Perseverance, Tenacity, Risk-taking – #LL2LU with @k8burton

Kate Burton (@k8burton), our science goddess, and I have been discussing assessment.  One of the many things I love and admire about Kate is her willingness to experiment to learn and grow.  The label science goddess makes many giggle, but she approaches everything through the lens of a scientist.  What if we experiment with an assessment plan? What if we use the Leading Learners to Level Up philosophy to communicate expectations and a path to grow? What if we experiment with a system of feedback that includes self-assessment, peer-to-peer and teacher assessment?

Kate and I met Wednesday morning to talk about Leading Learners to Level Up and how she might incorporate it into her assessment plan.  It was awesome!  I’m sure I expected to talk about the scientific method and the content of her course.  Kate came with a list of what she areas of growth for her student-learners.  Her list included persistence, tenacity,  curiosity, attitude, communication, open to constructive criticism, and the ability to ask questions.  She uses science content to teach and model these learning targets.

Using an interview method, she talked and I took (messy) notes as fast as I could write.  Kate started with her list and elaborated to offer me context and additional information.  The interview protocol really calls for me to listen and reflect back what I hear.  I should not interject my experience. I should listen for what is important to the interviewee.  I failed twice and told a story.  I am not the interviewer I will become.

After collecting lots of notes, we noticed two areas where Kate added more detail while we were talking.  Together, we discussed perseverance and tenacity and what Kate would like to encourage in her learners.  Our draft for the target for perseverance and tenacity is that every child will be able to say (and d0):

I can keep working when things go wrong to learn from the process.  I can learn from the experience and try again.

But, what if I can’t? What if I am not there yet? What can I do to get on a path to success? And, what if I’m already there? What can I do to level up?  Here’s our first draft of a learning progression to lead learners to level up.

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 5.12.55 AM

We also worked on risk-taking.  Our draft for the target for risk-taking is that every child will be able to say (and d0):

I can risk being wrong to test my ideas and strategies and appreciate what I gan through my risks.

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 5.20.26 AM

What if we post these where our young learners can see and refer to them?  Will they be able to calibrate where they are and ask Kate questions to learn and grow?  Will they begin to coach each other? How will having a common vocabulary and understanding influence this learning community?

These are drafts.  We intend to ask our learners for their feedback. We’d also love to know what you think.  Please leave us a comment if you can and will add to our thinking.


  1. Love this! I especially love the “I can keep working when things go right” level. As a high school teacher, I would love to see more students in my science class who have adopted this way of thinking.


    • Thanks John. As you can see in my scribbled notes, I liked keep working even when things go right too. I love that Kate is so intentional about helping learners develop these important dispositions, skills, and qualities. We hope that using these rubrics will offer our learners additional clarity and a path to grow.


  2. really interesting and tough to do. not sure how it might play out in practice. for example, level 2 for persistence and tenacity–“I can ask Qs when faced with roadblocks”–might be a level 4 for self-awareness, honesty, collaboration. Level 1 for same might be level 4 for risk taking. i’d be really interested to know how students understand the feedback. thanks for sharing.


    • Thanks for your comment, Gillian. We know that this is a multifaceted, complex process. We hoping to give our young learners a path when they are stuck. We are hoping to give our learners language and ideas on how to move forward. We know there is more work to do, but we need to start somewhere.

      I will keep you posted on how this works in practice. We just need time to roll this out to our children and receive their feedback.


  3. Very interesting! I can almost see Kate working through this in your discussion! Couple of comments to think about in my mind. First, your scale for persistence and tenacity implies that pushing through when things go right and finding something to work on is a higher level of “understanding” than pushing through when things go wrong– I’m not so sure that is the case. Pushing through and persisting when things go right and things go wrong take a learner to different places in their mind and also in their emotions. I wonder if this requires two layers of “leveling up?” Second, a similar instance occurs with risk-taking. There are those (many gifted kids in fact) that are so accustomed to being right in more traditional learning settings that they have not learned how to take a risk. Your scale seems to get at that, I think, in that part of your goal is for students to actually take risks. Here, though, does it really matter whether they are wrong or right? The goal seems to be to increase students’ comfort with the leap of the risk to begin with. Once this target level occurs, then I think movement can occur to what to do with the result of the risk– what if I am wrong, what if I am right? Seems to require a bit more disaggregating. Just my thoughts…


  4. I love this, Jill. Thank you for sharing. It combines 3 components that I am just passionate about right now: standards based grading, the standards for mathematical practice AND promoting a growth mindset. Thank you for what you do and the passion with which you do it! You’re my hero!


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