I have recently come across the blog and work of Peter Gray, and am finding it very useful to see things from his perspective – which at times is very much aligned with my own.
In one of his posts he talks about self-directed education and the four basic drives in all children around which they naturally learn. These are Playfulness, Curiosity, Sociability and Planfulness.
Playfulness enables children to learn new skills – be it physical, social or imaginative- all while having fun.
Curiosity enables learning as children, even infants, feel compelled to explore both physical as well as social environment.
Sociability enables learning as the child learns from others and desires to understand and connect with them using say language.
Planfulness enables learning by making the children think ahead about their life goals, big and small. The learning happens more systematically.
To me these drives parallel my ABCD model. Playfulness is all about having fun and associated with joy – an Affective phenomenon. Curiosity is about exploration and associated with the active pole of Behavior dimension. Sociability is about relationship dynamics and associated with other pole of Dynamism /drive dimension. While Planfulness is Cognitive in nature and associated with multiple strategies to achieve goals (the Broad pole of cognition) .
Although these linkage seem very intuitive , I would have liked to see more empirical work on these four educational drives, but a simple internet search did not return many academic articles. Maybe the research already exists and in that case, if the reader can point me to it, I will be really grateful; maybe more research needs to happen.
On a more general note, do you think the current schools disrupt these four drives; is self-directed education the answer?
There has been a long standing debate in intellectual circles: what leads to superior performance? Is it due to talent or intelligence or is it due to efforts and hard work? Reams of books have been written on the subject including some of my favorites: ‘Talent is overrated’, ‘Outliers’ etc.
Applied to the classroom the question becomes why did Tom get an A or aced the JEE/GRE , was it because he is smarter that Harry or was it because he studied more and better? Answers to questions like these have profound implications for how children learn and grow- believing that effort matters more (a growth mindset) will likely make them more persistent in face of failures while having a intelligence is all that matter mindset (a fixed mindset) will perhaps make them more self-conscious and helpless in the face of challenges just beyond their current capabilities.
Long time readers of this blog will know I am more sympathetic to the effort/ hard work/ grit / conscientiousness camp and there are good reasons for that. Consider your middle school classroom: perhaps the smartest / most intelligent student does come first in the class, while the most hard working student comes say second. Now when you go to say college, then people with a minimum threshold of intelligence / smartness would be the ones who would make it to the college say due to winnowing due to SAT/JEE. Now in college, we can say that most students are already of high intelligence and this would not differentiate between their academic achievements. However, not all will be equally hard working/ conscientious . Those who are both intelligent and conscientious will have an advantage in college and will get higher academic achievement. This is not speculation, there have been studies demonstrating exactly that.
Consider again, the 10,000 hour rule of Anders Ericsson et al. What they found was that if you want to excel in any field you need to put in a minimum of average 10,000 hours of deliberate practice and to reach a genius level another 10,000 hours. Now what is clear is that for achieving well in any domain, say playing guitar, you do need to have some talent or ability in that area; but then you need to do riyaaaz or deliberate practice to build your skills and if you really want to perform and be counted among the geniuses, perhaps at that level all will have the minimum talent required and you can differentiate yourself mostly by practicing hard and putting in superhuman efforts. Thus, effort is what will really differentiate you.
So is that all there is to superior performance: Talent x Deliberate Practice or more colloquially Intelligence x Efforts.
When I teach grit and growth mindset to my students, I teach this equation by Angela that ‘effort counts twice’:
Talent x Effort = Skill
Skill x Efforts = Achievement
Today I think its time to modify the equation!!
Enter curiosity! This paper by Tomas Chamoro -Premuzic et al argues and makes a compelling case for adding a third element to the mix: curiosity measured as epistemic curiosity or Typical Intellectual Engagement (TIE) or need for cognition or Openness to experience. They did a meta -analysis and found that
Intelligence does predict Academic achievement; correlation as high as .35
Efforts measured by Conscientiousness does predict academic achievement: correlation as high as 0.20
Curiosity as measured by TIE does predict academic achievement: correlation as high as 0.20
Intelligence , Curiosity and Efforts have independent effects on academic achievement; none of them mediates the other.
TIE and Intelligence are correlated (remember Openness/ Intellect are aspects of a single trait)
Conscientiousness and TIE are correlated ( general factor of personality?).
Intelligence and Conscientiousness are uncorrelated.
Thus Curiosity is a welcome (and at equal footing) addition to the (Academic) achievement equation.
I use VIA framework a lot so will try to reframe the equation using VIA strengths. I believe intelligence or talent is best reflected in Critical Thinking and Creativity. Effort or hard work is best captured by Perseverance and self control. Last but not the least comes Curiosity and Love of Learning.
Thus , combining the effort counts twice equations, my equation becomes:
(Creativity + Critical Thinking) x (Grit + Self-control) x (Curiosity + Love of Learning) = Academic Achievement.
Yay! I love it. Hope more people focus on all the components that are needed for high achievement and Curiosity and love of learning to find their seat at the table. Scott Barry Kaufman has written so passionately about Curiosity and its underused role in schools here.
