Persistence, effort, and failure

Attitude is one of the most important factors that influence the way students learn according to Head of Grimwade House, Royce Helm.

Self-belief, an open mind, and an acceptance that moments of failure are part of learning are key elements in the learning process.

The term ‘growth mindset’ is now commonly used in education. Essentially, students with a growth mindset believe they can improve and they understand that effort and persistence are required for this to occur.

In addition, even for the most talented of students, learning a new skill can involve the uncomfortable experience of failure. At Melbourne Grammar, we want even our youngest students to understand that much of what we achieve throughout our lives is only possible if we are willing to accept, learn from and move past these failures.

As educators, this further motivates us to create an open, non-competitive learning atmosphere that rewards effort and experimentation, as well as achievement. In fact, research now suggests that encouraging effort can actually foster a growth mindset, while solely praising outcomes or ability can foster a sense that a child is either ‘good at’ or ‘not good at’ a certain activity. 

In discussing these ideas with students, I have sometimes told the story of the Chinese bamboo. This story relates the fact that while we may see no visible signs of growth in Chinese bamboo in its first, second, third and fourth years, in its fifth year of life it can grow up to 80 feet in six weeks. During those first four years, it would of course be a mistake to dig up the plant in order to check on its progress.

So, while our patience can be tested waiting to see evidence of growth in the short term, the fact is that growth is often occurring ‘underground’. When we do see progress, it may seem near instantaneous, but this rapid growth depends on a period of effort, encouragement, and persistence.

Of course, there are many other attitudinal aspects that have important impacts on learning outcomes, but having a growth mindset and an acceptance of failure as a possible step in the process are an excellent start. 

Royce Helm Head of Grimwade House

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