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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
Scott Rigsby, the first double amputee to complete a the Hawaiian Ironman triathon

Can you predict academic success or whether a child will graduate? You can, but not how you might think.

When psychologist Angela Duckworth studied people in various challenging situations, including National Spelling Bee participants, rookie teachers in tough neighborhoods, and West Point cadets, she found:

One characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn't social intelligence. It wasn't good looks, physical health, and it wasn't IQ. It was grit.

Why is Grit So Important?

Using the “Grit Scale” that Duckworth developed with Chris Peterson, they found that grit is a better indicator of GPA and graduation rates. (IQ, however, is very predictive of standardized test scores.)

Add to this the findings (from Bowen, Chingos and McPherson's Crossing the Finish Line) that high school grades have a more predictive value of college success than standardized tests, and you may just see a shift from standardized test scores to high school GPA by some college admissions officers. As GPA becomes more important, grit will become more recognized as a vital part of 21st century student success -- as well it should be.

What is Grit?

Some would argue that grit is inherent in Albert Bandura’s research on self-efficacy, and that resilience is also part of it. But you can’t just implement "character education" and think you're teaching grit. In 2008, the Character Education Partnership divided character into two categories: core ethical values and performance values. In my opinion, grit would be categorized as a performance value.

Can Grit be Taught?

Here are ten ways that I'm tackling grit in my classroom and school.

1. Read Books About Grit

Read books, hold book studies and discuss trends. Measuring noncognitive factors like grit will be controversial, but just because we struggle to measure it doesn't mean that we can stop trying.

2. Talk About Grit

First, I give my students the grit scale test and let them score it. Then we watch Angela Duckworth's TED video together and talk about the decisions we make that impact grit. Empower students to educate themselves -- they can't wait for educators to figure this out.

3. Share Examples

In my ninth grade classroom, January starts with a video about John Foppe, born with no arms, who excelled as an honor student, drove his own car, and became a successful psychologist and speaker while creatively using his feet. We also talk to Westwood alum Scott Rigsby, the first double amputee to complete an Ironman competition. These are gritty people. Life is hard, and luck is an illusion.

4. Help Students Develop a Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck from Stanford University teaches us that students who have a growth mindset are more successful than those who think that intelligence is fixed.

5. Reframe Problems

Using stories and examples from Malcom Gladwell's book David and Goliath, we talk about "desirable difficulties." Students need perspective about problems to prevent them from giving up, quitting or losing hope.

6. Find a Framework

I use Angela Maiers' Classroom Habitudes as my framework. The KIPP framework specifically includes grit as one of its seven traits. Find one that works for your school and includes clear performance values.

7. Live Grittily

You teach with your life. Perhaps that is why Randy Pausch's Last Lecture and David Menasche's Priority List resonate. These teachers used their own battle with death itself as a way to teach. But you don't have to die to be an effective teacher. Our own work ethic yells so loudly that kids know exactly what we think about grit.

8. Foster Safe Circumstances That Encourage Grit

Never mistake engaging, fun or even interesting for easy. We don't jump up and down when we tear off a piece of tape because "I did it." No one celebrates easy, but everyone celebrates championships and winners because those take grit (and more). We need more circumstances to help kids to develop grit before they can "have it."

Tough academic requirements, sports and outdoor opportunities are all ways to provide opportunities for developing grit. Verena Roberts, Chief Innovation Officer of CANeLearn says:

One of the best ways to learn about grit is to focus on outdoor education and go out into the wild. Grit is about not freaking out, taking a deep breath, and moving on.

9. Help Students Develop Intentional Habits

Read about best practices for creating habits, because habits and self-control require grit.

10. Acknowledge the Sacrifice Grit Requires

Grit takes time, and many students aren't giving it. In their 2010 paper "The Falling Time Cost of College", Babcock and Marks demonstrate that, in 1961, U.S. undergraduates studied 24 hours a week outside of class. In 1981, that fell to 20 hours, and in 2003, it was 14 hours per week. This is not to create a blame or generation gap discussion, but rather to point out the cost of being well educated. We are what we do, and if we study less and work less, then we will learn less.

Educators Need Grit

Now we as teachers just need the grit to do whatever it takes to turn education around, and that starts with hard work and our own modern version of true grit. Teaching it and living it is now front and center in the education conversation.

(1)
The Educational Benefits of Grit
The character traits of determination, adaptability and reflection add up to a critical 21st century skill.

Comments (26)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Mark Collard's picture
Mark Collard
Playful adventure educator, author, founder of playmeo.com

Integrating adventure-based learning and educative techniques into your curriculum is an ideal conduit for teaching young people to develop their 'grit.' Real problems with real consequences, provide wonderful opportunities for kids to experience what is means to have courage, strength and patience - just some of the elements which make up grit.

Thanks for sharing Vicki,

Mark Collard, CEO
playmeo.com

Kimball Coburn's picture
Kimball Coburn
Media Teacher

Herb, you are so right about how terms in education "become amorphous and start (to) mean different things to different people and soon become so watered down that they lose meaning." At the same time, the simplicity of "grit" is what I love about Vicki's post. Grit is timeless, universal, and something that too many of my students lack. Thank you Vicki, for reminding me to support, honor, and nurture grit in a more deliberate way.

Donna Volpitta's picture
Donna Volpitta
Founder of The Center for Resilient Leadership

Kimball, I love your use of the word "deliberate." We are all building grit (or not) all of the time. The key is for educators, parents, & other leaders (corporate, military, etc) to be more deliberate about using challenges as opportunities to teach it. So many "teachable moments" are lost!

Evelyn Krieger's picture
Evelyn Krieger
Author of YA novel, special educator

I think it is quite challenging to develop grit in a 9th grader who has been coddled at home. Parents must be included in the quest to develop grit.

zeitz's picture

What is Grit?