I was recently at the World Positive Education Accelerator (WPEA) AI summit and conference in Fort Wroth, US and a subgroup there had come up with a project requesting all participants to post about their equation. to thrive I hope you like my equation and it has some real impact on how students are guided towards higher achievement. I know that academic achievement is just one part of the equation for students to thrive- the bigger part of well-being and character strengths is also required for thriving/ flourishing, but yes given the current realities academic achievement *is* an important part of the equation! #EquationToThrive
What goes into the making of a genius? More mundanely, what factors are required for success in any field? Your answer will differ based on what factors you consider to be the most important for success.
Photo of the obverse of a Fields Medal made by Stefan Zachow for the International Mathematical Union (IMU), showing a bas relief of Archimedes (as identified by the Greek text) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
No one can deny the large role that intelligence and talent play in the making of a genius, or to achieve moderate levels of success compared to peers. We can probably club these two factors together as ability, that is more or less inborn, and is not very easy to increase or amenable to interventions.
Let me be a be it more specific. I consider ability to be made of two components: specific talent in a particular domain, say singing talent or mathematical talent; and fluid intelligence, or the ability to solve problems in real time using cognitive resources like working memory and typically measured by IQ. While talent is domain specific, fluid intelligence is domain general, but both will be required to be successful in a domain. Intelligence (fluid) will enable one to learn at an exceptional rate and also to learn form ones mistakes and improve.
Both talent and intelligence have been shown to explain up to 50 % of variance, in say, academic performance. Thus they are definitely required to achieve extraordinary success/ genius.
However, another stream of research informs us that putting in 10,000 hours or more of deliberate practice is what does the magic. As per research by Andres Ericsson and colleagues to achieve and expertise in any domain you need 10,000 hours or more of focused, deliberate practice. Here two things are important to note: you are not putting in brute force efforts blindly, but following a process of deliberate practice (picking up a weakness, working on it constantly to improve soliciting feedback etc) and the second is that you do put in more than 10,000 hours of such efforts to attain some expertise and then again 10,000 hours more to achieve genius level expertise.
Thus, one can subsume these factors under the common label effort: comprising of a daily ritual of deliberate practice or Riyaaz or smart efforts; and a long term fruits of putting in 10,000 or 20,000 hrs of such efforts in the form of expertise or domain specific crystallized intelligence.
Both indulging in deliberate practice daily and building expertise by putting in the required hours are correlated with genius level expert performance or success. In more mundane terms, if you really want to make contributions to mathematics such that they deserve a Fields Medal, you need to systematically work on which areas of Maths need improving and actually spend hours daily honing your maths skills for a few years before hoping to get one.
and of course as Angela Duckworth says, talent * effort = skill and skill* effort = performance, so effort counts twice and is an important determinant of success.
But this brings us to the question is effort same as grit, another factor that has been shown to predict success/ achievement/ genius?
While to the naive mind they may appear same; to me effort is willingness and ability to work smart and work hard; while grit is more about being passionate about a particular super-ordinate goal and getting back on track and showing persistence in the face of setbacks/ adversity.
And of course another personality factor or character strength that is similarly predictive of success is self-control. Self-control is the ability to resist temptations and forego pleasure-in-the-now for gains-in-the-future. It reliably predicts success in many domains and is domain general trait. Grit however is more domain specific. Also while Self-control works on a shorter time scale, Girt works on a longer time scale.
Both can be subsumed under goal-commitment: a in the moment domain general self control factor and a long term domain specific grit factor.
And this brings us to the final set of factors which are equally important for success: enjoying and being engrossed in what you are doing and being curious/exploratory about the things you don’t know/ haven’t experienced yet. These are emotional-motivational processes that ensure that you actually do put in the efforts required to meet the goal commitments and to actualize your ability.
Recent research has shown that a hungry mind is very important for predicting academic success. This hungry mind is conceptualized as intellectual curiosity. Curiosity as initially defined by Todd Kashadan et al was comprised of Exploration (or Curiosity as they define now per se) and Absorption. Later Todd et al have disowned absorption as a part of curiosity, and they are right to do so, but given the high correlations between absorption and exploration, I think they were on to something. Important for us is to remember that curiosity or the appetitive strivings for novelty, complexity,uncertainty and ambiguity; and Absorption or flow or full engagement in specific activities, taken together are again strong predictors of success/ achievement.
Thus, we have a fourth big factor predicting and causing success, viz Engagement: one sub-factor of which is a domain/ task specific flow or absorption and the other a domain general or task independent curiosity or love of learning or intrinsic motivation.
With that we can probably summarize the ingredients required to make a genius:
Ability, both talent and intelligence
Effort, both daily deliberate practice and 10,000 hours of expertise
Goal commitment, both self control and grit
Engagement, flow as well as curiosity
As an aside, this fits my ABCD model: Engagement or flow/curiosity are Affective in nature; Effort is Behavioral; Ability (intelligence) I consider as Cognitive and goal-commitment as Dynamic/motivational.
So, what are you going to do different to achieve extraordinary performance after having learned this? Will you work on your curiosity, put in more hours of deliberate practice , ensure you are feeling flow and absorption or work or your self-control muscle. There are many paths to greatness, and you can choose to focus on one or more to take you where you need to be!