How “Gritty” Is Your Child?

When I mention the word ‘grit’, I don’t mean the dirt you may find beneath your fingernails. Rather, I am referring to the ability to be dedicated to a task over a very long time, pushing through even when things get hard.

In her TED talk, “Grit: The power of passion and perseverance,” Angela Duckworth, winner of the 2014 MacArthur Foundation “genius” award, reminds us that intelligence, IQ and “natural talent” are not the most important factors in a student’s success. After leaving a prestigious and well paying job as a management consultant to become a maths teacher, she made some important discoveries. As a maths teacher at a New York public school, Duckworth noticed that her students’ IQs had very little correlation to their exam results and eventual success over the course of their education. Put simply, just being “smart” wasn’t enough to ensure success. Intrigued, Duckworth left teaching to pursue a career in Educational Psychology. In her research she studied military cadets, national spelling bee champions, salespeople, teachers and students, in order to find out what it was, if not IQ or natural talent, that determined success in these areas. The answer she came to was “grit.”

So what is Grit?

In Duckworth’s own words, “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long term goals.” Grit is the capacity to dedicate yourself to a task over a long period of time, rather than seeking immediate gratification. Grit, says Duckworth, is the ability to treat your goals like “a marathon, not a sprint.” A student with grit is less likely to be discouraged when they perform poorly on a test, or when faced with a difficult question. These students understand that challenges are part of the journey towards success. Students with grit are those who see difficulty as an opportunity to learn something new and to develop new skills.

Throughout her research, Duckworth found time and time again that “grit” played a more significant role than intelligence, family income and standardised test scores in determining a student’s ultimate ability to achieve their goals. Put simply, being “smart” wasn’t enough to ensure success; the missing link was grit.

How do we make our students gritty?

As Duckworth admits, there is no clear answer to the question. The closest thing to a solution, she argues, is Stanford University researcher Carol Dweck’s theory of “Growth Mindset.” For Dweck, who we spoke about in our recent blog article, grit is the ability to recognise that failure is not a permanent condition, and that our minds are capable of growth and development. Put simply, success is determined by a student’s ability to not say “I’m smart” or “I’m not smart” but “I have the ability to learn more.”

However, as Duckworth points out at the end of her talk, there is still a lot we don’t know about how to develop gritty learners. What is needed is more thought, more research, and more practice.

At Spectrum Tuition, we couldn’t agree more. We are always in the process of developing our approach to teaching, pioneering new techniques to ensure that our students have growth mindsets – to ensure, in Duckworth’s words, that they are “gritty” learners. Some of our approaches include:

1. Goal setting. We believe that the achievement of larger goals are made up of lots of smaller goals. By identifying and achieving a small goal each week, students will work steadily towards the achievement of their full potential. Furthermore, through our entrance exams, we can ensure that every student who joins us, regardless of their age, is placed in a class that will provide them with the right level of challenge.

2. Continuous feedback. Through measurable results obtained through weekly quizzes, students can better track their progress. This will provide more opportunities to learn from mistakes and grow. By also administering cumulative quizzes, we can help our students see how much their skills have built up over time.

3. Understand that mistakes actually help your brain grow. Psychologist Jason Moser found that when people make a mistake, the brain sparks and grows in the following ways:


  • During a time of struggle, the brain is being challenged and this challenge results in growth.
  • When there is an awareness that an error has been made, the brain considers this and steps are taken to correct this error. Thus, using the mistakes page and highlighting errors made following each week’s class will help your child take huge strides in their learning, promoting a positive mindset.

At Spectrum Tuition, we aim to ensure that all of our students, no matter what their natural talents are, are provided with challenges and scope for improvement. To make this possible, we only hire tutors who have grit as well. Our tutors are dedicated high performing university students who are also taught the latest teaching approaches to get the best outcomes for your child. These are individuals who have shown that they have the ability to dedicate themselves to a task and work until they achieve success. After all, you can’t expect to shape gritty students without gritty tutors. We believe every child has the potential to be an excellent student. All they need is a healthy dose of grit!

If you have any questions about the concept of grit, or if you would like to know more about how Spectrum Tuition can help your child develop successful learning practices, feel free to contact us anytime!


