Is Persistence Taught or Caught?

Two Contrasting Case Studies in the Context of First Year University Teaching

Dr. Helen Huntly, School of Learning and Innovation Faculty of Arts, Business, Informatics and Education, C Q University, Bundaberg, Jenny Donovan, Australia

Students facing new difficulties eg working part time which prevent engagement.

New curriculum based on Chickering and Gamson (1987) also used idea of persistence from 7 habits of highly effective people.

‘Persistence‘ in terms of individual specific strategies for problem solving from Costa. Other strategies at institutional level in terms of retention

Marzano and Pickering (1997) identify 5 strategies of persistence:

  • Breaking things into small chunks
  • Finding another way
  • Finding support and encouragement
  • Visualising success
  • Taking a break, refreshing and coming back

Briefed two tutors on principles, literature, strategies and relation between persistence and co creation of learning. Tutors kept a journal and then were interviewed at the end.

Tutor one teaching English language competency didn’t change that she taught but was very overt about concept of persistence with students. A lot of formative feedback and assessment in the course which related well to persistence. Gave students an optional written reflection on persistence which they all did, also brainstormed with them and gave a lot of feedback when she Saw persistence. Termed this ” taught” persistence. Found that strategy least likely to use was taking a break as this was perceived as giving up.

Tutor twi didn’t explicitly mention persistence, she modelled it in the way she taught and in the assessment which meant they had to keep going back to the curriculum. Demonstrated breaking things into small tasks. Termed this “caught” persistence.

Although tutors used different techniques –one didactic and one kinaesthetic – all came down to reflection. Both tutors felt that their pedagogic practice improved.


Small study but both strategies worked although taught group have greater metacognitive understanding of persistence so can teach own students how to persist.

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