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In School, Grit Is a Better Predictor of Success Than IQ

The 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, as defined by Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania who coined the term "grit" — and won a MacArthur "genius grant" for it.

In her research, Duckworth shows grit is actually 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 as it is reported by NPR 

Can grit be taught?

Operation GRIT - Photo by Tech. Sgt. Roidan Carlson 

The founder of the term can't come with a definitive answer. She said, "I don't think we have enough evidence to know with certainty that we can do so." Part of the problem is figuring out how to assess grit. Duckworth also said, "these things are really hard to measure with fidelity."

However, many schools around the nation have embarked on their own experiments. If you are interested in learning more about grittier students you should get to know what's happening at Intellectual Virtues Academy in Long Beach, in Calif. (Jason Baehr), Lenox Academy for Gifted Middle School Students in Brooklyn, N.Y.(Joe Giamportone), and New City School, in St. Louis, Mo. (Tom Hoerr)

As for teachers, they also need to have a different approach in the classroom. The focus is always more on putting out effort than on getting the right answers. Students no longer hear "You're so smart!" or "Brilliant!" Rather, teachers will praise students for their focus and determination. "You must have worked really hard!" or "To have performed this well, you must have put out a lot of effort."

Come to reality. Some education experts do not believe that kids today are any less gritty than before. Alfie Kohn is one of them, he thinks "the benefits of failure are vastly overstated, and the assumption that kids will pick themselves up and try even harder next time, darn it — that's wishful thinking."

Joan Goodman is another detractor of the grit. Goodman says grit may not be a character trait at all, but rather a byproduct of other traits, like confidence, courage, and curiosity. And, she says, people can be gritty in some things but not others. A kid might be passionate about chess, for example, but completely disengaged in chemistry class.

All in all, grit seems like it's the latest fad in education. Even Angela Duckworth is aware of that when she states that if not consistently reinforced in and out of school, it can only have limited results.

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