Can Grit Be Taught?

Written by: Ben Oberdick

Primary Source: Information Literacy Resources

A colleague recently sent a link to a very interesting NPR story about a new topic being taught in some K-12 schools – grit. Grit was defined in the story by Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania who won a MacArthur “genius grant” for her work on grit, as “this quality of being able to sustain your passions, and also work really hard at them, over really disappointingly long periods of time, that’s grit.” Grit is often thought of as persistence, determination, and resilience, and according to Duckworth’s research, can actually be “a better predictor of success than IQ or other measures when it comes to achievements as varied as graduating from West Point or winning the National Spelling Bee.”

So why is grit now being taught?

Part of the answer may come from a recent report from the US Dept. of Education that shows that students are learning to “do school,” while not really acquiring the skills need in life. Students learn just enough to get through school, and to succeed in many cases, but they don’t learn the skills needed to push through when things get difficult or they encounter a hurdle too high.

By teaching grit in the classroom, and for students to be “grittier,” educators hope to help those kids who don’t apply themselves because they don’t think they have the “gift” and also help kids who’ve skated through their early schooling, but then crumble when they hit their first challenge.

So what do you think, can grit be taught?

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Benjamin M. Oberdick is an Information Literacy Librarian, responsible for leading information literacy sessions for students taking a First Year Writing class in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures. Prior to beginning at Michigan State in December 2008, Ben worked as a Reference and Instruction Librarian at Mars Hill College (Asheville, NC), an elementary school teacher (Raleigh, NC) and as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Slovak Republic.

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