Grit: How to Teach Success

February 24, 2016 by Breanna
Image One of our founders, Mark Maclaine discussed the importance of ‘Grit’ and having a ‘Gritty attitude’ in a recent article.

Grit has very much become a buzzword within education recently, so what is grit? Can we teach grit? And if so, how?

What is Grit?
In Angela Lee Duckworth’s TED talk ‘The Key to Success’, she describes grit as the ability to persevere, having passion and stamina for keeping long-term goals. Duckworth describes it as "living life like it's a marathon, not a race'".

Her research suggests that those who are more successful tend to exhibit more grit. 

“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.”

Take Angela Lee Duckworth’s Grit Scale Test, and find out how gritty you are!

How can we learn or teach Grit?

Help students develop a growth mindset
Dr. Carol Dweck researches 'Growth Mindset' - the idea that we can grow our brain's capacity to learn and solve problems. She believes we can develop a ‘not yet’ approach to challenges that we haven’t yet succeeded in. She demonstrates that the ability to learn is not fixed, and it can change with effort.

In Dwek’s study, children who were taught about the brain, how we learn, and how it changes in response to challenges are more likely to persevere when they fail. This is because these students didn't feel as though failure is a permanent condition.

Praise the process over praising results
A great technique for encouraging a gritty attitude is rewarding your child/student for the process they went through to achieve a result, rather than rewarding the final result or grade! So rather than saying, "Great! You got Question 3b correct!", say "You have made real progress since starting this paper!". Or instead of “Well done for your ‘B’ in Maths”, instead try “Well done you have really worked hard all term!” This helps develop grit, as breaking down a problem, approaching it from different angles until you find the solution, trying and trying again - that is grit! 

Teach optimism
Optimism is a great skill that can be taught and can change how we view setbacks. If we have a negative attitude towards setbacks this may put you off from trying again! In a presentation by Amy Lyon (a schoolteacher), she has created a tool called the ‘grit pie’ that aims to help us identify and analyse our thoughts.

Learn and Read about Grit
There have been so many studies, examples, stories around grit, keep the discussion alive, and keep building on your understanding! Here are a few of our favourites:

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiousity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcom Gladwell

Performance Values Position Paper (PDF) by Character Education Partnership

Develop intentional habits and self-control
We suggest reading the book The Power of Habit – as developing desirable habits and self-control are both attributes of being gritty.

In The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us through some scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. With penetrating intelligence and an ability to distill vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives, Duhigg brings to life a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential for transformation.

Discuss grit vs. time to quit!
The discussion within education around grit has its criticisms. Author Alfie Kohn wrote a great article, featured in the Washington post about his top concerns about teaching grit. A wonderful point he makes (point 4 in the article) is that sometimes grit can be counterproductive, where he mentions the Law of Holes: When you’re in one, stop digging.

Discuss with your child/student that sometimes there are jobs and tasks worth doing that deserve persistence and a long-term view, but there are also some that are unworthy of such efforts. Discuss different situations where grit is needed and recognise when it’s time to quit!

These are just a few ways in which you can foster and encourage grit, but there are many more! Please re-visit our blog for more suggestions on how to teach grit. If you have another suggestion, please comment below!
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