10 Feb Our Contribution To The Grit Debate: Better Data

grit0b“Grit; that certainly is a hot topic.”

Last week, I was talking to a colleague about the research I’m working on. As announced previously in our blog, we’re currently conducting a year-long study using experience sampling methods to assess student character. We’re looking at three overarching themes of character development: diligence/grit, compassion, and honesty.

After explaining this to my colleague he simply responded with the statement above. This is usually how conversations go down when I talk about the study.  While most people can agree that compassion and honesty are key components of a student’s character development, controversy surrounds the topic of diligence and grit.

In the past three to four years grit certainly has been a “hot topic” in education. The concept popularized by Angela Duckworth asserts that setting long-term goals and persisting at those goals leads to higher academic success.  However, some educators, researchers, and policy makers are pushing back, stating that grit does not take into consideration the societal structures that prevent certain students from having grit (as defined by Duckworth). The topic of grit is continuously making waves in the blog and twittersphere.

This week is no different.

In this week’s Education Week, contributor Benjamin Herold’s wrote a piece entitled, “Some Educators Are Calling The Concept of ‘Grit’ Racist.” The piece, originally published as a blog, presents a rundown of two of the more prominent arguments within the debate on the topic of grit.

In this blog, Herold presents the arguments made during  a presentation at the EduCon 2.7 conference held in Philadelphia January 23-25, 2015. The conference was designed to allow educators to come together and talk about some of today’s most pressing issues in education technology. Pamela Moran, one of the presenters at EduCon, spoke out against grit, saying: “We have to think about our own cultural biases, why grit appeals to us, and why we want to focus on it in our schools.”

The article goes on to explain that supporters of Duckworth and her work wish to note that, “Nothing in the research of Duckworth and her colleagues precludes recognition of the societal forces that also limit opportunities for some students…and nowhere do the researchers advocate that the cultivation of grit should be focused primarily on low-income students and children of color.”

At EduMetrics, we’re waiting to see what our study finds. While the concept of grit is controversial, school administrators have started embedding rhetoric into their missions that emphasize it as a key component of character. As we collect data on the topic of diligence and grit in our study we hope to add to this conversation.

We do not claim to have all of the answers about grit and diligence but we’re hopeful that experience sampling methods will allow for a real time assessment of this controversial domain.

This, in turn, can allow for high quality data and research to enter into the national conversation highlighted in Herold’s post.

Stay tuned to get further updates about the study and to see what we find out about diligence, grit, and the broader topic of student character in education.

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