In the past few weeks we have posted a few blog articles on perseverance in children, particularly on how superheroes help teach them this skill. Here, we step away form the capes and role-play to focus on the development of a similar, equally important trait – grit.
Grit, while not a new concept, has gained attention recently and has become a popular research topic. Chances are if you do a quick Google search on grit, you will come across the work of Dr. Angela Duckworth and her colleagues. Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, explains in her TED Talk that she began her exploration on grit in graduate school, studying adults and children in challenging situations where she sought to answer one main question:
“Who was successful here and why?”
As a former teacher, Duckworth finds it notable that one’s IQ was not the biggest factor in determining one’s success. Nor was talent. Rather, Duckworth and her associates found grit to be the one character trait that was a significant predictor of success. This was the result for all groups they studied, ranging from spelling bee contestants to salesmen and military cadets. It is easy to see how Grit (hard work and perseverance) could be so beneficial in the transition to the work world as well!
“Grit is a critical strength of most people who are successful. It is especially complex because it is related to other skills and mindsets such as optimism, purpose, growth, mindset, bravery and even self-control” (Grit, 2017).
Duckworth and her team have since developed The Character Lab to teach children about abstract skills like grit and how they can be observed in their own lives.
From their research, Duckworth and her team have developed an increasingly popular definition for grit:
“Grit is perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”
In order to teach students how to be gritty and why it is important, they must understand what the trait is and how to recognize it.Grit is much more than just encouraging kids to ‘try harder’ or not give up – it’s also about helping kids find their passion. Having grit does not mean never quitting – it means quitting responsibly (and not just because times get tough) and sticking to the things to which you are truly dedicated.
Grit is a combination of passion and persistence. Demonstrating grit could involve:
Grit & Interest
Another key facet of grit is that it revolves around specific interests; “deepening, consistent interests over time.” This idea is aligned with a main goal of education to inspire children to find their own interests that they can later specialize in (versus simply educating students to perform well on tests).2 Those who posses grit also focus on the long-term; they’re able to think about their best interest beyond the present, as if they are
“living life like it’s a marathon – not a sprint” (Duckworth, 2013).
At the conclusion of her TED Talk, Duckworth admits that she does not have the all the answers on how to teach grit, and rather convinces the audience that this is a topic we all need to be more ‘gritty’ about studying. Duckworth instead suggests parents encourage their children to develop a proper understanding of practice and its importance.
1. “Understand the importance of practice.”
Children need to realize that effort is what most affects performance and the “hidden hours” of practice (including mistakes and failures) are what make the difference between successful and not.
2. “Practice should feel hard.”
Children should be taught to not expect to succeed the whole time, but to anticipate that practice won’t be fun and they often won’t see immediate gains. Practice can be frustrating, boring, and failure is often part of the journey.2
3. “Getting Feedback is a necessary part of practice.”
Children “need to seek feedback, especially when it is not given to them” to be proactive and ensure they are on track for success.
To be gritty, Duckworth suggests children follow this pattern for success:
“Deliberate practice, setting specific goals, practice outside of skill level getting feedback, [and] doing with repetition” (Grit, 2017).
While there is little known about grit and how it is taught, Duckworth’s work has proved that grit is a key for success in any discipline. Gritty people are focused on long-term goals and passions, making them more resilient and willing to put the extra effort into their performance. Therefore, grit – not IQ or talent – makes someone more likely to succeed.
For more information on grit and Duckworth’s work, check out her TED Talk and Character Lab materials.
1. Duckworth, A. (2013, April). Angela Lee Duckworth: Grit: The power of passion and perseverance [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_grit_the_power_of_passion_and_perseverance#t-355351.
2. Grit. (2017). Retrieved March 15, 2017, from https://characterlab.org/tools/grit
– Claire Jaicks
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.