There have recently been some interesting articles and research about the topic that I thought readers might want to know about…
The MindShift blog writes about a new study by “grit” researcher Angela Duckworth that has tried to update the famous self-control marshmallow experiment for the digital age. She calls it a “diligence test” and you can read about it at Measuring Students’ Self-Control: A ‘Marshmallow Test’ for the Digital Age. You can see a demo of the online test here, though it won’t make much sense until you read the MindShift post. The post says she’s going to put the test online for people to take for free, and that might be useful. The key point to remember, though, is to tell students what I tell mine before they take her online “grit” test — it’s just one more piece of information they might or might not find useful and they should feel free to ignore the results if they don’t agree with them.
Speaking of her grit test, I was prompted by the post to see if her diligence test was online yet and found that, other than the demo, it wasn’t. However, I did find that she upgraded her website, and the online grit test is now better designed. In addition, multilingual versions are available.
And, speaking of The Marshmallow Test, The New York Times has published an article about its originator, Dr. Walter Mischel. It’s headlined Learning How to Exert Self-Control.
I’ve previously written a lot about Dr. Mischel, and you can read my interview with him on Sunday in Education Week Teacher.
Previous readers of this blog and my blogs are familiar with much of my writing about helping students develop self-control, including lessons using the famous Marshmallow Test (see The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control). In fact, in about ten days you’ll be able to read at my Ed Week Teacher column an interview I recently did with Dr. Walter Mischel, originator of that experiment.
One of the key elements of any of my self-control lessons is highlighting the different techniques that children used to avoid eating the marshmallow (looking away, etc.) and how students can apply them in class. In that “The Best” list, you’ll be able to see a fun Sesame Street video where The Cookie Monster demonstrates those same successful strategies, and my high school students love watching it as a refresher later in the school year after we learn about the Marshmallow Experiment in September.
And this leads me to parrots….
Researchers have found that some parrots, unlike other non-human species, also have a capacity for self-control, and created a version of the Marshmallow Experiment for them. You can read more about it at a Slate article titled A Parrot Passes the Marshmallow Test.
It’s very interesting but, as far as I’m concerned, the most useful part of the article is this short video. I plan showing it to students later in the year as another fun “refresher” — students can watch and identify the strategies used by the children and the parrot to reinforce their self-control.
I’m adding this info to my Best list on self-control.
I’ve written in the past about my use of “Reflection Cards” in the classroom, including the research behind them (you can download a copy of the card and read the research at my post, Giving Students “Reflection Cards.”
Research shows that self-control can be replenished by both self-affirmation exercises and by remembering better times.
So, I created cards that I sometimes give to students when they are having behavior issues in the classroom to complete outside and come back in after they’re done. The cards just take a couple of minutes to complete and include these instructions:
1. Please write at least three sentences about a time (or times) you have felt successful and happy:
2. Please write at least three sentences about something that is important to you (friends, family, sports, etc.) and why it’s important:
They’ve worked pretty effectively.
Now, new research written about in the Harvard Business Reviews suggests that having people write what they are grateful for can also increase patience. You can read about their experiments in the short article, Gratitude Is the New Willpower.
Here’s an excerpt:
I guess it’s time to add another instruction to the card (this is what the researchers had participants do):
Briefly write about an event from your past that made you feel grateful:
Walter Mischel’s famous marshmallow experiment obviously plays a role in that work. I also wrote about a recent study (see Marshmallows and Trust) that raised a question about if that experiment truly measured self-control, or if it really measured the children’s trust in the researcher — would he/she really return with a second marshmallow. I and others thought that was intriguing, though also thought it was far too soon to jump to any conclusions.
I was prompted to write this post after seeing a tweet from Kevin Washburn, who’s at the Learning and the Brain Conference in San Francisco this week. He was reporting on what sounded to be a great talk by Kelly McGonigal there, including pointing out (I assume based on this recent study) that having a caring teacher is likely to promote self-control. In other words, if trust does indeed play a key role in self-regulation, students feeling that they can trust the teacher is likely to increase the odds of students developing it.
I hadn’t made that obvious connection to that “trust” finding, and thought it was worth sharing — not that we educators don’t have enough other reasons to encourage students to trust us!
I also thought Kevin tweeted out some other useful information, and embedded them below. I also am using this opportunity to try out TweetDeck’s new “custom timeline” feature, and will be comparing it to Storify, which is the tool I usually use to curate tweets.
Speaking of the Learning and The Brain conference, I’ll be there on Friday and Saturday leading workshops, so posts at this blog will be fairly minimal over the next day or two..