"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Monday, December 12, 2016

We Must Go Beyond Buzz Words

Yesterday, I overheard my son arguing with his younger sister. He said, "You need a growth mindset". My son was apparently using a buzz phrase he heard from school but it turned out that he was applying it to flexibility. My daughter was apparently fixed on something, and my son was trying to coax her to consider other options. Buzz words or phrases although often technical could indeed lose their original meaning. Most frequently, the total meaning can be easily lost. One specific example, also from education, is "grit".

Above copied from Gifted with Grit
Claire Robertson-Kraft and Angela Lee Duckworth define grit as "a disposition toward perseverance and passion for long-term goals". What often drops in this total meaning is "passion" and most people then focus on perseverance. In "Grit is the buzzword among parents today. But are we focusing on the wrong thing?", Erica Reischer writes:
...grit “can be expected to be most important for goals where individuals have substantial choice. While students might be passionate about some subjects or activities, they are unlikely to be passionate about all subjects in high school. Thus, grit might be a better predictor of achievement in self-selected narrower goals, such as performance in elective courses or extracurricular pursuits.”
Reischer is quoting from a scientific study that demonstrates that grit is actually a very weak predictor of success. The study published in the Journal of Research in Personality finds conscientiousness and emotional regulation ability as better predictors. 

Recent research scheduled to be published in the Journal of Educational Psychology also cautions an overemphasis on grit, as this trait overlaps with other traits. An excerpt from the abstract says:
Students’ grit overlapped empirically with their concurrently reported self-control, self-regulation, and engagement. Students’ perseverance of effort (but not their consistency of interests) predicted their later grades, although other self-regulation and engagement variables were stronger predictors of students’ grades than was grit.
Passion is indeed an important part of grit.  How a child develops passion obviously depends on the child's interests. When passion is lacking, perseverance is definitely excruciating, but this is when emotion regulation and engagement become important factors. These are traits that are outside of "grit", that obviously require our attention. Grit allows students to persevere if they have the passion. Without passion, a student needs the ability to cope with strong emotions such as anxiety and boredom. Research shows that the answer to this is building skills in self-regulation.

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