Mistakes grow your brain



The Power of “Yet”

I recently came across a TED talk by Carol S Dweck, a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, that explained the profound potential of the simple word “yet”. This talk resounded with our beliefs regarding learning and education, so we thought we should share it with you, and explain some of the ways in which we, as tutors and you, as parents, can use these ideas to help our students reach their full potential.

What is the power of “yet”?

In her talk, Dweck distinguishes between two student mindsets that she has encountered in her research: “fixed” and “growth”. When students with a “fixed” mindset are faced with a difficult or unfamiliar problem that they can’t solve, they tend to take it as a judgement on their own intelligence. “Fixed” mindset students are happiest when they are getting answers right, when they are getting A’s on their tests, when they can easily answer questions. However, when faced with new ideas and concepts, they tend to get defensive. In various studies, Dweck has found that these students resort to cheating, deflection, and giving up when faced with difficult problems.

On the other hand, students with a “growth” mindset are those that view difficulties as opportunities for growth. Instead of looking at an unfamiliar problem and saying “I don’t know how to do this,” they say: “I don’t know how to do this yet.” Dweck has found that students who use this sort of language aren’t stuck in the present. They understand that they are always in a continual process of learning and developing. Saying “not yet” instead of “not” suggests the possibility for future growth.

Why is this important?

On a daily basis, we see the profound impact that these two mindsets can have on a student’s performance. In particular, a “fixed” mindset can cause difficulties for students transitioning from primary school to high school, students studying for a Select entry or Scholarship Exam, or students commencing their VCE. At these points of their education, students are going to be faced with a number of challenging concepts and difficult tasks. Often, at these times, students can become overwhelmed and go from getting straight A’s to suddenly getting C’s or D’s. This, in itself, is not the problem. What’s important is how they respond to these challenges. Do they give up, or do they use their limitations as motivation to learn more?

So, what can we do?

Obviously, students with “growth” mindsets are more likely to respond positively to challenges and, ultimately, to perform better than those with a “fixed” mindset. But what can we, as tutors, and you, as parents, do to ensure that your child develops a healthy and productive mindset? Here are some things to keep in mind…

1. Praise wisely

Students who are only praised for their successes are much more likely to develop “fixed” mindsets. According to Dweck’s findings, it’s much more productive to praise students for effort, strategy and progress. As tempting as it is to only reward good performance, make sure you primarily praise your child when they work hard, when they refuse to give up, when they try something new. This will teach them that there is more to education than just getting the answer right.

2. Use growth-based language

It’s also important to be mindful of the language that you and your child use. Try to avoid language that labels a student “good” or “bad” at something. Instead of saying “I’m bad at maths” or “I can’t write an essay,” say “I can’t do this particular question yet” or “I have a lot to learn about essay writing.” When giving feedback to students, aim to use language that is specific, goal-oriented, and suggests the potential for future learning.

3. Provide constant challenges

“Fixed” mindsets can also develop when naturally able students are not given sufficient challenges. This is something we see all the time; clever students are often allowed to drift through school, achieving high marks with relatively minimal effort. Unfortunately, these students rarely learn how to deal with challenges, and tend to give up when things may not be so easy anymore.

That is why it is important for students to work at or just above their level, to ensure that they are constantly challenged in order for them to grow and develop. If they find some sections difficult, use this as an opportunity to praise their effort, strategies and progress, because it is not that they can’t do it, they just can’t do it yet!

If you want to watch Carol S Dweck’s video it’s just below

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about how we can help your child develop a healthy and productive mindset towards their education or click here to book a free assessment.

How A Child Overcame Illiteracy In Just A Few Short Months

I first met Carly*, a Grade 2 student, when she came in for her initial assessment back in April. She was bright, looked me in the eye when she answered my questions and spoke with a nice, loud voice. Carly enjoyed drawing, painting and playing on the playground, but found it difficult to read. She wanted to learn but didn’t like going to school because she found it really difficult.

Her parents wanted to initially enrol her because the school she attended did not set any homework, and they felt she needed to do more in order to build up confidence in her studies before doing the NAPLAN test the following year.