I like the definition for Grit that I found in Wikipedia, "Grit in psychology is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual's passion for a particular long-term goal or endstate coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective."

I think that phrase "Non-cognitive" is an important consideration because it doesn't link to high or lower order thinking. It has to do with the disposition of the learner. It is an affective trait.

They also noted that "Duckworth et al (2007) defines Grit as a stable trait that does not require immediate positive feedback. Individuals high in Grit are able to maintain their determination and motivation over long periods despite experiences with failure and adversity. Their passion and commitment towards the long-term objective is the overriding factor that provides the stamina required to "stay the course" amid challenges and set-backs. Essentially, the Grittier person is focused on winning the marathon, not the sprint."

An interesting aspect of this realization is that millennials are known for their need for immediate feedback. Does that mean that they don't have grit? If so, then how can they have achieved all that they have done?

Donna Volpitta's picture
Donna Volpitta
Founder of The Center for Resilient Leadership

I think that grit is a cognitive skill requiring higher level thinking. In particular, grit requires impulse control--choosing to forgo immediate gratification in exchange for long-term gains. It is an investment mindset, thinking that is squarely within the prefrontal cortex.

In the case of the Millenials, I think we are seeing an interesting split. We have a group that fits into the "teacup generation," that relies heavily on immediate feedback and gratification (after being so overprotected, one they finally face a challenge they shatter like teacups) and we see an amazing group emerging that defies these stereotypes with phenomenal grit and tenacity.

Timothy's picture
Timothy
8th grade S.C. history teacher from Charleston, South Carolina

We must all be reflective practitioners in order to ensure our students are making the most out of their education. I feel when teachers model "true grit" in classroom behavior a ripple effect will occur with the students. As teachers we all face many challenges daily that can be seen as unsurpassable obstacles. Without displaying some characteristics of grit we can never achieve a learning environment deserving of all children in the classroom. I enjoyed reading this article and the post to this article. The collaboration among all in defining the term grit is an excellent example of an effective collaboration in the learning environment. I end with what I feel is a perfect quote that is a resulting of teachers with grit,"Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire." --William Butler Yeats

Alexandra Byrne's picture
Alexandra Byrne
Biology Teacher in the Making!!

How could you encourage grit as a student teacher? Currently, I am working in a classroom that I do not have content control over. I would love to administer the grit scale test and show the grit video. However, I do not have that type of authority within my classroom. I am struggling greatly with students that lack persistence no matter how encouraging I try to be. Any suggestions?

Mike Treanor's picture
Mike Treanor
High School Science Teacher

[quote]How could you encourage grit as a student teacher? Currently, I am working in a classroom that I do not have content control over. I would love to administer the grit scale test and show the grit video. However, I do not have that type of authority within my classroom. I am struggling greatly with students that lack persistence no matter how encouraging I try to be. Any suggestions?[/quote]

This seems to be a more and more common issue. Things are happening so fast in kids' lives now. They are inundated with tremendous amounts of information every day. It is harder to encourage students to focus on thinking deeply about any one subject for a length of time.

I don't pretend to have all of the answers, but it helps if students are invested in the topic ... if they feel it is relevant to their lives ... if there is a problem to solve ... if there is some discrepant event to grab their attention. Not very long ago I saw a TED talk by Daniel Pink about motivation (http://new.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation ... there is also a GREAT animated version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc ) where he spells out some surprising ideas about how motivations such as money, grades, or similar extrinsic rewards become DISincentives when the task involves thinking or creativity. Very worth watching.

In addition, I'd say to you just watch and learn what you can. Decide how you want to do things. Write things down. Plan. But most likely you will be best suited to wait until you get your own classroom to implement these things. Many teachers are notoriously habit driven, for better or worse. It would likely cause friction in your situation.

Have lunch with the teacher and discuss it. If they are open, then try a few small things, but remember that even if they agree with you, it is unlikely that any sweeping changes will happen before the start of the next school year. It's just bad practice to change the classroom management system in the middle of the year unless there is an extreme need.

Teachers are creatures of habit for a reason. It works. Students need routine. I have a habit of reflection and research. I keep an open mind. But even I do not change how I do things in my classroom unless there is an extreme circumstance.

We have to setup routines for students during the first week of school and have high expectations that they will follow along throughout the year. And it doesn't work if we change things midstream. So plan for next year and at the start of each semester have 2 or 3 major things you want to try, explain them and model them for the kids, and then stick to it. Routine and habit are our friends.

Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher's picture
Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher
Computer Fundamentals, Computer Science and IT Integrator from Camilla, GA
Blogger 2014

Mike, I'd love if everyone would reread what you said and that they WILL watch the Dan Pink video about motivation. (I watch this with students.) I think that resilience and understanding that the brain can change and grow like a muscle is important. Ultimately students decide what they are going to do and instrinsic motivation is unstoppable. Extrensic is always easier but as Pink demonstrates, when you apply it the wrong way, it can kill creativity.

GREAT POINTS and I hope readers will take time to watch the video you mentioned. This is just one more example of how the Edutopia community really adds to the conversation. Now, we have a blog post but we also have a wealth of ideas of how this is being done in the classroom. Great words here.
[quote][quote]

I don't pretend to have all of the answers, but it helps if students are invested in the topic ... if they feel it is relevant to their lives ... if there is a problem to solve ... if there is some discrepant event to grab their attention. Not very long ago I saw a TED talk by Daniel Pink about motivation (http://new.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation... there is also a GREAT animated version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc) where he spells out some surprising ideas about how motivations such as money, grades, or similar extrinsic rewards become DISincentives when the task involves thinking or creativity. Very worth watching..[/quote]

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