In Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Penn psychologist Angela Duckworth tells stories about exceptionally gritty people, including NFL football players, West Point cadets and successful business leaders.
The book includes Duckworth’s personal story, writes Evie Blad in Education Week. When she was a child, her father would say: “You know, you’re no genius!”
After earning a Harvard degree and a “genius” award, Duckworth dreams of traveling back in time to confront her father. “I’m going to grow up to love my work as much as you love yours. I won’t just have a job; I’ll have a calling. I’ll challenge myself every day. When I get knocked down, I’ll get back up. I may not be the smartest person in the room, but I’ll strive to be the grittiest.”
Educators have “embraced the grit concept in recent years along with a wave of research and policy centered on a variety of non cognitive traits and social-emotional skills, like growth mindset, self control, empathy, and healthy relationship skills,” writes Blad. Stanford’s Carol Dweck gives similar advice on promoting a “growth mindset,” the belief that struggle is a sign you’re learning — not a marker of inevitable failure.
The question is whether schools can “teach” these skills. Duckworth thinks a mix of challenging assignments and support will enable students to strengthen their ability to overcome obstacles.
Teachers should ask themselves: “Is there a clear learning goal that’s very specific and do my students really know it? Do they have a clear strategy to remove distractions so they can focus 100 percent?” Duckworth said.
And they should offer frequent feedback, she said.
“They should ask themselves, ‘Am I encouraging repetition and refinement, or, as when I hand back your term paper or your test, is it over?’ “
At the Education Writers Association conference last week, Duckworth said schools shouldn’t blame students for lacking grit when they fail. “The whole point of the grownups in the room is that it’s our responsibility to get kids where they need to be,” she said.
In the New York Times, Judith Shulevitz wants grit to be less individualistic and macho.