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February 14, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Some Very Interesting Info On Self-Control Research

'Marshmallow Nightmares!!' photo (c) 2010, Kate Ter Haar - license:

I’ve written a lot about helping students learn about self-control (see The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control).

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.

Nevertheless, it raises — again — the issue that Social Emotional Learning is not enough, and that, in addition to teaching SEL skills, attacking some of the potential root causes studies have found for SEL challenges facing many low-income people must also be made a priority in our society (see The Best Articles About The Study Showing Social Emotional Learning Isn’t Enough).

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..

September 5, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

These May Be Some Of The Most Important Passages About Self-Control That I’ve Ever Read

'Self-control (fruit of the Spirit)' photo (c) 2012, Sarah Joy - license:

It’s no surprise to readers here that I’m a big believer is helping students develop self-control (see The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control) done in the context of helping students develop intrinsic motivation in a student-centered classroom. My posts, my practice, and my books reflect that perspective.

I’ve also been very critical of those who — in the name of “character education” — would twist the idea of using the idea of self-control into a harmful class discipline strategy (see my Washington Post column, “Why schools should not grade character traits.”

It’s this kind of misuse, I think, which generates over-the-top diatribes against teaching self-control like the one that appeared in The New Republic this week (American Schools Are Failing Nonconformist Kids. Here’s How In defense of the wild child).

Fortunately, Sarah D. Sparks over at Education Week, as she is prone to do, has unearthed some new research and insightful analysis to bring important clarity to a controversial issue.

In her new post, Is Self-Regulation Lost in Translation?, Sarah shares the yet unpublished research of Joanne Wang Golan, who studied character education at a “no excuses school” that sounds like a KIPP or KIPP-like institution. Here’s an excerpt:

During months of observations, Golann found “self-control was the topic I heard most about: The teachers talked about self-control, the students talked about self-control.”

In practice, though, Golann found “self-control” was primarily taught through classroom discipline practices, involving many detailed rules and rapidly increasing sanctions for breaking them.

She recalled one 5th grade student, “Darren,” who explained his view of it this way: “Self-control is when you’re able to talk, when you know to talk at the appropriate time. And it’s important because you can get a really bad consequence, and I do, I really show self-control, because I don’t talk at all in class. When the teacher tells me to talk in class, I do, to answer a question, and otherwise I don’t talk at all in class.”

Overall, Golann found the school’s approach to teaching social-emotional skills led to orderly classrooms and students with good study and work habits associated with high self-regulation—but not the sort of autonomy, self-motivation, and goal-setting also associated with self-regulation and grit.

In other words, they taught the words, but not the music….

February 19, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

Study: More Power Equals More Self-Control & Less Power Equals — You Guessed It!

A new study finds that the more power people feel they have, the more self-control they exhibit. Researchers:

…speculated that power holders may be willing to wait for the larger rewards because they feel more connected with their future selves, a consequence of experiencing less uncertainty about their futures along with an increased tendency to see the big picture.

This is just more evidence backing up recommendations I make here and in my books to share power with students in the classroom. It’s also connected to other recent research I’ve written about that has found poverty tends to contribute towards the loss of self-control and not the other way around.

I’m adding it this info to The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control.

November 24, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo

Self-Control Resources

October 9, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo

More Self-Control Resources

September 26, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo

Video Addition To Marshmallow Lesson On Self-Control

I’m teaching my lesson on self-control and the famous marshmallow experiment this Friday (you can see an early version of it here and I have the full lesson plan in my student motivation book).

Near the beginning of the lesson I do a little fun playacting of wanting to throw a something at a student but I restrain myself, and then share real-life examples of when I have, and have not, shown self-control. I then ask students to write down examples from their own lives.

Valerie Strauss just posted this video at her Washington Post blog, and after I shared it with Lara Hoekstra, one of my talented colleagues at Luther Burbank High School, she suggested it would be a good addition to that part of the lesson plan. It would be an example of a teacher who was not able to restrain himself, and would certainly grab students’ attention. I’m going to give it a try….

I’m adding this to The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control.

August 6, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo

New Study Reaffirms Marshmallow Experiment Findings On Self-Control

I often write about strategies to help students develop more self-control and how important that is to their future (and my book shares specific lessons on how I do that).

Dr. Walter Mischel’s famous marshmallow experiment is integral to lots of those writings, and there have been plenty of studies that have supported his findings.

Another one just came out . Relations between preschool attention span-persistence and age 25 educational outcomes found (this next quotation is from an article reporting on the study — the research itself is behind a paywall):

Young children who are able to pay attention and persist with a task have a 50 percent greater chance of completing college, according to a new study at Oregon State University.

Tracking a group of 430 preschool-age children, the study gives compelling evidence that social and behavioral skills, such as paying attention, following directions and completing a task may be even more crucial than academic abilities.

And the good news for parents and educators, the researchers said, is that attention and persistence skills are malleable and can be taught.

I did purchase access to the study, and that excerpt is a good summary (in fact, I’d encourage you to go to the report on the study and read it all — it’s good). I was struck by a few things in reviewing the study itself:

First, I appreciated a paragraph in it that tried to explain — in a common sense way — the cause of the negative long-term consequences to young children who don’t show self-control:

According to this view, children with poor self-regulation have difficulty navigating classroom settings, which can lead to teachers becoming frustrated and expecting poor behavior and school performance from these children, which can then lead to children having poor perceptions of themselves as students. Over time, this pattern can lead children to be increasingly disengaged from school and to experience academic failure as they get older. Although we did not directly measure teacher–child relationships or children’s disengagement from school, the results from the present study support this possibility and suggest that children’s ability to focus their attention span-persistence, attend to relevant information, and persist through difficulty, can be very helpful as they progress through school and into early adulthood, compared to children with poor attention span-persistence skills

I was surprised, though, that they don’t appear to acknowledge (maybe they do and I just missed it) that Professor James Heckman has found that adolescence is also a prime time when children can learn these skills — not just in early childhood.

Sharing these kinds of studies with our students is, I believe, an important responsibility that we have, as well as sharing Dr. Mischel’s comment: