In June fellow blogger Mary Moser wrote a post about Fostering Growth mindset and how the way we give feedback and praise can impact a student’s grit and growth mindset. These have been topics that I have been exploring for a few years now. It all started when I was listening to a radio show about how a school had helped their students too much to get into college and a surprisingly large number of them came home. There were all sorts of factors that went into this. It was a magnet school for first generation college hopefuls so that was a cultural factor, but the school realized as well that they had done too much. The students hadn’t had to do enough on their own. In essence they weren’t “gritty” enough to make it through when there wasn’t someone constantly waiting in the wings to tell them the next step or what to do.
The radio show mentioned a grit test that was done by Angela Duckworth, here is a link to her ted talk in which she mentions the Chicago school I heard about and Carol Dwecks ideas on growth mindset that is talked about more in Mary’s post.
Dr. Duckworth gave a grit test to juniors at the high school she was studying and then she waited to see which ones of them graduated and went on, and who then came home. She found out that the grit score was a reliable predictor of their success after high school.
I teach almost exclusively seniors so as I was listening I was thinking about how this might impact my kids. I was wondering if they knew this was the key to their success and if they did would they do something about it. I decided that I would find out so I gave them the test. There is a seventeen question grit test, (it’s a lot like the tests I used to take in my teeny-bopper magazines to find out if I was John Stamos’s true love), but it was pretty fun.
Then we did the math to get a score. They could range from a one to a five with a five being the most gritty. The kids had fun adding up the scores and joking about how they were or were not hard workers but they still didn’t really know what it meant. I then gave the students an article that outlined Dr. Duckworth’s findings and how grit has been found to be more important than talent. For some kids this was great news, for others it was a bit of a paradigm shift. I actually think it’s a great realization for the kids who have always relied on others or raw talent for their success. These big fish in this small pond might be saving themselves a hard lesson later in life if they can learn little lessons now.
Lastly we discussed some of what that means for them as seniors and I asked them to do a written response My hope really was and is that these students will see that these skills and dispositions are going to be integral. I want them to understand we should be working with the assumption that this year we are all going to have a growth mindset and get really gritty.
Here are some of the typical responses:
“I think we can develop our capacity for grit, it just takes some time and effort.People can learn to use self control and can develop ambition.”
“Yes I believe that grit is more of a mindset than anything. The more you aim to focus on a certain goal the more determined you will be to achieve that goal.”
And my favorite came from a student who I actually have in this senior course for the second year in a row. This is his fifth year in high school. He didn’t graduate last time but unlike many students who weren’t successful last year he is back and so badly wants to do what it takes to graduate even if it takes a fifth year.
Here is what he wrote, “The grit scale can be really useful to kids who don’t know what they are capable of. Some might say they won’t be anything in their future. In reality all kids want to be a star. Army, workforce or college every student, especially high school students, are looking forward to their dreams and goals. Learning to be gritty will help them reach them.”
Based on these responses I think I got the point across to them. Based on their conclusions I know they at least see the value in the struggle. I am going to continue to challenge them and to ask them to be gritty and to embrace the struggle. I also think the Common Core will play a large part in this in my classroom. The new standards ask a lot of students and teachers. They ask us all to do the hard work, to dig deep and to problem solve. In my course it means asking and solving important rigorous overarching questions. It means writing and revising to show thinking and analysis instead of memorizing and regurgitating. It means having a growth mindset and meeting our highest goals. Meeting the Common Core is going to help my kids be the star in whatever endeavor they are after in June. Just as that returning student says Army, workforce, or college the Common Core will help them to accomplish their dreams and goals.
So welcome September, let’s get gritty.