Why do some students accomplish more than others of similar intelligence? Grit—the capacity to cope with failure and adversity, to rise above challenges and to try again—is an important variable predictive of high academic and career achievement.
"Students praised for the process they engaged in-their effort, their strategies, their focus, their perseverance-these kids take on hard tasks and stick with them, even if they make a lot of mistakes. They learn more in the long run." -Carol Dweck, PhD
Why do some students accomplish more than others of similar intelligence? Grit—the capacity to cope with failure and adversity, to rise above challenges and to try again—is an important variable predictive of high academic and career achievement. Developing grit requires what psychologist and researcher Carol Dweck refers to as a growth mindset: acknowledging that ability is developed through dedication, persistence and effort. Intelligence and talent alone are rarely enough to achieve one’s life goals. In a fixed mindset, students believe that their intelligence and talents are fixed traits, so their goal is to appear smart all the time. In a growth mindset, students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed.
Research reveals that students with a growth mindset demonstrate certain characteristics in the classroom. These students want to learn and grow, and they recognize that effort is the path to mastery. They embrace challenges and face obstacles with persistence. They are willing to learn from their mistakes and respond well to criticism. Students with a fixed mindset, however, tend to avoid challenges in school, give up easily, and ignore even valuable constructive criticism.
Developing a growth mindset is a long-term process, and research about how to do so is in its early stages. Educators can start by modeling persistence in the classroom, focusing on practice not performance and consistently valuing the journey of learning. Educators must consider the implicit messages their words and praise are sending to students. The message should be that tackling a challenging task is something to be admired. As Dr. Dweck puts it, “Parents around the dinner table and teachers in the classroom should ask, ‘Who had a fabulous struggle today?’”
To learn more, read Dr. Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success and Paul Tough’s book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character.