The Real Secret to Success: Building Personal Grit in Students

building personal grit in students

What is the best predictor of success in students? The answer may surprise you.

Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth believes it’s not just intelligence. The true differentiator is something she refers to as “personal grit.”

Duckworth, who holds a B.A. in Neurobiology from Harvard and a Master’s in Neuroscience from Oxford, has experience in both psychological research and teaching. In fact, it was her experience of teaching in public school for several years that inspired her to explore the concept of personal grit. She wanted to know what caused some of her students to succeed more than others despite differences in factors including intelligence.

Personal Grit and Independent Learning

“Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Duckworth explains in a recent TED Talk, “Personal Grit as Key to Success.”

Watch Angela Duckworth: What Is Grit? on PBS. See more from TED Talks Education.

If you’re the parent or Learning Coach of a virtual school student, how much personal grit do you think your student has? Think of the challenges of typical a school day. Does your student set goals on his or her own? Can he or she begin and finish assignments, whether simple tasks or major projects, without extensive direction from you? Do you have to push your student to get good grades or excel in a hobby, or is it something he or she strives for independently?

You may notice that if your child has grit, he or she is able to learn independently. In other words, personal grit may be key to independent learning, which in turn is key to success in an online learning environment.

How Can We Help Students Develop Personal Grit?

Once we understand the importance of grit to the success of students and adults, we need to take the next step in uncovering the reason for underachieving and test our ideas for instilling grit in children. Introducing the “growth mind-set” to students is one idea Duckworth finds promising because it helps children understand that it’s possible to improve their learning skills and that failure isn’t permanent. But there is no single, simple solution. “We need to take our best ideas, our strongest intuitions, and we need to test them,” she concludes. And Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D., another TED Talks EDUCATION speaker, might just have one of those ideas.

In his TED Talk, “Leadership Should Not Be Command and Control,” Robinson discusses why he thinks individualized learning is crucial to improving education in the United States. Some students who don’t fit into the structure of traditional school may drop out or find a different type of school, and usually these “alternative” education programs are very successful. So why, Robinson wonders, is this individualized approach to learning only an “alternative”?

Just one type of alternative education is online school. Students receive more attention from teachers by phone or email, or in LiveLesson® sessions, and they also have additional guidance from their Learning Coaches. This support system, combined with flexible scheduling and an individualized curriculum, gives students the opportunity to become confident and independent learners who have grit.

If you’ve already opted for an educational alternative such as online learning, take a look at these “16 Ways to Promote ‘Grit’ and Delayed Gratification in the Classroom” that Learning Coaches and teachers can adapt for the online school environment.

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