We conducted our assessment and what we found was that:

  • At Grade 2, Carly could not write her name properly.
  • At Grade 2, Carly could not count to 10.
  • At Grade 2, Carly did not know how to add or count back from 10.
  • At Grade 2, Carly could not read or spell simple words such as ‘cat’ and ‘dog’.
  • At Grade 2, Carly did not know any of her letter sounds.
  • At Grade 2, Carly could not recognise all the letters of the alphabet.

Our assessment showed that Carly needed to start at the very beginning and we enrolled her into our Prep class. Although Carly recognised that she was behind, she wanted to do better at school.

10 Different Ways Of Asking “How Was School?” That Might Get An Answer

Does this following conversation sound familiar?

Parent: How was school today?

Student: Ok.

Parent: Did anything interesting happen?

Student: No. Do we have anything to eat?

Parent: …

Asking your child about their day at school is often one of the most difficult tasks a parent can face. They’re tired, they just want to relax, and the last thing they want to do is to be interrogated. But, on your end, all you want is to know how they’re doing, whether they’re enjoying their subjects, whether they’re having any trouble and whether you can do anything to help. It’s a difficult situation, so today I will provide 10 different questions you can use to ask your child about their day at school.

  1. What was the best thing that happened at school today?
  2. What was the worst thing that happened at school today?
  3. Tell me one thing that you are looking forward to tomorrow/ this week?
  4. Did anything surprise you at school today?
  5. Tell me one thing that you learned today.
  6. What do you think you should learn more/less of at school?
  7. What made you laugh today?
  8. What was the nicest thing you did for someone/someone did for you today?
  9. If you had to describe your day using 4 words, what would they be?
  10. If you got to be the teacher tomorrow what would you do?

How do you go about talking to your child about their day at school? If you have any good tactics, let us know in the comments!

Top 10 Signs Of A Gifted Child

Intellectual giftedness is often a confusing and complex concept for parents to get their head around, particularly because there is no one clear definition of what it is that makes a “gifted” child. In general, the term refers to children or adults whose IQ are over 130 and, as such, lie in the top 2 percent of the population. However, there is no clear cut distinction between a gifted and a non-gifted child; children mature at different rates and develop different capacities and skill sets. Giftedness is more often associated with academic success; gifted children often excel at one or more areas of their education, though their talents, if not properly fostered, might also leave them feeling unsatisfied, bored or isolated at school. As a parent, you are in the best possible position to identify whether your child has any unusual capabilities and, if so, make sure they receive the support that they need to reach their potential. Here are the top 10 things that, at a young age, might suggest giftedness in a child.

1. Specific Talents

Does your child have a specific skill that seems impressive for their age, such as musical ability, creativity, language comprehension or numeracy skills?

2. Expanding Vocabulary

Does your child seem to pick up, understand and use words quicker and more naturally than other children their age?

3. Asks “What If?” Questions

Does your child think about situations in an abstract manner? Do they ask lots of hypothetical questions?

4. Relentless Curiosity

Does your child seem constantly hungry to learn more and more about the world? Do they pursue things that they are interested in?

5. Vivid Imagination

Does your child seem particularly creative or imaginative? Do they have an aptitude for telling stories, drawing pictures or creating imaginary situations?

6. Memorisation Of Facts

Is your child able to recall facts with unusual accuracy? Does your child seem to have an encyclopaedic memory of everything they are taught?

7. Observation Skills

Does your child notice things that other children their age, or even you, don’t? For example, does your child remember exactly where you set down the set of keys that you can’t find in the morning?

8. Problem Solving Skills

Does your child come up with creative and novel solutions to problems that they face in their day-to-day life. Do they tend to solve their own problems rather than coming to you for assistance.

9. Sense Of Justice Or Fairness

Does your child seem to express an above average concern for the ethical or moral implications of situations? Are they able to put themselves into other people’s perspectives and think about big-picture issues such as fairness and justice?

10. Sense Of Humour

Is your child able to understand and tell complex jokes? Does your child have a good sense of comedic timing? Though this may not seem like an academic skill, a good sense of humour often requires high levels of intelligence.

