As many now know, she has become something of “the guru of grit” in the last year or two, particularly with the attention brought to her work by the writing of Paul Tough in his book and New York Times magazine cover story. She is an Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. I wrote about her work, her TEDx talk, and the Tough book previously here.
The stuff kids need to learn in school is hard. It’s really hard. But it is not too hard. Every child in my classroom– whether it took two hours or twenty hours– could learn this. It isn’t quantum mechanics, it is Algebra. In other countries most kids get it because they have the expectation that everyone can do this and they have attitude that it just takes a lot of work to get there.
“IQ is not the limiting factor for most of our children.” We shouldn’t tolerate lower expectations for some kids.
Algebra is hard in another way- psychologically, for instance. Is it hard to persist when it is challenging.
“if you can build non-cog skills, you will boost academic achievement. It is NOT either/or, but BOTH/AND.”
The message, of course, about the value of persistence, is not just for our kids: it is for all of us. As she explained, and tied it to her own work and the work of everyone in the audience at NPEA, doing the hard work of providing quality education to disadvantaged youth, “It’s not a one year or two year project for any of us in life, tackling something hard and trying to make a real difference.”
Grit is about “remaining loyal to your commitments. Perseverance and Passion for long-term goals. Achievement = talent x effort. Anything multiplied by 0 = 0. Grit is about some talent but more about passion and perseverance.”
But we are all deceived, so much of the time, by the false impressions most others give off of gently gliding along the surface, like a duck with no worries. “We need to show kids, and help them see, that below the waterline we are all paddling furiously.”
In an amusing and telling example, she shared the importance in Finland of a term roughly equivalent to grit, “sisu.” There, she explained, Sisu is surfaced constantly: “How’s your sisu today?” “I’m feeling a bit down in my Sisu this week.”
Duckworth, speaking to an audience whose lives are devoted to helping students succeed in K-12 and collegiate education, stated the problem boldly and baldly: “We are not succeeding– we are getting kids well prepared academically, but they’re still not succeeding in college and careers– what do we need to do differently?”
We need to research, design interventions, experiment, and study results. (more…)