Once students have developed some science and engineering practice skills and are able to use those skills toward meeting the performance expectations, we can draw a straight line between that and college and career readiness. If the student has developed skills and they can develop and use their content knowledge, they are not just going to be able to pass tests and graduate; they are going to be college and career ready, able to perform and be trainable in a work environment, in a college environment, in a two year-degree program, in a technical certificate program, and so on.
That's what really matters, and that's why providing challenge, developing those skills and helping students use them in real science and engineering environments is our top-level goal. And still, it all comes back to grit. From an educator's or a district's perspective, grit is about having the same top-level goals for a very long time. The top-level goals are oftentimes values that we share with our peers in our building or at our grade level.
Here at KnowAtom, these values include creative, evaluative, and analytical thinking skills; collaboration and communication; precision; the use of data; and supporting educators with quality resources. We never change or abandon our goals, always striving toward them with direction and direction. That's grit.
Aligning Different Goal Levels
In order to create classroom challenges that lead to career readiness, we need to eliminate competing hierarchies—i.e. the challenge of teaching life science and the "fun" of releasing butterflies or ducks—and make sure that each tier of goals is ultimately related to the tier above and/or below. We shouldn't create any activities that don't support mid- and top-level goals. On a related note, we should not set graduation as a top-level goal if we do not create mid- and lower-level goals that support it. That's what psychologist Gabriel Ottengen calls positive fantasizing. This term describes the short-term excitement of positive aspirations and a big goal—"I want to be a doctor!"—but setting yourself up for the long-term disappointment of not having a means to get there and actually achieve that goal.
So how does one become a doctor? Well, there are certain lower level goals that you need to set for yourself in order to reach that goal: graduate high school, get a bachelor's degree, get accepted to and graduate from med school, complete residency, and so on.
This is very similar to the goal of college and career readiness; there are multiple steps along the way. That means we need tiered goals along the way. For one thing, students need to be able to perform or demonstrate the expectations of the standards. They can only become proficient at that if we challenge them in our classroom to develop skills, develop and use the content, and gain practice in performing the expectations of the standards. That will require some struggle to put the effort in and to become proficient, but as long as the struggle is appropriate, students will have a good chance of succeeding.
It's important to note that having grit doesn't mean that you don't sometimes quit on goals. The teacher in the traditional scenario above, in order to help students succeed, would need to quit on some of those low-level goals in order to eventually meet the top-level goal of graduation and college and career readiness. If that teacher is unwilling to abandon some of these goals, to refocus and learn to think differently, then in many ways they have a fixed mindset.