Buzzword Du Jour


A current but not so new buzzword in the educational arena, recycled for 2016, is GRIT. Angela Duckworth, a recognized “expert” on the subject has published her book detailing successful examples of grit. It’s catching on quickly.

Whenever writers hone in on research studies about the effects of a certain character trait on learning, it piques my interest. I am curious to know the correlation between what the research says and exactly how that looks in a classroom. Often, I am left scratching my head wondering.

Once these “research-based” discoveries take hold in the schooling world, we often see the following:

  1. Publishers produce and advertise the ideas in expensively canned, “research-based” books, articles and curriculum.
  2. Professors, consultants, and various educational entities/organizations produce and advertise the ideas in pricey “must-attend” conferences.
  3. Districts and schools then consume the expensively canned, recycled ideas and pass them on to teachers and staff as mandatory Professional Development.
  4. Teachers and staff sit and listen trying to make sense of the expensively canned, recycled ideas deciding how or if they are useful in their work with children.
  5. Less than one percent of the teachers and staff utilize the expensively canned, recycled, research-based ideas within a few weeks of hearing about it.
  6. Within a month or so, life returns to normal in the classroom until the next big buzz word appears.

How do I know all of this? I speak as one who has not only experienced it as a teacher, but also promulgated it as an administrator. I am not proud of that fact. I have learned from my mistakes. There are great and not so great ideas. Some are not worth the time, energy, and money we give them. Some have been discredited, yet continue to be cited as valid research

I disagree with those who believe that grit can be taught. Grit comes through experiences in life. It may come at various times in unique and highly personal situations. It may come in varying degrees. It may not come at all. Grit cannot be measured, tested, or evaluated. Grit cannot be boxed into a formula for school or future success in life.

Grit comes and goes depending upon our interest. When one is wildly curious and deeply passionate about something, a certain amount of perseverance, determination and even grit may come to play. Where this kind of curiosity and passion is nurtured and validated, there is a greater likelihood that these character traits may surface. Generally, these conditions are not evident in school.

What third grader, for example, willingly displays grit when memorizing the multiplication tables? Those who find numbers and their relationship to one another simply fascinating may be the ones who find the grit to crack the code. Others…not so much.

What Duckworth is saying: “Doing well in school and attaining advanced education are essential to overcoming any obstacles, and the key to succeeding in school is grit, effort and perseverance.”

What Rogers is saying: “Grit, effort and perseverance are only worth the exertion when there is passion, purpose, and personal power behind the learning.”








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