Growing Grit Cautiously –

Posted: April 8, 2014 in Uncategorized
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question2A thank you to Matt Schaefer (@SchaeferCHS), a colleague, for reading my blog and challenging my thinking by sharing the “Downside of Grit” by Alfie Kohn. This would be a perfect companion piece to Duckworth’s TED Talk for students and teachers to explore. After reading the article, I am left with a few questions to think about when growing grit in students:

1. What happens when students do not choose positive or productive goals? How do we guide goal setting without stealing creative ownership? Students need to have ownership so that they are not just compliant but genuinely motivated.

2. For how long should one persist if the passion for the goal is lost? Is this in essence the lack of grit we are seeking or is there a time to fold? I love the reference to the proverbial Law of Holes in this article: “When you’re in one, stop digging.” I spoke of creating an environment where failure is is something we learn from, does this undermine grit?

3. How do we build a framework for students that encourages stops along the ways to reflect, reevaluate and adjust when appropriate?

I would agree that the buzz-worthiness of grit in education is disturbing and could be used as a tool for compliance, but I would challenge Mr. Kohn that growing grit in kids can be about implementing democratic, collaborative experiences where kids don’t give up when things are difficult. That kids are taught to be resourceful, critical consumers of information and work together to find answers to their questions. I do not agree with intentionally boring students to build persistence, but I do believe modeling and encouraging behaviors like perseverance, ambition, and tenacity with the growth mindset fosters learning and learning is our job.


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