take risks without being afraid that they will be criticized or ridiculed for failure. This is one reason making mistakes is so important in educating students.

Students should be taught that mistakes are not just OK but actually necessary for learning. Failure is how we learn what works best and allows us to improve our skills or change our approach when something isn't working.

The first step in teaching students to take risks is to give them the permission to fail. They need to understand that failure is not fatal, and that they can learn from it.

We must also teach them what failure truly is: it's not merely doing something wrong, but seeing it as a chance to learn how to do it right. By taking control of their own learning and mistakes, students are more likely to succeed in the long term.

The second step toward encouraging risk taking is providing students with environments where they can try things that might seem impossible at first but can be achieved through hard work and persistence. Encouraging risk taking also means giving students time for innovation and creativity.

In a world where everything has already been done, we don't have time for people who simply go through the motions. We need people who are constantly coming up with new imaginings and solutions.

How does a focus on failure help students learn from mistakes?

Error is the stepping stone to success. Everyone makes mistakes, but students who make mistakes shouldn't be afraid to ask questions. No one has all the answers, and when teachers or parents see their students making mistakes and are willing to ask for help, they can learn how to become successful adults.

A focus on failure is important not only because it is the pathway to success, but because it develops the skills students need to be successful in life. Although some of these skills may seem counterintuitive, such as taking risks and learning from failures, this is another way that students can develop grit — a term referring to a person's perseverance and passion for long-term goals.

Risks don't have to be taken with fanfare; they can simply be risks taken without adult supervision or with partial guidance from an adult. Taking risks helps children develop skills, such as resilience and self-confidence. It also gives them practice in dealing with failure in a safe environment so that when they encounter challenges at work or in other parts of their lives, they can use those same skills to find solutions.

The problems you've experienced in your own life made you into the person you are today. The same goes for students; if they want to succeed later in life, they might need to run into some problems.

Grit: The Mindset for High Achievement

So what exactly is grit? Grit is passion and perseverance. It's working hard, not giving up and being resilient. And it's not just a positive personality trait that helps you get through life; it's a mindset that will help you achieve your goals. Grit is essential to success — in school, at work and in any other area you want to excel.

Grit has three components:

  1. passion

  2. vision

  3. resilience

Passion is your interest in something. Vision is having a goal or path that keeps you focused on what you are doing. Resilience is your ability to bounce back from failure and keep moving forward.

Students with strong grit have a deep desire to learn and succeed. Failure does not easily deter them; they are resilient in the face of obstacles, and they persevere in the face of setbacks.

Additionally, students with strong grit enjoy challenge and complex tasks, show self-control even under temptations or distractions, and maintain focus on long-term goals.

Grit is a trait that is highly valued in today's society for its significant role in both personal and professional success. But what about the link between grit and academic performance? Can cultivating a student's trait grit result in improved academic success?

We all would like our children to succeed in school. And we all agree that developing skill sets such as good academic habits will help them be successful. So why don't we put more effort into helping our children cultivate these skills?

Challenge your students to achieve high standards in school and in life

First and foremost, you must encourage your students to act on the belief that failure is a learning opportunity. Your students can be taught that failure is a consequence of trying — which carries an inherent reward. With these two points already equipped, the next thing for you to do is to teach them how to prepare for challenges so they are ready when offered opportunities.

Teachers shy away from challenging their students because of the possibility of failure. They want to protect their students from shame and embarrassment, but when we constantly avoid failure, there’s no way for us to learn and grow. If a student fails at a task, assign that same task again — and make them do it better.

Challenge your students to take on high-risk, meaningful projects. Help them learn from failures by emphasizing process over product. And implement strategies that help facilitate a high degree of challenge and a willingness to try again when failure occurs.


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