Are we stealing kids’ grit? Part 1 of 3

Posted: April 5, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Wordle: GRIT

Grit seems to be the new buzz word in education these days. I am not sure this is a new concept for educators or not, but I have seen a decrease in student drive or motivation. When we talk about things like rigor, common core, text complexity, etc., I often hear things like “The students don’t do the work we give them now,” or ” I will lose the bottom 30% of my students, how can I push forward if they don’t get it?”

I believe in our genuine attempts to help student learn and grow, we have, at times, done them a disservice by doing the learning or thinking  for them. As a result, many of students have thinking fatigue. Students are shutting down when they face difficulty or struggle. I see this in my own children. At the beginning of the year when the district went to a new math series, my daughter shut down at night when she faced the “stretch you thinking” question at the end of the assignment. She knew the math, but struggled with the real wold application and setting up the problem. The problems, more often than notm were multi-step problems requiring real thinking. When she faced frustration,we began telling her that the learning was in the struggle. She doesn’t ask for help anymore but it took months.

According to research by Duckworth, grit is a better predictor of success than intelligence. I took the grit test and it seems I am 70% grittier than most (I am not sure how I feel about that.) It is our responsibility as educators to prepare kids for the future and grit is necessary. How do we grow grit? After considerable reading, below are ten strategies we should use to grow grit in our students.

1. Teach the growth mindset (The Learning is in the Struggle)

Carol Dweck’s Mindset is a great read about the power of the growth mindset versus the fixed mindset. We have to teac

Dweck Mindseth students that they are not born with skills, traits and qualities that are fixed, but that they can grow and change.

2. Show growth to students and reward the work

Too often we provide students feedback that reinforces the fixed mindset by assigning a summative grade at the end. We need to recognize and celebrate resilience and perseverance in students that work through struggle. Grades should reflect the learning.

3. Model Grit

Let students see us struggle with something- maybe reading a tough text, writing a poem, or solving a problem. My kids are baffled at my grit when playing Candy Crush:)

4. Track your grit

If we are going to teach the growth mindset, we need to show the growth. Measure student grit by giving them a short pre-test -maybe provide them a problem with no answer and time how long they try to solve it. To be fair, let them know you are looking for how hard they try to solve the problem not looking for the answer. Tell the students you are interested in growing their grit and then allow them to track their grit.

5. Reflect on their grit growth

To follow up with number 4, allow the students to reflect by writing about how their grit is growing (literacy.)

6. Challenge students

When we challenge students, we need to make sure we make our challenges attainable. This means differentiating for your students. Their is nothing more discouraging then a challenge you know you can not overcome.

7. Set long term goals

Students have to set long term goals that are meaningful to them. This will be difficult to do. Model examples of good long term goals. Share the SMART model as a framework.

8. Provide small victories along the way

When setting long term goals, small victories will keep students engaged and motivated. Celebrate the victories to help establish the growth mindset.

9. Create an environment that allows failure

Students need to be allowed to fail and learn from failure. The classroom environment should foster risk taking and tolerance.

10. Lastly and most importantly, Passion Based Learning

Part 2 of 3…

Other Resources:
Angela Lee Duckworth TED Talk
Dweck, Carol S. Mindset. London: Robinson, 2012. Print.

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post. It is so true in many ways, and I see it in the classroom, and on the playground, ball field, etc. I really believe that teachers/parents have good intentions in their actions, but it is very apparent that it is backfiring. I liken grit to resiliency, and I have had long discussions with my wife about my concerns for my own two children’s lack of grit or resiliency. Your points here are a good starting point, and I think that educators need to brainstorm more about this topic. I look forward to reading your next post in this series. Thanks!

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