Grit and Achievement

Last week’s blog covered some of my thoughts connected with Martin Seligman’s book, Flourish, and connections I made to coaching. I had an opportunity this week to explore another element from Seligman’s work with members of a middle school staff: Chapter 6 in Flourish… Self Control, Character and Grit presents a formula:

Achievement = Skill x Effort which aligns with my formula in Tapping Student Effort

Effort x Ability = Success.  

Seligman spells out how a character of self- disciple is a greater predictor of academic success than is IQ. The ultimate self-discipline character is GRIT… the never-yielding form of self- discipline, an extreme persistence that produces very high effort.

“The more GRIT you have, the more time you spend on the task, and all those hours don’t just add to whatever innate skill you have: they multiply your progress to the goal.” (page 121)

I asked the middle school staff to examine this quote from the work of Angela Lee Duckworth, a student and colleague of Seligman.

“Under achievement among American youth is often blamed on inadequate teachers, boring textbooks, and large class sizes. We suggest another reason for falling short of their intellectual potential: their failure to exercise self-discipline. We believe that many of America’s children have trouble making choices that require them to sacrifice short term pleasure for long- term gain, and that programs that build self-discipline may be the royal road to building academic achievement”(Psychological Science 16(2005):939-44)

You can listen to Duckworth’s TED presentation on Grit here or complete the Grit Survey yourself.  When looking at the research of 90 /90/ 90 schools (90% poverty, 90% minority and 90% of the students scoring proficient) it strikes me that educator GRIT is a key. I wonder how that educator behavior might generate increased student GRIT.

How does a school look to increase student self -discipline? What kind of self –discipline would create the student achievement that we seek? The middle school group that I was working with is interested in exploring changes that move students from compliance, “What do I have to do to pass, or get an A, or finish?” to students setting goals and practicing identifying and committing to “what it takes to achieve it”.

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3 Responses to “ Grit and Achievement ”

  1. C. Bell Says:

    How to increase student self-discipline? I firmly believe that professional educators must model and develop strategies that teach students important “habits of mind.”

    “Grit” is a great term that I will begin sharing with students and adults in our school. It is a more than suitable partner to another that I’ve used in the past: sticktoitness

  2. Aventine View Says:

    Hi Steve,

    I like this idea of “Grit.” It is sort of sad that someone needs to mention that hard work is needed for achievement. Do you think the push for having fun at school eroded the idea for work? Do you think the Alfie Kohn ideas against testing, homework, and competition have eroded the idea of hard work?
    I came from a school in California where learning was work, but it wasn’t boring. I now work in an international school in Europe where everything is about computers and games and the kids don’t work. I’m just wondering if the push for fun has eroded the idea of rewarding hard work.

  3. David Myers Says:

    Self-Discipline is no more a behavior than the related skill of listening, which is a function of being stuck in one’s own Point of View, upholding it because students aren’t taught the skill of continually relating what isn’t known to what is, so their point of view doesn’t hold up by itself. How can they even listen to themselves if they can’t listen at all? Students likewise cannot modify their behavior unless they can monitor it from the viewpoint of other situations like theirs that they already understand. Someone can move their chair into their desk while sitting in it, but that’s a tough row to hoe, taking it to the next level. OUTSIDE the chair, however, it’s a piece of cake. Indeed, the reason that so few students ever acquire self-discipline is precisely because it is mistakenly treated as a behavior, not providing the underlying skills that lead to it. Attitude always follows aptitude.

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Steve Barkley

For the past 30 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…

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