Some educators believe that improvements in instruction, curriculum and school environments are not enough to raise the achievement levels of all students, especially disadvantaged children. Also necessary is a quality called “grit”, loosely defined as persistence over time to overcome challenges and accomplish big goals. Grit comprises a suite of traits and behaviors that include goal-directedness (knowing where to go and how to get there); motivation (having a strong will to achieve identified goals); self-control (avoiding distractions and focusing on the task at hand); and a positive mindset (embracing challenges and viewing failure as a learning opportunity).
A meta-study of 25 years of research by John Hattie and Helen Timperley, professors at the University of Aukland, New Zealand, has shown that giving students challenging goals encourages greater effort and persistence than providing vague or no direction. Students aren’t hardwired for these qualities, but grit can be developed through an emerging battery of evidence-based techniques that give educators a powerful new set of tools to support student success.
A famous example of the power of self-regulation was observed when preschoolers that were able to withstand the temptation of eating a marshmallow for 15 minutes to receive a second one were more successful in high school and scored about 210 points higher on their SATs later in life than those with less willpower (Tinyurl.com/StanfordMarshallowStudy).