Reflections on How Children Succeed: Behavior Goals for an Organization

As we at The Third Teacher+  structure our designs to be as human-centered as possible, we identify the student behaviors that our design should enable, if done correctly. Paul Tough illuminates research that can help schools design their human-centered organization. Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification by psychologists Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson classifies and measures widely valued positive traits. This resource can serve as a glossary and menu of options for schools to choose their behavior goals. KIPP uses seven of them: grit, self control, zest, social Intelligence, gratitude, optimism, and curiosity.

While the authors frame their traits as universal and objective - intellectual rather than moral - I would argue that each community is different. There’s a great community-building opportunity in defining a school’s specific, personal set of goals. An ethnographic fieldwork process can gather the perspectives of students, parents, teachers and administrators to identify the community’s shared values and facilitate consensus-building conversations.

Imagine a strategic planning session that explores: Who are our students and who do we want them to become? What psychological, emotional, academic and spatial pathways must we construct to get them there? How do we align and deploy our organization to accomplish these goals?

And imagine an evaluation session that asks: Are our students practicing the behaviors and traits we laid out? Are they practicing them more frequently than last year?

It’s exciting to think of how research can empower a behavior-based organizational strategy and value-based definition of success.