If you suspect that your child may be gifted, you might be initially quite daunted by the responsibilities and challenges that this may prevent. However, every expert will tell you the same thing: relax. Before your child starts school, there is no need to subject them to an IQ test or put any undue pressure on them. This may have a negative impact upon their attitude towards learning. What you should do, however, is support and foster their growing interests and encourage your child to pursue them to their fullest potential. When your child starts school, however, it is important to keep an eye on them to make sure that they are receiving the support that they need. Gifted children can often feel stifled, frustrated or alienated within a conventional school environment, and it is important to ensure that this does not hamper their educational and social development. You may choose to get your child’s IQ tested. If it does turn out that your child has a significantly high IQ, then there are plenty of resources available to help your figure out how to best support your child’s need. A good first stop for information is the Australian Association for the Education of the Gifted and Talented.

What Kind Of Learner Is Your Child?

Did you know that not all children learn in the same way. In fact, there are 7 different intelligences or ways to learn? These 7 different learning styles are known as Musical, Visual, Verbal, Logical, Kinaesthetic, Social and Reflective. Each child has a different style that works best for them. Quite often, when students struggle with new concepts, the problem lies, not with their ability to learn, but with the style in which the material is being taught. Figuring out what kind of learner your child is will put you at a great advantage when it comes to helping with their education in the future. Today, I will explain the 7 different styles of learning and how you can figure out what kind of learner your child is.

1. Musical Learners

Musical learners respond well to sounds, melodies and rhythms. The things that they remember and appreciate the most are those things that they can chant, sing or put into a rhythm. Depending on their age, musical learners can benefit from simple chants such as “three in the bed”, singing the alphabet song, listening to times tables songs, or even using music to remember the periodic table!

2. Visual Learners

Visual learners prefer to see what they are learning. They respond extremely well to pictures, diagrams, colour codes and mind maps. Often, they have trouble organising their ideas unless they can sketch them out on a page. Visual learners benefit greatly from having paper, post-it notes, highlighters and coloured pens and pencils at their disposal when brainstorming ideas.

 3. Verbal Learners

Verbal learners love language. They respond well to written or spoken explanations and work best when they can put their ideas into words. Verbal learners are often avid readers, and they find it easier to crystallise their ideas by writing them down.

 4. Logical Learners

Logical learners prefer clear, consistent rules. They don’t like ambiguity or uncertainty, but prefer to know the exact steps that they have to follow to solve a particular problem. Predictably, logical learners often take to Mathematics due to its predictable and reliably logical nature. That is not to say, however, that they can’t excel in other subjects as long as they are able to figure out a clear, consistent approach.

 5. Kinaesthetic Learners

Kinaesthetic learners are physical people. They feel most confident when they are moving or engaging in physical activity. Whilst most people associate learning with sitting still and reading a book, kinaesthetic learners prefer a hands on approach.

Why Learning And Fun Are Not Mutually Exclusive

For some strange reason, a lot of students, parents and even teachers have the idea in their head that learning isn’t fun. I have spoken to a lot of parents recently who are reluctant to start introducing their kids to educational skills before they go to school because they want their kids “to have fun and just be kids.” This is certainly a valid concern; it is important that the early years of a child’s life before school are carefree and fun. At this age, children develop through play and exploration, and it is vital that they do so in a low-pressure environment.

But why do we assume that having fun is somehow the opposite of learning? Why do so many parents assume that helping their child learn to read, write and do maths at a young age can’t be a fun, enjoyable and playful activity. While children certainly don’t enjoy completing repetitive activities, being lectured to, feeling confused or being put under pressure to achieve, all children love to learn new things. Think of how much children enjoy discovering new words when they are learning to talk, how much joy they get from meeting a new friend or learning a new game; this is because young children understand that learning is fun! Because of this, the years before your child starts school are the best possible time for you to build productive habits of learning together.

The most valuable thing you can do for your child before they begin school is to reinforce the idea that learning is fun; whether you are teaching them basic reading or writing skills, introducing them to mathematics or teaching them about the world around them, you should always remember that, for them, learning is, and always should be, an exciting experience of play and discovery. In our next blog post, we’ll give you 4 great ways of doing so!