In education, “grit” is a term used to describe “a quality of being able to sustain your passions, and also work really hard at them, over disappointingly long periods of time,” according to Angela Duckworth, the psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania who coined the term “grit,” winning a MacArthur “genius grant” for it (from NPR.org). Grit, according to experts, is the refusal to quit a task, team, or hobby after experiencing setback: the soccer player who barely makes the JV team and continues to work hard and practice, even though the odds are against her. As Angela Duckworth says, “it’s a very…American idea in some ways — really pursuing something.”
Some schools (like the KIPP charter schools and the Lenox Academy for Gifted Middle School Students) have adopted curriculums that include strengthening a student’s capacity for persistence and continuity in the face of failure. At Lenox Academy, for instance, students “get to practice bring gritty themselves. When a kid struggles to answer a question, for example, teachers resist the urge to swoop in and offer hints. Instead, they let students squirm a little through an awkward silence. The idea is to get kids comfortable with struggle so they see it as just a normal part of learning” (from NPR.org). By focusing on the effort used in a situation, rather than the end result, educators give students a more well-rounded way of understanding the material, and hopefully, their education in general.
But the question arises: can grit be taught? Or is it an inherent quality that some students have and others lack? If persistence and tenacity is part of a student’s natural tendencies and personality, will rewarding it have a negative effect on students who do not have that quality? Other educators are more wary of what they see as just another new education fad: a post called “What’s Wrong with Grit?” by Vicki Zakrzewski, education director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley underscores, among other points, the importance of a student’s passion for a certain topic or subject in order for their level of grit to be measurable. She argues that “grit requires passion for long-term goals. Not a lot of students come to school with this in place. So the next question is whether or not schools can help students create these goals. And the answer is… [just] maybe.”
So does teaching grit belong in the classroom? If teaching grit becomes institutionalized, will it be just another way by which students compare themselves, like an “A” or “B” or “C”? What are the implications when we teach and grade on qualities rather than on performance? What are the pitfalls of ignoring the trend towards teaching grit altogether?Written by: Editorial Team, My Learning Springboard, Inc.