One of my friend has posted this TED talk recently on her Facebook page. I enjoyed a lot by watching this talk. The procedure is the same as what I have been doing during my education from as early as primary school till today! It seems, almost all of us, if we don’t learn anything from education system, we are master and proficient in “procrastination.” There is a joke that says, we have no PhD graduates and no tenured professors without deadlines! God don’t get deadlines from us!
But the question is, why all of us, are used to procrastinate our tasks up to the last minutes? My question is how much of this behavior results because of the system?
Part of this behavior, I believe, can be explained by our education system. The education system cares only to outcome and not to procedure. The procedure does not matter for the system and the system does not reward people based on the procedure but it only praise them based on their outcome. I understand that there is a problem in most cases to identify the procedure, however, there are various conditions that the process can also be measured and rewarded. For instance, in primary education, students tend to attend in lecture based classes and they mostly evaluate based on test scores (midterms and finals). Students know this fact that their final grades depend only on their test scores and the learning process does not matter for teachers. In this situation, a rational behavior will be procrastinate your learning process for the tests’ nights. But what if the learning process is also matter? If instead of only tests scores, the students’ grades depend on the learning process, such as class participation, class activities, and projects that they have to do during a semester with weekly reports, then, we may expect students put efforts and times for their course not only at exams’ nights. Using online platforms such as class forum also can help students learn do their jobs on time instead of procrastinating them for last minutes. During higher education (college education and graduate school), instructors have more freedom to give more weights on learning process rather than sticking to test scores. However, I think the exercise should be started from the beginning of someone’s education. Paying attention to learning procedure just when a person enter to college is too late for changing in his/her behavior. I am aware of the fact that most of us, regardless of our education system, tend to procrastinate our duties based on “Parkinson’s Law.” This law simply said that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” however, I think with correct system that rewards the process rather than the outcome, we can alleviate the procrastination behavior. If we have a system that teaches us that life is a marathon not a sprint ( as Professor Duckworth told in her ted talk), then we learn to do our duties in a precise schedule rather than doing it at the 11:45 pm of the due date! I am not expertise in education policy but I believed we need to think about redesigning the current education system. In this current world, procrastination does not work and work has been done in last minutes does not have enough quality to solve our complicated problems. We need to learn to change our views and learn to be motivated and passion for our long term goals. This paradigm shift needs an educational system that teaches kids to be gritty and passion, to look at the whole life as a long procedure rather than district moments, and to do their exercises every day like a marathon runner!
I have watched this TED talk during weekend for the second time when I was browsing TED to find a good talk for my free time. In this talk, Professor Duckworth of University of Pennsylvania presented her research about the key success in learning and education. The idea of her PhD dissertation came to her mind when she was a teacher in New York public school for seven grader in mathematics. She learned that the thing matters in success of her students is beyond their IQ and their talent. She later on called that thing as “grit”. Dr Duckworth’s research is looking at learning from psychological and motivational perspective. Through her research in various contexts, she finds out that one characteristic is a significant predictor of success which she called it grit. Grit, as she defined, is a motivation, passion, and perseverance for a long term goals. Grit means working hard to get future into the reality. She describes grit as a point of view of “life as a marathon not sprint. ” Her research currently is to find new ways to make people specially kids to be gritter.
As a graduate student interested in education issues and working on inequality in education achievement, I think her idea is a novel approach to think about learning. In my research I try to measure inequality of opportunity in education outcome. I try to decompose the effect of various circumstances such as gender, parental education, socio-economic background of the student, and his/her community characteristics from his/her effort/luck. The idea is, your outcome should only be depend on your effort and not your circumstances such as your race or gender. The index I have calculated is called inequality of opportunity (IOP) in education. Using Dr. Duckworth terminology, grit is a characteristic of a kid which is under her control, the same as effort, and as a result it is not part of IOP index. My point is, our current education system is not a system which is encouraging kids to be gritty. In fact in a system which your success measures with standard test scores and your grades for midterms and final tests, getting bad score in one test, can easily kill your motivation and grit. We live in a world that we need to have solid motivation for a long term to obtain our goals. In this world, it is important for every person to empower herself not to be disappointed very easily, however, neither in school nor in college, kids have no chance to learn about motivation and grit. We trained our kids to care about their test scores. If you got 95 in a course, you would call successful. While getting 95 is not necessarily means you are a gritty and motivated person. Maybe you have good IQ and could learn stuff very easily but without strengthening your passion, your perseverance for a long term goals, and in one word, without being gritty, could you be successful in long term both in your life and in your career? It seems the answer is “no” and unfortunately our education system not only teach to be gritty, it sometimes kills our motivation too.
In addition to this issue, I think about motivation and grit as a tool to help students who leave behind to improve their situation and outcomes. My idea is, if in a community race or gender (for instance being female and being black) has a great influence on a student education outcome, training female students or ethnic minority students to be grittier and be self-motivated can help them to improve their learning and education outcome and decrease the gap in their outcome with other students. In this view, encouraging kids to be passionate about their goals can decrease IOP in education outcome.